by Taylor Luck | Apr 27,2012 | 00:32

AMMAN — Jordan moved one step closer to a “smart” power grid on Thursday with the launch of a series of studies to prepare for the biggest upgrade of the Kingdom’s electricity infrastructure in over 30 years.

Under an agreement signed on Thursday by the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC), the US government agreed to extend $1.15 million to Jordan to explore implementing “smart grids” in the three largest electricity distributors in the country.

Smart grids are electricity distribution systems that use digital technology to gather information about supplier and consumer behaviour in order to distribute power more efficiently and reduce outages and damage, according to web sources.

The studies will examine ways smart grids can increase safety, reliability and load management capacity for the Electricity Distribution Company, the Irbid Electric Power Company and the Jordanian Electric Power Company.

The studies, 90 per cent of which will be funded by the USTDA grant, will also explore the introduction of “smart meters” in order to provide up-to-date data on capacity loads for providers and accurate billing information for consumers.

Energy officials highlighted the importance of upgrading the nation’s electricity grid in order to incorporate several renewable energy and oil shale-fuelled power stations expected to come on-line later this decade.

“Establishing a smart-grid is not an option but a must for Jordan in order to improve services and move the country towards the future,” ERC Commissioner Ahmad Hiyasat told The Jordan Times.

The studies are to be completed by early 2013, according to Thursday’s agreement, which was signed by US Ambassador in Amman Stewart E. Jones, Hiyasat and USTDA Regional Director Carl Kress.

Renewable energy, nuclear and oil shale projects, which require an overhaul of the Kingdom’s 40-year-old electricity grid, have been singled out as key to reducing the country’s reliance on energy imports, which account for 98 per cent of the country’s electricity generation needs.