THE TOP TRENDS SET TO CHANGE THE ENERGY INDUSTRY IN THE YEAR AHEAD. BY DIRK KAISERS

2020 has already seen greater focus around the ongoing transition of the energy industry. The two major drivers of this change are responding to the public’s concerns around the progress of climate change and industry’s push to adopt green technologies.

It has never been more important for government leaders to take a proactive approach in addressing the roadblocks currently hindering significant progress. With that in mind, Dirk Kaisers, Segment Leader Distributed Energy Management EMEA, Eaton shares five top trends set to change the energy industry:

1. Renewable energy will continue to overtake traditional sources across EMEA
More specifically, solar energy will come back to Europe and remain as a viable source of energy. In the energy industry, we will see a growing trend of zero subsidy large-scale solar projects being developed across the region. This will be coupled with an uptick in storage plus solar on buildings which will enable consumers to capture and save energy until it is needed most – thereby reducing their energy bill.

2. There will be greater focus around sustainability
The European Commission must review the progress for reliable, cost-effective, and energy-efficient alternatives to Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6) in electric switchgear. As more solar and wind farms are being built, the demand for electrical switchgear will increase. Unfortunately, most of today’s switchgear contains – and leaks – SF6 gas. SF6 is by far the worst of all greenhouse gases (23,500 times as potent as CO2), and it has long since been banned in the EU for most uses.

However, a carve-out was allowed for large electrical switchgear due to industry pressure. As the awareness of global warming has grown, both industry and regulators are increasingly aware that SF6 usage in electric switchgear is growing and must now be addressed. By latest, the EU must report back on this issue by July 2020 to assess how quickly we as an industry can end the use of SF6. This applies particularly to medium voltage switchgear, which is the most prevalent type and where a high number of commercially available and long existing systems are available in the market.

3. More consumer EV models will be released in this year – from both traditional OEMs and smaller, challenger brands
While it is hard to predict the number of EV’s to be sold in any one year, it is expected to continue growing. Even if complete and total EV adoption is still years away, attention is required now on creating the proper infrastructure and supporting ecosystems. For consumers, this can alleviate concerns about range anxiety, while increasing the overall attractiveness of EV adoption. For example, raising awareness around smart charging and bi-directional chargers help lower the cost to consumers, reduce pressure on the electrical system, and help accelerate the rapid adoption of EV’s.

4. Flexibility and a need for updated regulations will become an important point of conversation within the energy market
The increase in demand for EV’s means a growing energy demand. As renewables are not as dispatchable as coal or gas, a solution must be found to help meet this demand. Grid management to match supply and demand of electricity is becoming increasingly complicated as more decentralised generation comes into the equation and demand changes. Enabling new types of assets, such as energy storage and smart use of power, is required to ensure a stable system by allowing grid operators to leverage added flexible capabilities.

5. There will be a continued focus on the digitalisation of the grid
There can be no ‘smart’ grid without comprehensive awareness around what is happening across all energy systems. What is clear is that we must avoid major blackouts – like the one seen in the UK in 2019 – and the best way to do so will be by leveraging new digital tools. It’s now possible to create and manage microgrids that can let parts of the grid run without interruption even when major failures or unplanned events occur. Till now, most of these innovations have only been simulated, but it is now time to increase the number of pilots, focus on the development of digitalisation, and implement the right software. This will be the next big step towards the smart grid of the future.

From the global climate strikes that brought together millions of protesters, and nonviolent civil disobedience groups like Extinction Rebellion within the UK, we’ve already seen a glimpse of the increasing consumer frustration around the current climate crisis. Over the next year, there is little doubt that we will start to see the mounting pressures on governments to answer these calls and support the dissolution of barriers hindering overall progress.

But to do anything, governments need to understand that we’re working on a 50-year-old grid. To support change on a mass scale, updates to infrastructure needs to be made a priority – not an afterthought. Consumers are demanding significant change, but they’re looking for a revolution with government support.

EATON
Dirk Kaisers is Segment Leader Distributed Energy Management EMEA at Eaton. Eaton’s mission is to improve the quality of life and the environment through the use of power management technologies and services. It provides sustainable solutions that help customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical power – more safely, more efficiently, and more reliably. For further information please visit:www.eaton.com