Around the city, banners hang for all to see: The People Make Glasgow. For me, the people do make Glasgow. Everyone is family there, and everyone has time for one another. In Europe, I find Scotland and Ireland to be the two most truly welcoming cultures in Europe, and I think it is only partly because there is a pub on every corner.
James Watt of steam engine fame was walking across one of the city’s greens when he came up with an improvement to the existing steam engine of the day that roughly doubled efficiency. The city, at the forefront of the industrial revolution, was also known for shipbuilding and manufacturing train engines. And although most of the manufacturing has left the city, it still remains a hub of technical innovation.
I am also familiar with the University of Strathclyde, as this university is quite engaged in power delivery. Sir Jim McDonald, vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, is a mainstay at CIRED meetings who also has worked in industry. At the CIRED opening ceremony this past June, McDonald stated that we are now facing a trilemma and “must simultaneously address decarbonization, affordability and reliability.”
McDonald is involved in the University of Strathclyde’s Power Networks Demonstration Centre (PNDC), which is comprised of flexible 11-kV and low-voltage distribution networks with the ability to vary voltage and frequency, and perform disturbance testing in a controlled environment. The PNDC is a venture with Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Power and SSE aimed at accelerating the adoption of research and new technologies into the electricity industry.
Partially driving this initiative is the target of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions that the Scottish government has set for 2050. To handle distributed generation, the growing economic importance of cities and the increasingly intimate role that customers play, McDonald says we will need radical new control systems in place by as early as 2030.
Theodore Conner, chairman of CIRED, also addressed the changing energy environment, stating, “We are seeing fundamental shifts in energy driven by the confluence of regulatory changes, societal and market forces, the explosive growth of distributed generation along with enhanced information and communications technology and a more environmental orientation.
John Scott, director of Chiltern Power, encapsulated the situation, stating: “We are facing three drivers of change: decentralization, democratization and decarbonization.”
Gerhard Seyrling, president of T&D Europe, spoke on the need to invest in grid technologies. He predicts that digitization will be the enabler of a safe, flexible, reliable, efficient and sustainable grid. New business models will shift with a focus on distributed energy resources and the prosumer. He also sees that the bulk of CO2 emission reductions will be achieved through renewables coming onto the system along with more energy-efficient systems.
Looking at the European Union Energy Strategy, Seyrling believes that by 2030 we should, at a minimum, see a 40% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, a 27% increase in renewable energy, a 27% increase in energy efficiency and a 15% increase in interconnection capability between member states.
I am always keen to hear utility perspectives, so I was quite taken with what Frank Mitchell, CEO of Scottish Power Energy Networks, had to say. Mitchell kicked of his talk by stating that 197 countries have agreed to limit the temperature rise of the earth to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. He said that to achieve this, the consensus wisdom is that we must obtain two-thirds of our energy from low carbon sources by 2040. A great portion of this will come from the electrification of transport with a target of 25% electric vehicles by 2030.
Mitchell believes we need an effective distribution system operator model that will optimize customer engagement, minimize costs, improve customer service and manage losses. This will ensure that the utility does not become irrelevant to customers and stakeholders in 10 to 15 years.
Mitchell also says our challenge is to stay in front of the curve and to deploy technology to manage change. We must simultaneously make sure we can collect the charges that reflect the costs to transfer power from peer to peer.
The CIRED panel was heavily weighted toward speakers from Scotland, but the issues this country faces are the same issues that Europe and the world faces. We must face these issues together. This was more than amplified in technical presentations from presenters from around the world. But even more, our vendor community, as exemplified by initiatives shared on the show floor, is actively engaged in providing the platforms and integrated solutions to enable our utilities to move forward.
In conclusion, we are Glasgow, but we are also Scotland and we are Europe. And we are bigger than that. We are a part of the interconnected global community, and we are moving at a pace that only a handful of people predicted a decade ago. Not only can we do this, but we are now putting the infrastructure in place to move to our increasingly distributed future. ♦