University of Oulu

P. H. J. Nardelli and F. Kuhnlenz, "Why Smart Appliances May Result in a Stupid Grid: Examining the Layers of the Sociotechnical Systems," in IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Magazine, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 21-27, Oct. 2018. doi: 10.1109/MSMC.2018.2811709

Why smart appliances may result in a stupid grid: examining the layers of the sociotechnical systems

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Author: Nardelli, Pedro H.J.1; Kühnlenz, Florian2
Organizations: 1Laboratory of Control Engineering and Digital Systems, School of Energy Systems, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland
2Centre for Wireless Communications (CWC) at University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2018
Publish Date: 2019-02-13


This article discusses the unexpected consequences of idealistic conceptions about the modernization of power grids. It focuses on demand?response policies based on automatic decisions made by smart home appliances. Following the usual approach, individual appliances sense a universal signal (i.e., a grid frequency or price) that reflects the system state. Such information is the basis of device decision making. While each device, on its own, has a negligible impact, together their aggregate effect is expected to improve system efficiency; this is the demand? response goal. The smartness of such an ideal system, one composed of isolated decision-making appliances that are also simultaneously connected within the same physical grid, may worsen system stability. This undesirable outcome results from the synchronization of the devices? reactions when subjected to the same signal. We argue that this is a predictable effect of (implicit) methodological choices. Additionally, we employ a different approach that recognizes the electrical system as constituted by physical, informational, and regulatory (networked and structured) layers that are numerous and cannot be reduced to only one or two; the system needs to be regarded as an organic whole so that proper management tools can be designed. In this article, two examples are provided to illustrate the strength of this modeling.

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Series: IEEE systems, man, and cybernetics magazine
ISSN: 2380-1298
ISSN-E: 2333-942X
ISSN-L: 2380-1298
Volume: 4
Issue: 4
Pages: 21 - 27
DOI: 10.1109/MSMC.2018.2811709
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 213 Electronic, automation and communications engineering, electronics
Funding: This work was partly supported by the Finnish Academy Strategic Research Council project BCDC Energy (grant 292854).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 292854
Detailed Information: 292854 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
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