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Accelerating Innovation in the Energy Transition Journey

Paul Hobcraft , Agility Innovation Specialists
14 Oct, 2019
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What fascinates me presently is the energy transition currently being undertaken, due to the enormous amount of innovation options being considered and applied. New technologies are changing the very nature of how energy is going to be produced and delivered over the next ten to twenty years.

When you consider how vital energy is to society anywhere in the world, you realize what a significant time this is to curb the carbonization and radically resign the system based on renewables and green electricity. It might sound obvious, but having access to energy is crucial to our daily lives; it powers everything we do. Not just in the home, in our business lives, in our ability to function, it enables us to be productive or simply “plugged-in.”

We are undergoing such a revolution that will have an impact on all of our lives. During the next ten to twenty years, we are in a race to transform our energy system, one that moves from fossil fuel reliant to clean fuels based on renewable energy. We need to decarbonize and make energy greener.

The other part of the energy transition is to provide a reliable, sustainable energy system by exploiting all possible efficiency out of the existing system. Also we need to radically apply new technologies for electrification that will be transforming the generating, transmitting, converting, storing, and utilizing energy, in entirely new ways.

We will pass through many different parts of this energy evolution through a complete change in the infrastructure, termed today as smart infrastructure, as its solutions are focused on delivering the decarbonizing, decentralizing, and digitalizing of power generation to provide system flexibility and greater end-user involvement.

Undertaking such a transformation will require four essential aspects to happen:

  1. A real political commitment to make this change to reduce the dangers of global warming and power outages.
  2. A radical redesign of the energy system in the supporting policies, regulations, and subsidies in existence today and needed to make this a fully greener energy systemPublic awareness and engagement in the sheer size of these changes, their impact on daily lives and their social, economic and environmental benefits in eventual outcomes
  3. The dependence on innovation to transform the system through technological solutions, market redesign, and new business models.

The magnitude of realization of achieving deep decarbonization of our energy systems, the upending of fossil fuel reliance into renewables, and this undertaking of a complete energy system redesign is hard to comprehend within the time scales set. What we do in the next ten years will determine if we can achieve the goals of reducing global warming by 2 percent by 2050. The cost of not achieving this will be significant for its impact on our lives if we do not attempt to undertake this.

Allow time for new technologies to commercialize.

To undertake something like a global energy transition, you need time; time to figure it out, validate the options and pathways and then provide the necessary time to pilot, learn and then commercialize the (multiple) solutions to be scaled and applied. The cost of this transformation will eventually run into trillions of dollars.

The innovation aspect needs to gather momentum. Technologies are emerging based on several solution needs:

  • Ones that are grid edge in design, meaning more customer-facing and power-flow controls
  • Radically different storage technologies that can handle the variances in renewable of holding the supply of solar and wind generating energy as well as converting energy through electrolysis, hydrogen and synthetic fuels that serves the needs of mobility, heating, agriculture
  • The present gas and steam turbines need to be upgraded, optimized, converted and have applied hybrid solutions that combine different energy sources, various technologies that combine to provide mixed energy source power plants
  • The advancement of carbon capture techniques and carbon removal
  • Exploring next-generation nuclear fission and fusion
  • Finding different solutions that allow high-temperature superconductor transmission and solid-state transformers to be introduced increasingly into the energy system
  • Finally, putting to use digitalization for machine and device connectivity, managing growing complexity in overall systems, increasing the transparency, reliability, and resilience through the application and use of sensors, monitoring, analytics, and self-learning systems to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

Each of these “demands” new technology design.

They need to be economically viable and scalable and need to drive a clean energy transition and provide increasing systems flexibility

These new technologies need to break into the existing lifecycle of energy design to substitute incumbent solutions. The speed of development and deployment will be unprecedented for use to meet the climate goals, decarbonize the system, and change the fuel source. Fuels that are based on renewables or green alternatives that can continue to use existing fuels of coal, gas, or oil that allow for carbon capture or removal.

So we need to blend much of what we have seen coming or emerging from technology solutions based on the internet of solutions, artificial intelligence, and in the future, blockchain. We need to find innovation within energy as a service, in peer-to-peer trading and localized generation of energy so individuals and communities can become active participants. As we increasingly use low-carbon electricity we have to begin to decarbonize our transport, buildings, and industry.

Lastly, we need to find innovative solutions for flexible power generation sourcing, establish multiple interconnections of fuel supply that is more related to demand response through different storage and distribution designs, and enable these to be fully digitalized to capitalize on these effects and in sustaining ways.

The need of innovation solutions could not be greater in demand

The role of innovation in the energy transition is critical to delivering the new solutions outlined above. It is a fascinating time to be involved in innovation and all the changes that are undergoing within the energy sector.

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