The decarbonization process is one of the most immediate challenges we must face. Getting rid of the umbilical cord that has clung us to fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – so far is not an easy task. The main reason being that the majority of electricity production depends on these fossils, well ahead of nuclear power and energy from renewable sources.
The planet has been trying for some time to warn us that either we change or the consequences will be catastrophic. Aware of this problem, cities, businesses and citizens are faced with an energy sector that is making giant strides to adapt its installations to new, more digital equipment that guarantees sustainability.
Global investments in renewable energy have surpassed $1 trillion over the past three years.
Solar and wind, along with hydroelectric and geothermal systems, are providing lower-cost alternatives, bringing generation costs down to those of fossil fuel-based production.
New global investment in clean energy
Climate change and population growth have long pushed the energy sector to innovate in order to find solutions that facilitate the transition to full reliance on renewable energies. It is a race against time towards a carbon-neutral economy, in which energy efficiency and infrastructure maintenance will play a key role.
The European Union continues to lead the penetration of renewable energies. Today, renewable energies make up at least 17% of energy consumed in Europe, with the target set at 20% by 2030. This growth has led to a reduction in the total amount of fossil fuels’ share of EU gross energy consumption: from 81% in 1995 to 72.6% in 2016. But how can we link the energy sector with infrastructures in a sensible way in order to create more environmentally friendly environments? Two major concepts come to mind:
- Adding more renewable sources to the system. To achieve this, it is essential to have systems for storing excess energy and avoid wasting it.
- Opting for a more decentralized generation and avoiding energy islands. Interconnections provide the basis.
This can only be made possible through the digitization of the whole energy sector, which provides many advantages:
- Network monitoring to identify errors
- Optimization and forecasting of energy production
- Remote and decentralized management
- More consumer control
- New sources of income
Today, power generation accounts for 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Siemens is committed to the goal of zero emissions from own operations by the year 2030, while continuing to innovate solutions aimed at decarbonization.
Reuse of surplus renewable energy
By 2030, global energy demand will be 50% higher than today. If we want to achieve sustainability targets we need to be able to collect excess electricity so that it can be used in times of need. There are three solutions to store surplus energy from wind and solar farms:
- Siestorage batteries with the capacity to store large amounts of electricity, capable of acting both as an energy producer and a consumer.
- Silyzer transform surplus energy into hydrogen. This technology works through the PEM electrolysis technique, which uses water, electricity and a proton exchange membrane to store the surplus in the form of hydrogen. In addition, it acts as a current regulator so that it remains constant despite sudden changes in water supply.
- The Future Energy Solution (FES) is capable of storing excess energy for several hours or even an entire day. The surplus energy is stored in natural stones that store the energy as heat and then convert it back into electricity. The design is simple, cost-effective and can be used as a complement to existing storage systems.
The advantages of distributed energy
One of the main aims of research into the improvement of the energy sector focuses on distributed energy generation solutions (DES) that allow energy systems to be decentralized. The advantages?
- Flexibility, as decentralized energy increases opportunities to design local energy supply systems.
- Integration of renewables. Buildings cease to be mere “consumers” of energy and become “prosumers”, capable of generating electricity on their own and become intelligent storage systems that can add flexibility to the overall grid.
- Energy savings during transmission through shortened transmission paths.
- Increased reliability of the local power supply. Helps stabilize distribution and transmission systems.
- Strengthening communities. Promotes value creation of communities at the local level.
To learn more, meet us at Smart City Expo 2019 in Barcelona, an event in which the premise is to respond to the needs of citizens without leaving anyone behind.