The Argentine Electricity Grid: Increasing Reliability and Alleviating Congestion Through Innovative Technology


The following article covers the complex Argentine electricity transmission network and the need for smart grids, and how international technology providers are currently tackling this issue around the globe by increasing reliability of this critical infrastructure and alleviating system congestion.

Understanding the problem

We are transitioning into a clean energy future; more renewable energy needs to flow from where it is generated to where demand is greatest. Growth of renewable generation and electrification of heating, industry and transportation creates a massive challenge for the electricity grid by changing the way power flows across the network. Certain transmission lines may become overloaded and limit power flows - effectively acting as bottlenecks, even though there is spare capacity on surrounding circuits. This issue is further heightened by aging network infrastructure.

While the Argentine government has opted for certain new infrastructure projects, such as the USD $10 million investment in the electrical interconnection between the Rincón Santa María Substation (Corrientes) and the Resistencia Substation (Chaco), grid enhancing technologies that support optimizing the existing grid can provide a different approach towards cheaper and more reliable electricity. The goal is for renewable energy sources to make up 20 percent of the electric matrix by December 31, 2025. Committed to integrating renewable energy into the network, the Secretary of Energy of the Ministry of Economy recently issued Resolution No. 330/2022 - which encourages the development of projects utilizing technology that contribute to incorporate more renewables into the grid, contributing to the whole-sale electricity market sustainability and to the reliability of the grid.

Companies like Smart Wires offer innovative power flow control technology and advanced analytics for transmission grids across Europe, the Americas and Australia that allow utilities to have a digital, controllable, and optimized power system. Initial studies conducted in the region show that this type of technology can be applied throughout Argentina to increase the capacity of the transmission system, repaying themselves in less than a year due to the reduced operation costs. These technologies lower costs to consumers by ensuring electric transmission infrastructure is fully utilized while grid expansion projects are in planning or construction. Technologies such as Smart Wires’ SmartValve™ can even eliminate or defer the need for certain new infrastructure projects. These technologies also strengthen grid reliability by providing operational flexibility to system operators to redistribute power flows across circuits depending on the real-time network conditions.

Smart grids and Argentina

While smart meters and other grid edge solutions have been implemented widely on distribution grids over the last couple of years, technologies for transmission grids have also been gaining traction. Grid enhancing technologies such as SmartValve, an innovative power flow control technology, cost-effectively increase the capacity of existing transmission grids, improve network reliability, and provide more granular control of power flows to system operators. This is essential as the world aims to integrate huge levels of renewable energy and ultimately moves to a net zero grid.

Current global projects

After over a decade in operation, Smart Wires continues its relentless drive toward greater grid efficiency and a greener planet across the world. Deep strategic partnerships with some of the world’s most respected utilities have allowed the company to learn and understand their most urgent needs: integrating more renewables, increasing flexibility and stability, reducing costs and environmental and community impact, and preparing for an unpredictable future.

SmartValve, combined with the company’s advanced analytics and consulting services, allows Smart Wires’ customers to reduce congestion, boost reliability, save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars, accelerate the clean energy transition, and move toward a digital grid.

In Australia, Smart Wires is currently working with Transgrid on the Victoria-to-New South Wales interconnector upgrade project to redirect power flows to where demand is greatest. The innovative technology, SmartValve, will unlock 170 MW of extra capacity, reducing network congestion, stabilizing the grid, and allowing more renewable energy to flow between Victoria, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). This will allow renewable energy to reach an additional 30,000 homes. Not only will this lower greenhouse emissions, but since the project is contained to substations, it will have minimal environmental and community disruption.

In the UK in 2021, National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) installed SmartValves on the United Kingdom’s network, which unlocked 1.5 GW of capacity on the system — enough power to supply a million homes — to accelerate progress to net zero. NGET is expanding their SmartValve deployments this year to unlock a further 500 MW of capacity.

Smart Wires is active across Latin America with multiple major projects delivered and planned in Colombia. SmartValve is widely recognized in Colombia as a key technology for cost-effectively connecting lower cost generation and increasing reliability — improving the quality of life of local communities and contributing to the energy transition. This is reflected by the adoption of modular power flow control technology, such as SmartValve, as part of the approved solutions for the country’s 2020-2034 Transmission Expansion Plan.

In March 2021, Colombia’s Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) announced a successful first project leveraging SmartValves and later announced plans to deploy more SmartValves in 2022 as a timely and cost-effective solution to release more capacity on the grid with minimal disruption to local communities and the environment in urban areas. Earlier this year, Grupo Energía Bogotá (GEB) completed a large-scale SmartValve project, unlocking an additional 250 MW of network capacity on the existing grid. Smart Wires also has two SmartValve projects with ISA Transelca in the Guajira-Cesar-Magdalena region to be delivered later this year unlocking around 1 GW of new wind energy in conjunction with new infrastructure, and another grid expansion project in the Atlántico region in 2024 which will unlock over 300 MW of extra grid capacity to facilitate the increasing level of solar connections in the region.