A smart grid is a system that uses information and communication technologies to integrate, in an intelligent way, all users connected to the electrical power system considering their behavior and actions. Smart metering, prevention of prolonged electricity outages, advanced infrastructure, employment of Internet of Things and big data, active participation of the consumers are important aspects of a smart grid. Integration of renewable energy resources plays a major part in smart grids as well.
Turkey, a country that gives the utmost priority to providing its citizens with reliable and cheap electricity, has been investing considerable financial resources and time in making its grid "smarter." Still, there are many steps to be taken to transform Turkey's traditional grid into a "smart grid." In a developing country like Turkey, a smart grid can yield huge benefits. For example, Turkey has been suffering from electricity theft, especially in the east of the country. Smart grid technologies can significantly help prevent that problem by integrating advanced monitoring technologies into the current system. According to the "Turkey Smart Grid 2023, Vision and Strategy Roadmap Summary Report" prepared by the Energy Market Regulatory Authority ("EMRA"), with the help of the smart grid applications, theft of electricity will be eliminated by 2035.
Thanks to better infrastructure and improved technologies, people living in Turkey experience fewer power outages every year. Nevertheless, even in urban areas, there are occasional power cuts, and in rural areas, such power outages are happening much more often. Smart grid technology will be critical in tackling this problem. Outage Management System ("OMS"), an essential system in a smart grid, will enable the system operators to detect and solve power outages much faster and efficiently. Fast notification feature of OMS and the rapid communication that OMS enables radically decrease the duration of the power outages.
Active participation and involvement of the consumers in the system is one of the most noteworthy advantages of replacing the existing grid of Turkey with a smart grid. Consumers have virtually no participation in the current system, and they only pay their electricity bill from month to month. When the smart grid is fully established, consumers will monitor their electricity consumption in real-time and see when the electricity is most expensive (cost of electricity rises when the consumption is the highest, i.e., in peak hours). Smart meters have a key role in supporting the participation of the consumers in the system. This useful tool, which will give the consumers access to key data, is already being used in Turkey. However, the number of consumers that have smart meters is still very low. Authorities (e.g., EMRA, Ministry of Energy, and Natural Resources) shall boost this number by providing incentives to consumers and distribution companies. Even if the whole grid of Turkey is renovated, benefits will be much limited without the participation of the consumers. Like any other market, the electricity market consists of supply and demand, and technological improvements in the supply side must certainly be accompanied by improvements in the demand side (e.g., increasing the number of smart meters).
Another benefit of establishing a smart grid would be to enhance the system's security against both physical and cyber-attacks. Turkey is a country that faces many geopolitical challenges and that carries out operations against many terrorist groups (e.g., PKK, YPG, ISIS), and an attack by one of those groups on Turkey's electricity services is a threat that must always be kept on mind. Such attacks may both be in the form of physically destroying electricity transmission routes or attacking the software behind the grid. A smart grid will help counter each of these attacks and maintain the secure flow of electricity to residents in Turkey.
The establishment of a smart grid will also support the development of a microgrid. A microgrid is a self-sufficient energy system that serves a discrete geographic footprint, such as a college campus, hospital complex, business center, or neighborhood. The advanced technologies that are to be used in the smart grid will make the development of microgrids much easier. Two distinct advantages can be achieved by installing microgrids: widespread use of renewable energy resources in microgrids, guaranteeing the secure access of geographically remote areas of Turkey to electricity. Renewable resources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, are the most common electricity generation method in microgrids. Therefore the carbon emissions can be lowered with micro grids. Besides, the existing grid in Turkey covers 100 percent of the population, but as mentioned above, remote rural areas may experience many power outages during the year. Microgrids can solve this problem. When microgrids are established in those remote villages, these villages will not be affected by the failures of the national or regional supply lines, and they will produce their electricity securely and from environmentally friendly resources like solar power.
All in all, replacing the existing grid with a smart grid will strongly benefit Turkey. Nonetheless, Turkish authorities have many actions to take before such benefits can come about. In these quickly changing times, those actions must be taken swiftly.