The by-invitation-only Pre-Event was organized as an interactive workshop which featured the active participation of attendees from a wide range of industries. This included senior leaders from finance, solar PV, energy storage, project development, automotive and energy utilities, as well as large multi-national companies like Siemens, Bosch, and Adani Global, and last but not least, regulatory bodies like the Energy Market Authority of Singapore. These participants spent a full day learning, discussing, challenging and brainstorming on the key topics of the future energy grid transformation together with top industry experts who served as session moderators.
What must be done on the way to a clean energy future?
- In light of the critical climate change mitigation targets, which are necessary for securing the future of the planet and which were agreed during the COP21 in Paris, the workshop participants strongly call on removing unnecessary regulatory and political barriers hindering the urgently required energy grid transformation.
- Key technologies such as PV and energy storage systems (ESS) are undergoing lightning-fast improvements in cost as well as performance. In comparison however, the regulatory policies which will unlock viable applications and business models are unable to keep up with this pace of development. The biggest challenge seen by most participants is the snail’s pace of policy changes required to enable the realization of our clean energy future sooner rather than later.
- There is a significant lack of up-to-date knowledge and awareness about these new technologies. Even relatively straightforward technologies such as PV and wind may still face outdated views from some parts of the public (e.g. that they are too expensive and therefore not commercially viable). The awareness problem increases further when it comes to more complex technologies such as ESS, smart grids and blockchain. As with the first point, the society, industry, financial sector and especially policymakers are unable to keep up with the speed of new developments and improvements. Urgent and continuous education is needed at all levels, starting from schools, all the way up to industry leaders and policymakers.
- According to general experience with new technologies, government support has been crucial in the early phase to bring these technologies to commercial viability. Therefore, the question has to be asked: Should governments introduce supporting programs for other new technologies like ESS, similar to what has been done with PV and wind in the past (e.g. in Germany)? Achieving scale in ESS installations will unlock additional potential for the decarbonization of our energy structures.
- Cybersecurity is just as critical in the energy sector as it is in the IT or other sectors. However, not enough attention is being paid to this topic, despite the potentially critical incidents for power plants and electricity networks that could arise out of IT vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity must urgently be recognized as a key responsibility of company leadership, and top management must take a top-down, holistic approach to cybersecurity.
- Smart grid technology can serve as a backbone for enabling distributed generation and microgrids, energy trading, energy efficiency measures, and new power-related business models. Investment in smart grids will require a push from the public sector on one hand, but also on the participation of the private sector on the other. Private households can be encouraged to use smart appliances to take advantage of time-of-use electricity pricing mechanisms through education and gamification. Large power users can see direct benefits on their bottom line with the deployment of smart energy meters in their operations. Last but not least, smart and distributed grids may mitigate the risk that natural disasters pose on energy supply structures.
What are the next steps on the way to a clean energy future?
The workshop concept of this Pre-Event, which is part of VDE’s international series of ‘VDE Academy’ events, has proven to be very successful. High-level industry experts were able to give a concise overview on the current state of new business trends, applications, and technologies, as well as leading industry practices and solutions to mitigate project risks for the audience. But most importantly, through the moderation of intensive roundtable discussions, the participants could share their views and bring up their specific requirements and the challenges they are facing. This led to the brainstorming of solutions needed to make the energy transition happen more efficiently and faster. The workshop format further enables participants to think big in systems, see the current and upcoming challenges, and develop the right impulses for stakeholders.
To further shape the future of this transition, a white paper explores in more detail the new ideas and outcomes of the workshop. This includes the recommendations and requirements addressed to policymakers and industry leaders, which will be presented at core sessions during the Singapore International Energy Week, such as at the meeting of ASEAN Energy Ministers. It will furthermore be featured during the discussions at the Asia Clean Energy Summit 2018.
An article by Ansgar Hinz