For 100 years, there has been no change in the basic structure of the electrical power grid. Experiences have shown that the hierarchical, centrally controlled grid of the 20th Century is ill-suited to the needs of the 21st Century. To address the challenges of the existing power grid, the new concept of smart grid has emerged. The smart grid can be considered as a modern electric power grid infrastructure for enhanced efficiency and reliability through automated control, high-power converters, modern communications infrastructure, sensing and metering technologies, and modern energy management techniques based on the optimization of demand, energy and network availability, and so on. While current power systems are based on a solid information and communication infrastructure, the new smart grid needs a different and much more complex one, as its dimension is much larger. This paper addresses critical issues on smart grid technologies primarily in terms of information and communication technology (ICT) issues and opportunities. The main objective of this paper is to provide a contemporary look at the current state of the art in smart grid communications as well as to discuss the still-open research issues in this field. It is expected that this paper will provide a better understanding of the technologies, potential advantages and research challenges of the smart grid and provoke interest among the research community to further explore this promising research area.