The new power reality: a hybrid of macro and micro elements
Today, large generating plants and passive components still dominate the power system. That time is over. In the next 10 years, the new power landscape will be a hybrid of large and small scale elements: large scale renewable generating plants and super grids which move power over long distances and micro grids and energy producing buildings where end-users have an active role. Renewable generation will become the safest investment choice and dominate power generation new builds. Markets are already adapting to this reality. Grids will be governed more and more by software. Many electric technologies and appliances including heat pumps, electric vehicles, solar PV and batteries will come together with ICT systems in buildings. These buildings will be net generators instead of just consuming energy. With the help of digitalisation and automation, they will not only provide electricity, but also offer complex grid balancing and power quality services. These forms of flexibility, which are increasingly needed by the grid, will become easily available through the mass market. We will see a personalization of energy, where end users are enabled to source, price and better understand their electricity supply. Why? Consumers, emboldened by digital platforms, will demand choice and control of electricity in their daily lives, and the technology to support this is ready.
Top 10 technology trends that will together create a new power reality:
- The electrification of energy demand will increase overall energy efficiency and reliability. While the electrification of trains began a century ago, cars and trucks are now increasingly battery-powered. Electric heating is also driving efficiency increases as heat pumps begin replacing other forms of heating, including gas, oil and direct electric heating on broader scales.
- New materials in energy such as graphene in solar, hybrid solar cells and wide range bandgap semiconductors in power converters will increase the reliability, performance and efficiency of the next generation solar panels and electric grids.
- Digitalisation will lead to more, faster and better data, increased computing power and better connectivity of all elements in the power system. This will optimise the design, planning and operations of assets in wind, solar, transmission, distribution and the use of electricity in society. Costs for maintenance of wind turbines and wind farms will be lower and demand response invitations, where customers can voluntarily reduce demand in peak moments, will be better-tuned to individual and changing consumer wishes.
- Wind: larger and smarter. Turbine sizes will continue to increase and include light, flexible blades and aerodynamic control devices. Second, aerodynamic control devices, innovations in transmission systems, new sensors and smart control systems, will ensure new turbines better utilise the available wind and react to the needs of the electricity grid.
- More than 30 developments in solar will drive down costs of solar PV up to 40% in the next ten years. The PV learning curve indicates that the module price decreases by over 20% for every doubling of capacity. By 2025 solar PV will be the cheapest form of electricity in many regions of the world.
- Electricity storage will be optimised for three electricity discharge durations: wholesale, system support and “behind the meter.” Technologies will include: chemical batteries for storing solar energy for consumers, technologies with high power ratings for system support at systems scale and smart software in batteries to enable optimal use of batteries.
- Bi-directional communications in demand response management will address changing customer circumstances and thus help overcome the major disadvantages of the two most common forms of demand response today. In one form, utilities directly control the program, disregarding the local circumstances and changing customer wishes and making it feel rather intrusive. In the other form, demand is adjusted automatically based on consumers reacting to price incentives, making this form of demand response unreliable and controllable from the systems perspective.
- Smart energy producing buildings. A vision of a smart energy-producing house is one in which solar is the main source of energy. Adding devices that have some flexibility in their energy behavior, like battery electricity storage, heat pumps, air conditioning, and charging of electrical vehicles enables further optimization of energy use with smart self-learning thermostats. Smart meters will make it possible to measure this flexibility and monetize it. While developments in solar and storage may suggest that buildings go ‘off grid’, the opposite is more likely to occur. Buildings have the potential to become energy hubs, an invaluable asset to the much needed flexibility in power grids.
- Self-thinking power grids. Grids will begin to manage themselves, and will include features allowing self-configuration to manage resilience and reduction losses, self-adjustment to address voltage variations and self-optimisation to mitigate disturbances. This evolution will, however, raise different challenges, including questions about how to validate the safety and reliability of the system. In response to this, new modelling techniques for design, testing and verifying of power grid management in a systems context will be developed.
- Hybrid grids. In order to accommodate the increasing share of renewable energy, electricity will need to be transmitted over ever-longer distances. High Voltage Direct Current is the solution of lowest cost in this regard. Hybrid grids, which the existing AC grid will evolve toward, is defined as the addition of ever-more HVDC connections within and between AC power systems. In this way, grids are evolving into combinations of AC and highly controllable DC systems.
Theo Bosma, Director Group Research & Innovation for Energy: ”The implementation of these new technologies will be a game changer in the next 10 years, accelerating the energy transition. Alongside customers and industry partners, we will continue to push these developments through our joint industry projects and advisory, testing, inspection and certification services to ensure a clean, affordable and safe energy future.”
About Technology Outlook
Through the development and publication of the Technology Outlook 2025, DNV GL aspires to provide a glimpse of the technology landscape of 2025 across the energy, shipping, and life sciences sectors. This foresight activity helps us engage in discussions with our customers on how we believe technology developments will impact their respective industries. To this end, we have selected, for each of the industries, technology trends that we believe will have game changing impact in the years ahead. The publication deals with the probable rather than the possible. Consequently, what you will find may not be the very new avant garde technology developments, but rather a view on how technologies that exist or are emerging today will be implemented to acquire real scale and impact.
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