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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 secondsTransitioning from fossil to renewable energies implies organising our society around the exploitation of an energy flow, instead of an energy reservoir. This organisation makes resource availability fluctuating and intermittent. It reduces our capability of prediction in the short and the medium run and, therefore, makes consumption and production matching more difficult and complex. Overcoming this challenge is key to ensure the quality and the affordability of energy supply. A Smart Grid enables flexibility both on the production and the consumption sides, by maximizing the value of the distributed energy resources and the conventional electric assets.

Skip to 1 minute and 4 secondsImagine you’re a rabbit and you're grazing the meadow. You are just looking to gather some food and maybe to even have some fun. Suddenly, a predator appears close by. What would you do? You would certainly begin to run as fast as possible in order to stay alive. The new purpose (the only one at this stage) of your decision is to survive. This implies a change in your metabolism to increase the power available. Efficiency is no longer the matter, but velocity instead. You have to survive! But time is finite, and you cannot keep your power at its maximum for too long.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 secondsLook at the example: One bit of information gathered from the surroundings has triggered a change in the energy chain and has increased the resilience of the system. This natural biomimetic process is a good proxy to understand the logics of a Smart Grid.

Skip to 2 minutes and 6 secondsCan we take advantage of this lab shaped during millions of years and be inspired by the lessons of nature?

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 secondsAs it happens with the rabbit, modern societies must prioritize and realise that any of their decisions, will affect the balance of energy and matter. The metabolism of an economy cannot afford to overlook the correlation between the availability of resources and the capacity of the sinks. Otherwise, there is great risk of making the wrong decisions, leading to collapse. Somehow, this is what is happening with fossil fuels. The huge amount of power available has allowed our society to grow faster and faster; like a rabbit running for its life. But now, Climate Change threatens us and some action must be taken.

Skip to 2 minutes and 59 secondsWe need to understand the boundaries of the resources, the primary energy available with the best technology available to be transformed and environment and sink capacity. This is the reason behind the agreement on “phasing out fossil fuels”.

Skip to 3 minutes and 16 secondsNow that the decision has been stated, it is necessary to move forward. And the Smart Grid paradigm is the answer to this new socioeconomic context. It may not even be enough, but it is an undeniably necessary step. First of all, we must undertake actions towards Energy Efficiency in order to reduce consumption and peak power. From a technical point of view, this can be achieved through a simultaneous upgrade of old-fashioned consumption elements (at home, cars, industry…) and a shift towards less material-intensive processes, thus reducing the energy demand. From a behavioural perspective, people will have to adapt their habits to a better usage of resources. Secondly, switching primary energy resources for renewables.

Skip to 4 minutes and 7 secondsWhile fossil and nuclear energy-based systems need a centralised way to produce electricity and to transport it directly to the consumers, renewable resources are spread out throughout the territory, so their use has to be decentralised, and as close to the consumers as possible. In this context, consumers are powered by different power sources and through different architectures. Networks have become bidirectional, and it is necessary to adapt the consumption profile to the local energy available whilst keeping a centralised system to balance the grid.

Skip to 4 minutes and 44 secondsThe coexistence of distributed and centralised power sources will be the standard during the transition period, and in order to make it both technically viable and affordable, we will have to resort to information and communication technologies to manage the process. Smart Grid merges energy and IT, and proposes a new concept of infrastructure for our societies on which to develop our socioeconomic models. This new situation also challenges the current energy economics, both retribution to regulated activities as well as free market price formation, and an update of the regulation framework is required. This is going to be a source of conflict of interest between old and new players, so the game is not over.

Flexibility era

Shifting from fossil to renewable energies implies organizing our society around the exploitation of an energy flow, instead of an energy reservoir. This makes resource availability fluctuating and intermittent. Overcoming this challenge is key to ensure the quality and the affordability of the energy supply, and Smart Grids are the way forward. These enable flexibility both on the production and the consumption sides.

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This video is from the free online course:

Smart Grids for Smart Cities: Towards Zero Emissions

InnoEnergy

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