Sustainable energy systems need to be fit for the future, not just now

26 Oct 2023

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FIDIC’s latest webinar, which took place on 26 October 2023, was a special event to launch the latest State of the World report, Developing Tomorrow's Sustainable Energy Systems. The report looks at the evolving global energy landscape and examine what the sustainable energy systems of the future will look like and how they will operate.

The launch webinar, which was sponsored by Schneider Electric, and the new report explored the future of sustainable energy systems, delves into the evolving energy landscape and highlights the pressing need for change to meet the UN sustainable development goals and achieve global net zero targets.

Speakers at the webinar, which was chaired by FIDIC’s CEO Dr Nelson Ogunshakin, included Harry Stockman, DC expert with DC Systems (Netherlands), Ahmad Makkieh, DC business development leader at Schneider Electric, (Scotland), Luigi Pellegrino, BESS power devices manager at Hitachi (Italy), Mauro Monge, Global HVDC product manager at Hitachi Energy (Sweden), Theodore Paradise, partner at K&L Gates LLP (USA) and Basma Eissa, policy analyst at FIDIC (United Kingdom).

Introducing the webinar, FIDIC CEO Dr Nelson Ogunshakin said: “As we look ahead to a net zero and zero-carbon future, the issues raised and discussed in the report we are launching today are important ones for our industry and I’m pleased that we are discussing them today. As well as exploring the future of sustainable energy systems, the State of the World report – and our webinar today – also delves into the evolving energy landscape and highlights the urgent need for change to meet the UN sustainable development goals and achieve global net zero targets.”

Speaking on the background and focus of the report, Basma Eissa, policy analyst at FIDIC, said that two key findings arising from the report was that all projects needed a clear statement of intent on how they will meet the sustainable development goals and that engineers needed to be involved early on projects . She outlined four key recommendations of the report as follows: -

1. Clients should procure solutions with specific links to the SDGs outlined.

2. Engineers need to be engaged in power system project conception and feasibility at the earliest possible stage so that complex areas of assessment can be undertaken.

3. Society and communities matter: If we are to achieve the SDGs, the infrastructure sector is going to have to become more society and customer focused. We will no longer just be serving the initial public or private sector client.

4. Policy frameworks need to be in place and fit for purpose – whether it is to improve, retrofit and/or upgrade existing infrastructure or to encourage the provision of new infrastructure, it is important that policy frameworks are tailored to the specific needs and goals a country is trying to achieve.

Asked about how DC systems contribute to the achievement of the UN SDGs in terms of reducing energy waste, improving energy access and creating sustainable urban environments, Harry Stockman from DC Systems said that they provided a common approach that could be used in developed and developing countries to achieve sustainable solutions. Stockman also reflected on how engineers and communities could work more effectively together in advancing individual and local sustainable energy solutions and grid efficiency. He agreed totally with the idea that engineers needed to be involved earlier in the process around project development.

Ahmad Makkieh, DC business development leader at Schneider Electric, reflected on his experience with DC microgrids and said that this has been pivotal in Schneider Electric’s leadership in this technology. He believed that DC microgrids would shape the future of energy distribution as they were an accessible, reliable and sustainable way forward.

Luigi Pellegrino, BESS power devices manager at Hitachi, highlighted how advancements in storage technologies like battery energy storage systems could help to contribute to grid stability and reliability within renewable power systems. He also made the point that IoT (internet of things) technologies will play a key role alongside storage technologies. “There is no single or simple solutions to the energy transition, so we need to consider different solutions that enable us to be flexible in how we support the power generation revolution,” he said.

Mauro Monge, Global HVDC product manager at Hitachi Energy, spoke about high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission solutions and reflected on where the technology was now and what role it could play in future energy systems. He said that the technology was particularly attractive for the interconnector sector because of its greater efficiency and reduced energy loss. Asked about what emerging trends and innovations he thought would combine the use of AC and DC systems in achieving a sustainable future on a national and global scale, Monge said that he expected a trend for DC grids to develop but these would need to be carefully designed, not over-designed, to ensure flexibility and ease of use in terms of using the storage and load management.

Theodore Paradise, partner at K&L Gates LLP (USA), offered his insights into how legal frameworks and regulatory changes impact the adoption of renewable power systems. He said that the legal frameworks were changing and needed to change more in the future to keep up with how schemes and systems might look in 30-40 years’ time. “The mindset currently is focused on the present and that will only give you bare-minimum solutions. We need to look forward, move away from ‘just-enough’ solutions and work out what we really need for the future,” said Paradise. He also said that lessons needed to be learned globally about what policy frameworks have worked better than others. “Webinars like today's with views and experiences coming in from all over the world were important in sharing experiences,” he said.

The wide-ranging discussion covered a number of areas including the risks of using DC systems versus AC, the use of these systems in the interconnector sector, the role of nuclear power in the future and the political and policy frameworks underpinning how sustainable energy systems of the future will be shaped and delivered.

Summing up the webinar, FIDIC CEO Dr Nelson Ogunshakin highlighted the report's four key recommendations which he hoped would be taken on board by the industry. Collaboration and mindset and moving beyond the old ways of working were critical going forward, he said.

Click here to download the FIDIC State of the World report, Developing Tomorrow's Sustainable Energy Systems.

Click below to view the full webinar recording. 

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