Grid digitization is the key to seamless integration of renewable energy sources

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By Taru Madangombe, Power & Grid Segment Manager: Middle East and Africa, Schneider Electric

As global utilities attempt to accelerate their journey towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, greater attention is needed to ensure digital systems are in place that will improve the integration of different sources. energy into the grid – transparently – and without compromising integrity. of the grid. Energy is a key topic in the decarbonization and climate change narrative, with around 80% of all CO2 emissions coming from both the energy production and consumption sides of the value chain. Therefore, utilities must not only consider the type of energy sources they need to integrate into their networks, but also the efficiency on the consumption or demand side.

Renewable energy is a key driver in the fight against climate change – yet of the total carbon emissions produced by energy utilities worldwide, it is estimated that around 45% comes from the primary or production, while the remaining 55% is produced on the demand side. of the value chain. So while it’s good for utilities to rely on alternative energy sources such as renewables for power generation – to reduce emissions – it’s equally important for them to solve the problems on the demand side to ensure they accelerate their journey to net zero. emissions.

The future is renewable

The future is certainly renewable, however, ongoing geopolitical events in Europe could potentially impact this global energy transition towards sustainability and net zero emissions. There are currently two distinct schools of thought around this issue. Some energy experts believe the rising cost of fuel is spurring a gold rush for fossil fuel investment, at least in the short term, which is slowing progress on decarbonization. Another school of thought argues that as supply from a major global oil and gas producer dries up, many countries are accelerating their investments in renewable energy.

Regardless of how these two scenarios might play out, the world is at a very critical time in the energy transition value chain. In terms of renewable energies, what stands out the most is the integration of renewable energies into the energy network.

For example, it is inferred that the recent massive blackouts in the United States and Germany could be the result of grid instability, due to the intermittent integration of renewables, which has hurt regional connections. The integration of renewable energy sources, especially on distribution networks, seems to significantly change the behavior of the network and this must be properly managed by integrating available technologies such as distribution energy management systems (DERMS & ADMS).

Active demand management

This has created the need to introduce active demand management systems on the grid to seamlessly integrate renewables, without compromising grid integrity. In other words, utilities must take the smartest digital route, with a smart grid being essential to have complete visibility into what is happening on the network.

Many utilities in Africa do not have full visibility of their networks, which means they are unable to monitor activity and ensure proper revenue management. However, the technology is there to allow utilities to navigate the current energy transition seamlessly, but they should beware of simply digitizing the grid just for digitization’s sake.

Data Information Management

Most important is that utilities actively manage the information they get from a smart grid so that they have enough information to make decisions about how best to operate the grid. It’s about Active Demand Side Management and Electricity 4.0 – it’s the digitized networks of the future, enabling utilities to seamlessly manage and balance what’s happening on the demand side and of the offer.

It remains essential that utilities tackle the problem of climate change and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. To do this, industry and regulators must play their part. At the same time, technology providers have a role to play in delivering systems that will ensure the construction of more reliable, sustainable and resilient grids that enable seamless integration of renewable energy sources.

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