‘Smart grids are vital’ – Schneider Electric’s Gary Lawrence

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“Smart grids are vital because they support tomorrow’s electricity-dependent world,” says Gary Lawrence, Power and Grid Segment President at Schneider Electric. As part of Eurelectric’s Power Summit and Smart Energy International‘s 25th birthday, Lawrence shares his thoughts on what he believes to be the most significant developments in the energy sector in the past 25 years and what is ahead of us.

According to Lawrence, the advent of smart digital grids is the most momentous industry event over the past quarter of a century. He believes the gradual digitalisation of utilities and networks could not have come at a better time to enable a clean energy transition just as we race to save the planet.

“The electric grid is the bloodline of today’s digital world. Electricity possesses near 100% maximum thermal efficiency when it comes to ‘useful energy’ while up to 67% of energy coming from other sources is lost (e.g., a combustion engine).

“The digital grid optimised through Advanced Distributed Management Solutions (ADMS) software and IT-OT platform integration, can support a mix in the decarbonised power generation mix and proactively prevent outages. It is also the backbone of a bi-directional decentralised energy grid.

“In the future, this innovation will allow consumers and companies alike to generate their own clean and plentiful energy supply through solar and microgrids, make it available for others to buy, or to store for future use, such as for charging their EVs overnight. Investing in new energy opportunities and distributed energy resources (DERs) can further help utilities improve responsiveness, agility and reliability as the world moves to electric vehicles and electrifies cooking and heating at pace.”

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If there is one thing Lawrence wishes to be achieved in the next 25 years, he points to the modernization of the existing grid infrastructure to support the new digital world and help achieve our ambitious collective targets to reach net-zero by 2050.

“While the required groundbreaking technologies already exist, the pace of electrical infrastructure upgrades remains slow. Most of our existing electric grids are decades old, built when electricity needs were simple. Originally designed for a one-way power flow from coal-fired power stations to power-hungry urban and industrial centres, various upgrades have simply ‘patchworked’ over a basic infrastructure that, since the development of renewable energy and EV charging, is no longer fit for purpose. Overall, the current grid does not have the digital capabilities required to manage the new reality of consumer demand and others feeding into the grid.

Read more about the Eurelectric Power Summit 2021

“The ever-changing and rising energy demands of the 21st century necessitates urgent modernisation in our electric grids. A smart grid is an intelligent digitised energy network optimally delivering energy from source to consumption and makes the grid more efficient, reliable, secure, and green.

“Smart grids are vital because they support tomorrow’s electricity-dependent world. We must invest in this technology today to enable a better net-zero future for tomorrow’s world,” says Lawrence.

Want to know more about the next 25 years in the industry?
Read our special 25th birthday ‘Back to… the future’ supplement.