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Household DC networks: State of the art and future prospects

Executive summary 

This study investigates the potential benefits and feasibility of household DC networks. Unlike the case of AC systems, a well-established set of standards for household DC networks is currently lacking. However, several recommended standards and configurations have been discussed in previous studies. This work reviews some of the most promising suggestions and further analyses those that are most suitable to be implemented. In addition, a comparative study is carried out between a hybrid AC-DC system and a proposed DC configuration, for different selected geographical conditions in the EU. Specifically, the comparative study focuses on energy savings from avoiding conversion losses, and economic payback. 

The choice of transitioning to DC networks in households is found to dependent on the evolution of electricity consumption of household devices, residential solar PV penetration, and the cost of DC power converters. It is most likely that DC household networks will be taken up in parallel to the current AC system; a hybrid configuration with installations of parallel networks of AC and LVDC distribution systems is a possible “transition solution”. Some recent developments in favour of a transition of DC networks include the launch of USB 3.1 (capable of power delivery of up to 100 W), dramatic fall in costs of solar PV since 2008, and growing support at the EU-level for residential electricity storage through batteries. In addition, both the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) are actively engaged in developing DC network standards. This is critical for the large-scale adoption of low voltage DC networks.

 

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INSIGHT_E is a multidisciplinary energy think-tank which provides the European Commission and other energy stakeholders with advice on policy options and assesses their potential impact.