The social dimension of Smart Grids
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Growing concerns over climate change, security of power supply and market competitiveness are challenging the current power system operation and architecture, with the resulting need to integrate increasing shares of renewable and dispersed energy resources. The era of renewable energy, decentralized energy sources and smart grid technologies will empower all prosumers, from households to small and medium sized enterprises, as well as larger companies, to integrate their consumption and production of energy in networks that would function more like ecosystems than markets. The modernization of the grid, with power and data flowing in both directions, to and from the prosumers, will demand and enable new market structures, new services, and new social processes. As a consequence, the most important challenge for policy makers over the next decade will likely be the shift away from a supply-driven perspective, to one that recognizes the need for the integration of the different dimensions and actors of the energy systems. In this context, the aim of the present report is to shed light on the different components of the social dimensions of the smart grids, from the perspective of the consumer, community and society at large, and to highlight and discuss the main challenges that surround it.