#Energy Energy systems

5G enabling digitalization of the distribution grid

To make the distribution grid smart it must be based on low-latency and high-reliable bidirectional communications networks.

Network slicing in 5G is foreseen to benefit many industries by slicing one physical network infrastructure into many virtual end-to-end networks. This is very appealing in the context of smart distribution grids. Network slicing enables the low-latency, secure and dependable communication services the smart distribution grid demands.

My PhD research

Through my PhD research, I aim to deliver the above-mentioned communication architecture for the low voltage and medium voltage electrical distribution network, particularly for microgrids. I expect that integrating the 5G network slicing technology will enable the functionality of the distribution grid through, for instance, enhanced protection and control operations, making it ‘smarter’!

Distribution grid

What is the “Smart” distribution grid?

A dependable electricity distribution grid is no doubt a critical infrastructure. By deploying more sensors for better state estimation and controllers for automation, we aim at providing a higher security of supply, e.g. less and shorter power outages.

Transforming from the traditional distribution grid to a smart distribution grid implies it is necessary to add more communication capabilities, control and intelligence. There are many applications in the smart grid domain which cannot run without communication, e.g. monitoring, control and protection. Each application imposes different performance requirements in terms of latency, bandwidth, reliability, security etc.

What is 5G network slicing?

The 5G network is envisioned to support a diverse set of devices and meet diversified service requirements. Network slicing is a key technology pillar within 5G which lets operators slice one physical network into multiple, virtual, end-to-end (E2E) networks.

According to diversified service requirements, networks generate corresponding virtual network topologies and a series of virtual network function sets for each corresponding service. For each network slice, dedicated resources such as virtualized servers, network bandwidth etc. are guaranteed. This enables the network operators to fulfil different types of services with different characteristics and requirements.

Smart distribution grid poses new challenges to communication networks. How can 5G Network slicing solve this?

The overall architecture of smart grid communication can be redesigned with the concept of network slicing. The application scenarios such as information acquirement of low voltage distribution systems, intelligent distributed feeder automation and millisecond-level precise load control can meet their specific performance requirements using E2E network slices. The diversity of smart grid services requires a highly flexible and orchestrated network with optimal capabilities. 5G use cases are well aligned with the communication platform required for the digitalized power grid, and network slicing is essential to meet 5G goals.


[1] Description of Network Slicing Concept, [online] Available: https://www.ngmn.org/uploads/media/160113_Network_Slicing_v1_0.pdf.

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