POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe Advisory Board member Herbert Piereder, Consultant Director at Applied Materials, argues that local power could completely transform the energy sector. He describes local power as a revolution with a difference – he says while most revolutions fight against states, this one depends on governments to get going. Read Herbert Piereder’s article on the local power revolution below.
There is a revolution underway. The energy industry is undergoing a radical transfer of power from the generator to the consumer. But as another famous revolutionary, Che Guevara said, “the revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.”
The lesson is that revolutions can’t be left untended. People need to drive change to take place. They need to steer it to ensure the outcome is better than the status quo. This is true of the European power industry right now. Such rapid change can be tricky and governments need to do more to secure a smooth transition.
So, what is this revolution? It comes with a familiar cry of “power to the people”. Moves towards distributed and community generation are literally putting power into the hands of consumers, allowing them to produce their own energy and sell the excess back into the grid.
The timing couldn’t be any better for Europe. It’s no secret that, across the continent, countries have struggled since the financial crisis and are still seeing little in the way of GDP growth. And although energy demand has fallen in recent years due to mild winters and increased energy efficiency, Europe still needs to replace aging fossil fuel power plants and deal with the phasing out of nuclear generation in some countries.
This is an urgent concern. In 2014 alone, 13 gigawatts were removed from the European market while only eight gigawatts were added. That’s a five gigawatt net reduction in capacity in the space of a year.
And that figure just goes to show that it’s not easy to replace decommissioned baseload power plants with large-scale capital intensive installations alone. These are expensive projects to undertake and in the current economic climate, large infrastructure plans can be difficult to get off the ground.
So across Europe, power is going back to the people and going local. It has to. In fact, there are more than 5,000 energy communities in the UK alone, and the numbers are increasing across Europe as a whole.
This is welcome. Distributed generation is more secure than traditional centralised models, given that it decentralises risk and relieves dependency on large assets, the failure of which would be catastrophic. And it’s more efficient too. Community generation can act as the foundation of a more flexible power system; one that scales up or down according to demand – avoiding the production of unused energy and keeping the lights on when the supply can’t quite meet peaks.
But of course it’s not perfect. For a start, community generation is typically based on renewable generation sources like wind and solar power. And, as we all know, such sources are all-too-intermittent in their output.
So, what needs to change to make this type of distributed generation really take off? Storage for starters.
Energy storage has the potential to be the biggest breakthrough of our time. By allowing the system to hold on to our excess energy – instead of letting it go to waste – storage will play a crucial role in keeping the lights on when margins are squeezed. And it will also reduce the pressure on the sector to build more capacity into the system just to cover for big peaks in demand.
However, energy storage isn’t quite there yet. Its potential to be a game changer won’t be realised until commercial solutions are widely available. While products like the Tesla Powerwall represent real progress, governments will need to help if the technologies are to really take off. Only states can incentivise the market to develop new solutions – we’ve seen this work well for both solar and wind power. If Europe is serious about its aims for flexible power, then it must implement market levers and design schemes that support innovative technology development and its implementation.
The other big issue is the grid. The current system was designed to carry power down-the-line from large baseload plants. It simply wasn’t created with the idea of multiple inputs from decentralised generation in mind.
This century calls for a truly smart grid. But building one is no mean feat. It requires a fundamental rebalancing of the relationship between generators and networks. They will need to form closer links, communicating how the network needs to be adapt and where best to add connections.
These are real and difficult challenges. But no revolution was ever easy. This one is worth it. A flexible power system, underpinned by community generation and energy storage can provide and make use of energy on a more efficient and sustainable basis – avoiding blackouts along the way. That’s a future worth fighting for.
In addition, utilities, equipment producers, service providers, city energy co-ordinators, consultancy firms, financiers, data handlers and grid operators will share their experiences and knowledge, and discuss the industry’s current and future needs.
7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption
Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.
This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?
Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.
New Technologies to Watch
These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:
- Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
- Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
- New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
- Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
- Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
- The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
- Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.
Making the Investment
All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.
Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis
Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.
Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?”
Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.
Tip #1: Focus & Determination
Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.
Tip #2: Minimize Spending
One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!
Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal
You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.
Investing in Clean Energy
One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.
With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.
The Future of Green Biz
As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.
Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.
In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!
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