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Final Word: Future of today’s electric power systems

With smart automation and continuous monitoring, a lot can be achieved, says Ali Al Jassim, CEO, Etihad ESCO

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Ali Al Jassim, CEO, Etihad ESCO
Ali Al Jassim, CEO, Etihad ESCO

It is safe to say that there is no sector or industry that has not been impacted by the ongoing digital transformation and the innovative technologies it has brought along. The advent of smartphones, social media, intelligent manufacturing and automation are set to transform the future of industries, including electric power systems.

The electricity sector is poised to take advantage of the rapid digital transformation, with $1.3tn of value estimated to be captured globally between 2016 and the year 2025.

Either Renewables or non-renewables or any source of energy at generation it doesn’t matter, Power system are still going to play a pivotal role in future. Being an integral part in Transmission & Distribution and with continuous growth in energy demand, power system has to be smart & robust to support sustainability. With the introduction of smart automation, artificial intelligence, continuous monitoring a lot can be achieved. These can help in estimation of future loads, seasonal requirements on grid accordingly generation can be planned using sum of renewables & non-renewables source. Smart Power systems can help in minimising transmission & distribution losses, also it can help in better maintenance, power quality, and sustainability.

The disruptive convergence of digital technology advancements is marked by its customer-centric nature; on-demand, tailored consumption; and a decentralised infrastructure.

As energy efficiency and sustainability continue to be the biggest challenges we face today, the electric power industry is witnessing a period of sustained growth to cater to the rising energy needs. Modernisation initiatives such as deployment of smart grid solutions will support the continuing growth of the sector’s infrastructure, as new facilities get added to the existing network and incorporated with the installed base. Grid intelligence will aid planners and operators in successfully navigating the increasing complexity of safe and reliable power supply and delivery.

Even as renewable power generation technologies expand to contribute in reducing the total amount of energy consumed, they cannot completely displace the necessity for new base load generation. Fossil generation sources that provide cleaner and lower emissions will continue to be the mainstay of power generation additions. As the industry envisions its future, nuclear power is expected to grow in significance, but this will also give rise to challenges for industrialised countries.

Demand reduction and the need for new generation additions can be attained through conservation and efficiency improvements to an extent. For the installation of new substations in thickly populated urban areas with intense load densities, compact designs with reduced footprints will be imperative.

An ideal mix of power generation resources will encompass central station power, supported by renewable energy sources including wind and solar technologies, and eco-friendly distributed generation complemented by consumer demand side response programs. The right mix of these resources will lead to the creation of an efficient and feasible energy market with balance. A central and distributed generation capability will also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, since renewable energy can be effectively used to serve load based on resource availability, in response to consumer demand.

Despite the current challenges faced by the electric power industry, the opportunities for improvement are numerous. If integrated under appropriate interconnection standards, in microgrids, or in automated distribution systems, distributed resources can help improve grid reliability and resilience for customers who seek uninterrupted service.

There is no doubt that the need of the hour is a modern power system that is capable of supporting the development and deployment of increasingly clean energy and energy-efficiency technologies.

Development and implementation of a regulatory framework and business models that provide incentives for power generators, system operators, and utilities that focus on reducing or eliminating pollution and other environmental damages, is the most essential feature.

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