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An energy management system is basically a series of computer-aided tools used to run and monitor, and optimize the performance of, generation and transmission systems.
A typical energy management system is designed to help utilities reduce energy consumption, improve the utilization of the system, increase reliability, predict electrical system performance, as well as optimize energy usage to reduce cost, according to industry software supplier ETAP.
Typical energy management systems use supervisory control and data acquisition (Scada) platforms, which enable operators to control and monitor equipment remotely.
However, Scada platforms generally only control and monitor the part of a grid between power station and substation – they don't extend into the distribution system or the premises of clients.
Some nations are working on the development of so-called smart grids, which allow for the two-way communication between the utility and its customers and better sensing along transmission lines.
It is hard to find an estimate of the number of utilities with smart grid programs in Latin America. A recent IDB report left it at "dozens" in Brazil alone, and a May 2014 report by the Worldwatch Institute noted that Brazil already has around 1mn smart meters installed, but that's out of some 70mn residential electricity meters in all.
Indeed, most consider Brazil to be the leading country in the region in terms of smart grid legislation, followed by Chile and Colombia. However, Brazil was among countries targeted in recent comments by Ericsson to the effect that smart grid projects in Latin America are being held back by a lack of initiative in terms of policies in the region.
According to the US Department of Energy a smart grid will consist of millions of pieces and parts – controls, computers, power lines, and new technologies and equipment.
As well as helping utilities respond faster to supply issues and consumers monitor in real-time their usage and expenditure on electricity, for example, smart grids will help integrate small-scale producers into the system.
For example, factories with several wind turbines or a home with roof-mounted solar panels would be able to inject excess power into the grid and obtain payment or a reduction in their bills.
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