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David Hall

Vice President of Power Systems UK and Ireland, Schneider Electric

Renewable fuel sources currently account for 30% of the UK’s electricity generation. By 2050, it will be 85%. However, there will also be a significant increase in demand.

Power consumption in the UK is expected to grow 40% by 2050, with e-mobility and residential heating accelerating the trend.

How can electric utilities satisfy spiralling demand, while still reducing emissions? We can cut building emissions, but it won’t be enough unless the underlying electrical supply is also clean and efficient. Renewables are making a big impact, but adoption has been slowed by intermittency and a general passiveness from the large scale utilities to change their energy mix.

Maintaining grid stability

Centralised power generation will remain critical to grid stability, but distributed energy resources (DER) – such as solar panels, microgrids and storage – will also be crucial. In 2008 there were 80 points of generation in the UK versus over one million today. More people are generating and storing their own energy and then selling excess power back into the grid. These ‘prosumers’ can help to balance supply issues on the wider grid.

Digital solutions can help to optimise existing grid assets while pushing the technical limits of DERs.

However, DERs introduce a lot of additional complexity for operators to consider. It’s necessary to analyse power flow, capacity, and resilience across a myriad of new sources, and in real-time, to ensure stability. Add e-mobility into the mix and you can see a future that’s not just about moving from point A to point B, but as a mobile battery source. The UK has a new form of energy storage and for the first time in history, it’s mobile.

Digital solutions can help to optimise existing grid assets while pushing the technical limits of DERs. Smart meters provide the raw data to anticipate demand, while greater grid automation enables operators to respond quickly to supply interruptions and reduce costs. Only by making our grid ‘smarter’ can we complete the decentralisation and decarbonisation of energy.

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