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Areas of application and relevance of mobile radio applications in the energy sector

Our society and economy depend on a constant and reliable power supply. This is therefore a critical application that requires secure communication. In recent decades, mobile communications have become increasingly important not only in the private sector, but also in industry. Mobile communications applications enable data acquisition, digitization, and automation of processes. The energy sector also benefits from this. 

Mobile communications enable digitization, including of power grids, and thus play a key role in driving forward the energy transition. In machine networks in the industrial Internet of Things, devices can communicate independently, without manual intervention. This M2M communication makes it possible to connect the most diverse elements of a power grid. Automatic monitoring and control of the same is thus possible on the basis of mobile communications. 

The use of such intelligent technologies, known as smart energy, allows optimization of the value chain in the energy industry. The areas of smart metering and smart grids in particular have great growth potential. 

In the following, we explain the development opportunities for the energy industry associated with the spread of the new mobile communications standard 5G, as well as three more detailed application examples of mobile communications technology in the energy industry. 

What changes in the energy industry will be enabled by the new 5G mobile communications standard? 

A successful energy transition in Germany requires the integration of many small and decentralized plants into the existing energy infrastructure. Such a supply structure requires great flexibility. The expansion of the 5G network is designed to ensure this by enabling energy to be stored and distributed in line with demand.  

Especially in the case of renewable energies, load balancing for fluctuating supply must be ensured for optimal use. This could be done by networking an almost unlimited number of devices via the Internet of Things, which the new mobile communications standard enables (Massive Machine-Type Communication). In this way, 5G could replace the connection of systems and devices via cables, and the rigid information flows that go with it. This could result in a flexible and open communication structure. 

All these applications and the potential of the new mobile communications standard for the energy industry are currently also being researched by the “National 5G Energy Hub” project, consisting of Telekom, Ericsson, TU Dresden and RWTH Aachen. 

Application example: Smart metering

One area of application for mobile communications that is currently growing very strongly is intelligent metering, also known as smart metering. Here, intelligent electricity meters, smart meters, are connected to the Internet of Things via the mobile network. Consumption data can then be transmitted automatically and regularly to the energy provider. Manual reading is therefore no longer necessary. Utilities can save resources as a result, and customers are also spared the time-consuming task of making appointments and visiting meter readers.  

The government also recognizes the potential of smart metering: the 2016 Act on the Digitalization of the Energy Transition provides for smart meter rollout, i.e. mandatory installation of smart metering systems under certain conditions. By the way: when installing such meters and systems, we can support you with our network testers and thus avoid signal interruptions and expensive second visits. 

Application example: Smart Mobility 

Mobile communications could also play a major role in the further development of the transportation system and act as a pioneer for Smart Mobility. The new 5G mobile communications standard in particular could play a key role in increasing energy efficiency in mobility. The short latency times in particular play a role here, enabling, for example, the exchange of real-time information on the current traffic situation, control of the relevant infrastructure, and thus also intelligent route planning and optimization. Ultimately, 5G could thus help minimize energy consumption in road traffic and thus also reduce the resulting emissions.  

Mobile communications can also be used in the charging process of electric vehicles. Intelligent charging stations can be connected to the Internet via the wireless network. For example, data on charging processes can be digitally recorded, transmitted to a cell phone app, and viewed at any time. Other possibilities include protecting one’s own charging station against third-party use by means of an intelligent identification process, or equipping public stations with automatic payment processes. 

Application example: Smart Grids

The term smart grid refers to an intelligent power grid that can distribute (renewable) energy individually to consumers as needed, and make it available exactly where it is needed. This enables the implementation of a climate-friendly and at the same time efficient, secure, and flexible energy supply, both for industry and private consumers. 

Like the previous applications, smart grids are based on the technology of the Internet of Things. This means that communication takes place with the aid of mobile communications technology. A wide variety of energy sources, consumption locations, storage facilities, and all other aspects of energy management are connected in a smart grid. The photovoltaic system on a private house, for example, can be just as much a part of a smart grid as a large offshore wind farm in the North Sea. 

An important component of smart grids is also the smart metering mentioned above. Smart meters can determine exact electricity consumption and monitor the development of electricity consumption and costs. They are thus the basis of a flexible supply system.