The Enlit Europe 2023 conference in Paris allowed multiple vendors to demonstrate their products mainly for utilities, provide presentations on how to improve efficiency, and raise concerns about the European grid and its future. Now that the dust has settled, the biggest takeaway is to strive for energy independence and not wait for the markets to mature.
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Enlit Europe Highlights Upcoming Tech
The annual Enlit Smart Energy conference in Paris at the end of November was eventful, packed full of vendors trying to showcase their various products, a significant portion being management software from energy to asset performance to grid and utility. As the energy sector catches up to other areas (such as the telecoms industry) using digital twins and Artificial Intelligence (AI), a new wave of software is ready to be implemented for utilities to boost efficiency and control the fluctuations that come with renewable sources of energy. More interesting technology displayed included a new wave of SF6 free medium-voltage switchgears, allowing clients to reduce harmful gases and emissions.
There was a notable concern over the grid and its impact, effectively slowing down the progress to net zero and restricting new renewable projects from joining as the grid is struggling to smooth out fluctuations from various projects. The answer to this seems to be a cohesive and a joint effort from Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESSs), micro grids, and a desperate need to invest in the current grid infrastructure. ABI Insight “Enlit Smart Energy Conference Sounds Alarm on Public Grids Risking Becoming the Bottlenecks in Achieving a Net-Zero Future” (IN-7164) delves deeper into this.
What the Future Holds for the Grid and Beyond That
As with any conference, it is important to see what is happening and what is planned for the future. Restructuring the grid will be crucial going forward as enterprises’ sustainability targets draw ever closer, along with major national targets set for 2050. If these targets are ever to be within sight, then proper investment needs to happen now with the acceptance of decentralizing the grid allowing micro grids and energy sharing to flourish in the future. If this does not happen, then it is all but inevitable that all renewable projects will stagnate and create a backlog waiting to be connected, with the blame being passed around between grid management, policy makers, and governments.
While strengthening the foundations of the future is critical with grid investment, there was a lack of information and leadership on where energy would go after 10 to 15 years and even less so after 2050 (assuming targets are met). Hopes for green hydrogen and long duration BESSs were presented, but without proper road mapping and assistance from governments, these hopes are just wishful thinking with a very real potential of still relying on fossil fuels to do most of the heavy lifting.
What Actions to Take in the Next Few Years
What mainly stood out at this conference was the dedication to tackling the current grid infrastructure problem and its supply side. The software, technology, and expertise on display was comforting to a world constantly worrying about climate change and emissions, and is not just for large-scale projects or utilities. The very same technology and practices can be used for Commercial and Industrial (C&I) use cases:
- Deploying correct meters at specific locations to identify areas of inefficiencies.
- Implementing energy efficiency strategies via software partnered with the Internet of Things (IoT), digital twins, and/or AI.
- Identifying energy patterns to time buying electricity at the cheapest rate possible.
- Investing in off-grid solutions with on-site generation or battery storage so as to not depend on grid infrastructure to match your demand.
- Expanding existing generation to incorporate nearby demand.
The goal is to become less dependent on utilities and the grid as a whole. This is actually a win-win scenario for both the customers and the utilities, as less money will eventually be spent on energy bills and achieving energy security, while utilities will experience a less intensive grid that is easier to manage and maintain. The important part is to start now and not wait for the grid to improve anytime soon.