Grids Must Adapt to Europe’s Transitioning Electricity Industry

Teresa Hansen, Editor in Chief

I’m sure you’ve heard lately that the electricity industry is transforming. Certainly the electricity delivery industry, a.k.a. the grid, changed in 2015-not just in North America, but globally.

I learned about some of the happenings in Europe’s electricity delivery sector last month when I attended Siemens’ media event in Vienna.

There isn’t enough space here to share everything I heard during my visit, but I thought I’d use this letter to provie some highlights from Siemens’ execs.

Thomas Zimmerman, CEO of Siemens Digital Grid, said his company is serious about helping its utility partners around the world develop and create the digital grid. He said that automation is the first step to the digital grid and many utilities are on their way to grid digitalization, having already invested heavily in grid automation.

He talked about how the industry is changing. No longer is it just about electricity production, delivery and consumption. Distributed generation, electricity storage, digital technology, the shift in generation profile, competition, customer choice and more are changing the industry, Zimmerman said. Some 680 million smart meters installed worldwide are providing valuable information that will allow distribution grid owners and operators to not only develop more resilient networks, but expand services.

Michael Weinhold, chief technology officer of Siemens’ Energy Management, talked specifically about Germany’s electricity sector. He said Germany’s installed renewable energy capacity has reached about 80 GW. The country’s load ranges from 35 GW to 75 GW each day, therefore, the grid can have a substantial intake of renewable energy on any given day. On a cloudy, winter day, however, it might receive no electricity from renewable sources.

While Germany has one of the largest shares of renewable energy in its generation mix, most of Europe’s renewable energy mix has seen noteworthy growth. Europe currently receives about 20 percent of its electricity from wind and solar PV sources. Siemens forecasts that number to reach 40 percent by 2030, Weinhold said.

And, no matter what some say, the grid isn’t going away. Weinhold firmly believes it will be the glue that holds everything together.

Zimmerman and Weinhold both talked extensively about electric utilities’ need to adapt to the many changes and challenges they face.

Agility is the key to success and is enabled through technology, Weinhold said.

Both gentlemen’s presentations included this quote from Charles Darwin, which they believe every utility executive should remember: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Teresa Hansen

 

 

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