european utility week
European Utility Week

It was three busy days, with many kilometres walked by the Smart Energy International team, many cups of coffee consumed and many, many hours of interviews undertaken. “And it was amazing!” says Smart Energy International editor Claire Volkwyn.

Are we doing enough?”

This was the question asked during the keynote session by Cedrik Neike, CEO Smart Infrastructure, Siemens. Neike, of course, was speaking about efforts to decarbonise the energy sector. By a show of hands, the audience response was overwhelmingly that we could and should be doing more.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International issue 1-2020. Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here.

Neike was one of the keynote session presenters who kicked off this year’s European Utility Week/POWERGEN Europe conference in a rather damp Paris.

Neike followed presentations by Philippe Monlobou, CEO of French DSO Enedis and Francesco La Camera, Director-General, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

In all cases, there was a strong focus on efforts to decarbonise – a move that can only be accomplished through digitalisation.

Monlobou spoke about the scale of the challenge and made it clear that this is a transition that cannot be accomplished by anyone company, organisation or country. That the successful transition of the sector can only be done through a concerted effort by all stakeholders to work together. Yet, his was a positive message in which he reiterated his belief in the abilities of the sector not only to transition, but also to flourish.

La Camera, however, cautioned that the transition to a cleaner, low carbon world would not happen without significant investment. He estimated that more than $110 trillion would be needed by 2050 – with more than $1 trillion of that being needed annually in Asia.

It’s all about data

Data was a topic of discussion during the opening keynote of day two of European Utility Week. Addressing the topic – “Who owns the data?” – were Signe Horn Rosted, Energinet; Julien Groues, Amazon Web Services; Robert Denda, ENEL and Hervé Champenois, Enedis.

In the light of privacy and data protection legislation, the need to balance these considerations with insightful operational data is a challenge for multiple players in the sector.

The session considered the perspectives for TSOs, DSOs and consumers and paid particular attention to the importance of GDPR and the democratisation of data.

The future is renewable

Emerging renewables such as tidal energy are seeing a surge in interest. Despite initial challenges around the commerciality and perceived cost of the technology, innovation now means that it is possible to effectively and predictably generate electricity from the tide. One of the project examples highlighted was that of the Faroe Islands, where there is a pilot installation in place. This is just one facet of their efforts to meet a goal of generating 100% of their energy through renewable means.

The ”Hydrogen & Power to X” session was well received in an industry that is taking the storage challenge seriously. The session, which was standing room only, focussed on the role of the ‘large players’ currently seen in the sector, as well as efforts to improve and commercialise the technology.

What’s trending?

Smart Energy International was able to engage with leaders from across the globe who have shared their perspectives on developments within the energy sector.

Impressions and trends across the course of the three days include:

• A focus on utilising data to gain insightful information which will impact on operations.

• Reiteration of the message that decarbonisation cannot be achieved in isolation – this is not an effort which can be undertaken by anyone company, country, region or even continent.

• Consumers are still important but this is no longer a new development and is becoming part of the normal business landscape – although there is room for improvement.

• There is a desire to gain deeper understanding from the data which the proliferation of sensors on the network is providing.

• Speaking of data – discussions are still underway in terms of who owns what, who can use which data and how best to protect consumers and provide the level of detail that service providers need.

• The electrification of everything is on the cards – focus is shifting from the electrification of transport to encompass heating and cooling.

• Renewable energy technology is becoming more cost-effective and alternative forms of generation, such as tidal power, are gaining traction and becoming more commercially viable.

• Storage is still a focal point and will continue to be so as the efforts to decarbonise the energy sector increase.

These are just some initial impressions from what was a truly enlightening event. SEI