Standardization can help millions access electricity

IEC approves Systems Committee for LVDC

By Antoinette Price

It has been a busy year for Systems Evaluation Group (SEG) 4: Low Voltage Direct Current (LVDC) Applications, Distribution and Safety for use in Developed and Developing Economies. During the IEC 2016 General Meeting (GM) in Frankfurt, SEG 4 Convenor, Vimal Mahendru, presented a final report to the Standardization Management Board (SMB). The SMB voted in favour of the proposal to set up a Systems Committee (SyC) for LVDC and LVDC for electricity access.

Solar lamps provide off grid lighting Solar lamps provide off-grid lighting (Photo: Solar for Africa Blog/John Keane)

The importance of LVDC

The work of SEG 4 is very important, given that everything from electric vehicles, renewable energy technology, island irrigation systems, kitchen appliances, lighting and transport, smart phones and tablets, to systems with data and embedded electronics, such as the IoT, smart homes and smart cities, runs on LVDC.

Electricity requires a systems approach

One in five people does not have access to electricity. “LVDC bridges the distance between the solar photovoltaic (PV) generation and the consumption devices in the home.  This happens without conversion losses and expensive, cumbersome grids. LVDC networks are quick to erect, energy efficient and cost effective, enabling speedy electrification of homes and villages”, says Mahendru.

If more people are to have access to electricity, a lot more needs to be done.  A number of IEC technical committees (TCs) have direct current (DC) provisions in their current scope of work, including: IEC TC 8: Systems aspects for electrical energy supply, IEC TC 64: Protection against electric shocks, and IEC TC 82: Solar photovoltaic energy systems, to name a few.  Additionally, SEG 6: Systems Evaluation Group - Non-conventional Distribution Networks/Microgrids, contributes to this work.

IEC needs a systems approach to LVDC standardization, because no single TC covers everything.  Around 30 will need to upgrade existing Standards to include LVDC Standards.  At the same time, several TCs need to come together, along with domain experts and new actors operating in the area of electricity access so that completely new publications may be developed which enable deploying LVDC for electricity access.

“Actually you have to see LVDC as a transversal topic, touching overwhelmingly everything that uses electricity.  As a result, almost all TCs are likely to be required to eventually update their Standards.  Hey, this is truly disruptive!  Then you have to see LVDC for electricity access as a vertical, a specific use case.  However, LVDC for electricity access is perhaps the most profoundly impactful work that the IEC community would be taking up in a long time. It is all about inclusive development, about bringing electricity and ensuing opportunity to all in our shared world”, says Mahendru.

From SEG to SyC

The newly proposed Systems Committee structure would comprise two Coordination Advisory Groups (CAGs) and one Working Group (WG).

  • CAG 1 will review markets for Standards and use cases. It will provide recommendations on industry needs for standardization, highlight areas for future cooperation with external stakeholders and promote IEC LVDC work and Standards.
  • CAG 2 will be responsible for internal coordination and implementation of the work carried out by the different TCs and subcommittees. Both CAGs will participate in defining a strategic business plan for the new SyC.
  • WG 1 is expected to work on the LVDC publications for electricity access.

SEG 4 intends to keep the momentum going during the transition process, with a number of events expected to take place between now and May 2017. In particular, it will hold a webinar in February, which will be open to all stakeholders from within, or outside the traditional IEC community.   The webinar will allow participants to see how IEC is leading this work with the different stakeholders (governments, funding agencies, insurers etc.).

From 22-24 May, the first IEC International Conference on LVDC for Electricity Access will be held in Kenya.  This is going to be a unique, one-of-a-kind event to bring together all stakeholders to specifically discuss how to leverage LVDC to enable rapid electrification.

Additionally, as an IEC Ambassador, Mahendru will also promote the IEC and its LVDC work at international events, such as India Smart Grid Week 2017, where he will be one of the guest speakers.

A new type of urban mobility with the Microlino prototype A new type of urban EV, the Microlino prototype, was presented at the Geneva Motor Show 2016 (Photo: Microlino)
Solar lamps provide off grid lighting Solar lamps provide off-grid lighting (Photo: Solar for Africa Blog/John Keane)
Laptops run on low voltage direct current Many everyday items, like laptop and smart phones run on LVDC