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FEATURE RENEWABLE TECHNOLOGY


SECURING THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE ENERGY


David Hall, vice president power systems, UK and Ireland at Schneider Electric, looks at the importance of getting Generation Z on side when it comes to reducing energy consumption


the most efficient way possible. But, meeting our energy needs depends on more than smart grids, which is why we’ll see a big expansion in microgrids in the years ahead. Microgrids are zones where energy can


be managed autonomously. Examples include university campuses, industrial plants, and factories that manage their energy resources within their perimeter. These might include generation units - such as wind turbines, solar panels, and traditional fossil fuel generators - as well as energy storage. The microgrid weaves these power units into a single, manageable whole. Power from the outside can be balanced with internal production and, if needed, these microgrids can run on an optional ‘islanded’ mode, disconnected from outside power sources. Smart grids and microgrids can only


G


enerational conflict is nothing new. Today, some of the most enthusiastic


environmental activists on our TV screens are school children, just like Greta Thunberg. With so much focus on the next generation’s desire to combat climate change and live in more sustainable economies, it is hard to doubt the commitment of the young in stopping climate change in its tracks. However, Schneider Electric research has


revealed Generation Z – those born from around the mid-1990s and who are mostly now reaching the age of majority – are far less worried about the planet (and their impact upon it) than their parents. We found that the youngest respondents were half as likely to think that reducing energy consumption is an issue of concern. In the last few decades, we have made


great strides towards reducing our impact on the planet, but the gains we’ve struggled so hard to achieve could be wiped out if the following generations can’t improve upon them. If we can show them the exciting, technologically-driven advances we are making towards a greener world, we can ignite the passion of these disengaged digital natives and convince them that the future of the planet is a worthy cause. When discussing the future of energy to today’s youth, it’s worth reminding


22 SUMMER 2019 | ENERGY MANAGEMENT


them of the wastefulness of traditional energy generation and distribution systems. Conventional, oil, gas and coal- based power plants have yields that barely reach 40-50 per cent, while combustion engines, which propel the vast majority of our means of transportation, barely achieve 30 per cent efficiency. Compare this to electric systems. Electric


engines often achieve 90 per cent efficiency, while electric heat pumps achieve yields that are three to four times higher than fossil for electric engines. Two- thirds of the energy in the tank is wasted. But today’s electric heat pumps achieve yields that are three to four times higher than traditional fossil-based systems. The growth in renewable generation and


the affordability of renewable energy is one of the success stories of our age, the result of hard work and determination in the face of many who said that green power was an expensive pipe dream. More needs to be done, however, to create the energy infrastructure of the future, which is why it’s so important to get Generation Z on side. One example is, of course, smart grids.


These enable grid operators to ensure that electricity demand is met sustainably, reliably and flexibly; in conjunction with modern energy storage systems, they ensure that utilities can meet demand in


work effectively if there is an effective way to store energy from renewable sources, since these do not necessarily generate electricity when demand is highest. That’s why advances in battery technology are so important to our future energy infrastructure – especially for appliances and facilities that require uninterruptible power supplies. We’ve already seen great progress in this


area, with the cost of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries becoming cheaper even as their efficiency increases. In fact, it’s predicted that Li-ion batteries will break the all-important $100/kWh mark by 2025. Furthermore, they are being used in an ever increasing number of more ambitious applications: they are now capable of powering not just electric vehicles, but entire cities. Elon Musk’s celebrated achievement late last year of building a battery to power South Australia in under 100 days provides a vision of what future energy networks will look like. The innovations required to transform


the future of energy already exist. However, securing the advocacy and action of the next generation will be vital to turning a transition to a greener, low-carbon future from a dream into reality.


Schneider Electric schneider-electric.co.uk


/ ENERGYMANAGEMENT


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