CIGRE 46 was held in Paris, France, just a few weeks ago. This technical conference does not get a lot of publicity in the states, but for industry specialists, it is an important annual destination. The conference has grown to become one of the leading international events for power systems experts. It is sponsored by CIGRE, a nonprofit industry educational organization, and is similar to the IEEE PES conference with a more international flavor. There is a week-long technical program with panel sessions, workshops, group discussion meetings and poster sessions.
Events like CIGRE and IEEE PES attract major corporations, university researchers and transmission system operators involved with every aspect of the power sector. A major draw for attendees is participation by leading industry organizations who share their company’s predictions regarding the future of the power industry. This year, Claudio Facchin, President Power Grids Division at ABB Ltd. provided the keynote remarks for CIGRE 46 and definitely did not disappoint with his clearly international view of where the power industry is headed. His remarks appear in the insert below.
The big shift - Enabling the evolving power system
Electricity continues to be the most versatile and widely used form of energy but has also been a major contributor to carbon emissions. With growing awareness and focus on mitigation, the challenge we face is to balance the growing demand for electricity with minimal environmental impact. This has led to an influx of renewables into the grid and their often remote location and intermittent nature, combined with a significant increase in distributed generation has created new supply side challenges. At the same time we also see new demand loads like electric vehicles and data centers as well as smarter homes and buildings. All these complexities require the evolving power system to be increasingly flexible and interconnected, as well as more reliable and intelligent. This is also driving the development of ultra-high-voltage AC and DC transmission, more eco-efficient and resilient products, power quality and grid stabilization technologies, service and asset health management solutions as well as emerging innovations like energy storage and micro grids. And key to managing this ‘big shift in power’ is the increasing digitalization and automation of the grid, the growing deployment of software and the convergence of information and operational technologies, as the power sector leverages the internet of things, services and people.
Claudio FACCHIN, President Power Grids Division at ABB Ltd.
In addition to the keynote address, Facchin delivered a technical presentation at CIGRE 46, providing both background and context for his keynote remarks as well as ABB’s view of the future based on the company’s extensive research and involvement in many electric markets. ABB believes renewables will become the dominant source for electrical power generation in the future. Mr. Facchin indicated policy shifts and disruptive developments such as dramatic price reductions in solar and battery technologies are helping to drive the change.
While ABB has a strong focus on renewables, it also sees global super grids, grid digitalization, energy storage and evolving business models as part of the future. ABB acknowledges technical challenges to renewable energy grid integration, but believes these challenges can be addressed with new technologies and grid investment. The company points to other countries where integration is more advanced and ABB is contributing to the market change. As a visionary in the industry, Facchin sees opportunities to address the challenges, including optimal use of reserve and peaking capacity, diversification of supply, reduction of wholesale electricity price volatility, strengthening grid operation to address fault conditions and increasing capacity utilization of conventional generation. He believes ultra-high voltage AC and DC systems will play a role in future super grids as will strategically positioned microgrids and energy storage systems. Power quality and demand response programs will help fine tune and optimize the grid of the future.
As the generation mix continues to evolve, customers diversify and suppliers differentiate to meet new needs, Facchin sees attractive demand drivers for the industry. He is working to ensure ABB is positioned to: 1) address the evolutionary power market shifts now underway; and, 2) help customers capitalize on the revolutionary bursts driven by dramatic technological advancements along the evolutionary path.