The Digital Future of the Power Grids
You have to spend money to save money: at least when it comes to electricity. Sensors, efficient technology and data analysis are all musts. But it ultimately pays off.3 Apr 2017
Digitization is taking hold in all areas of life. Some are easy to see, like video streaming, carsharing and Cloud storage. Others keep to the background. Yet the latent potential for Predictive Maintenance, Digital Twins and efficient power supply in particular is enormous. The German federal government's "Act on the Digitization of the Energy Transition" set a milestone on the path toward smart energy supply .
The so-called Digitization Act calls for energy systems to be reorganized into a "Smart Grid." This is intended to establish a digital infrastructure in which all actors and components in the energy system communication with one another – from power produce to the grid operators and storage facilities and on to the end consumers . Among the benefits is the ability to compensate for weather-related fluctuations in electricity production from renewable energy sources as well as in consumer demand.
Cheaper prices, new business models
This has consequences for private households and industry: for one, they can benefit from more flexible power tariffs. When an unusually high proportion of electricity is funneled to the grid from wind turbines and photovoltaic collectors, prices tend to drop. A smart energy network can also make a range of innovative applications possible. Blockchain technology , for example, allows for production and drawing of power among a group of direct neighbors. In other words, locally produced power, whether from co-generation plans, solar or biogas systems, can be made directly available to consumers, with billing handled via Blockchain. In theory, then, anyone can become a power utility.
There's still a long way for that vision to become reality, however. While the bar has been set legislatively, the technology still remains to be matured. And digitization remains a young and underdeveloped field for the power utilities in particular. A study by PwC found that only 17 percent of utilities have a digitization strategy, and a further 52 percent report that they are planning one. But one in three hasn’t made any progress at all. And the repercussions are real. The study foresees one in four energy utilities leaving the market by 2025.
Digitization of networks at companies as well
Energy utilities aren't the only ones facing a call to action. Companies must also pursue serious digitization concepts if they are to help make energy efficiency a reality. The use of Smart Meters, which monitor energy use constantly, networked communication and intelligent control systems for energy consumption can help companies harness the Smart Grid and move to the " Prosumer " level. That means consumers who also produce for themselves at least a portion of their required power needs. Automation is a fundamental and essential factor here: automated systems are required to collect energy data, compare process information and — where needed — intervene and re-distribute.
Intelligent control, transport, storage and consumption hold huge potential energy savings.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy systems (ISE) claims that the figure could total roughly 1.4 billion euros in coming years. Yet the necessary investments in intelligent hardware and control systems must first be made.
Experts from all disciplines are working on groundbreaking concepts that can be used to create, store, transfer and distribute power. All cleaner and more cost-efficient than ever. Energy, a leading international fair held as part of the HANNOVER MESSE, will present visitors with a broad spectrum of forums, congresses and special events dedicated to the top issues related to energy supply.
The special Digital Energy - Energy Management for Industry project is a new showcase with a user forum dedicated to holistic energy management.
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