Electrical grid

The electrical grid (or sometimes just “the grid”) is the network of power lines that moves electricity. In the classical grid, power stations generate electricity, which is transported to consumers.

Renewable energy has changed this equation. Now power can be made and consumed on the same spot without being connected to the larger grid at all, for example through solar panels. Or, several small power generators can be connected in what’s called a microgrid – for example, a town can connect its solar panels to each other, and to a wind turbine. Such grids are an advantage in natural disasters: when part of the whole grid being knocked out would usually cut out power everywhere, a microgrid can keep going.

The energy grid may be operated by power utilities, or in some cases by the country. Germany is currently trying to expand its grid to better connect wind power, which is prevalent in the north, to solar power which is more concentrated in the south. The grid will have to be made more flexible if the energy transition is to succeed.



Back-up power

Backup power is not a clearly defined term. In general, it indicates that certain power plants need to be maintained on standby in case other generators fail to produce power.

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Baseload power

Baseload is the minimum amount of power that a country needs around the clock.

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Demand side management

Demand Side Management (DSM) is also known simply as “demand management” means changing the way we think about power. Rather than using it as we need it, we can instead use power as it is available.

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Dispatchable (ramping)

Dispatchable power plants are those that can change how much power they provide to the energy grid quickly. They can be switched on and off, or ramped up and down to meet power demand.

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Distributed energy generation

Distributed energy is when electricity is produced by a large number of small generators (solar roofs, wind turbines, etc.), as opposed to a centralized power supply based on a large power stations.

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Full-load hours

Full-load hours are a way of measuring energy that power plants create. They are used to show how many hours a plant would take to make a certain amount of energy if the plant is operating at full capacity.

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Grid access

Grid access refers to a generator’s physical connection to the larger electrical grid. In Germany, if you install a solar panel, you are guaranteed that it will be connected to the grid, and that whenever it is sunny your power will be sold on the grid (instead of it being pushed out by coal power).

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Merit order

Merit order indicates the order in which power is bought from power plants on the market. The merit order means that the most expensive plants currently producing determines the price of power on the power exchange.

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