What does 2020 have in store for energy management?

By David Hall, Vice President Power Systems, UK & Ireland at Schneider Electric

In the face of increasing competition, businesses want and need to become more efficient, especially where they can also reduce their climate impact. The recently introduced 2050 carbon neutral goals will further contribute to business thinking on this issue, closely aligning business success with sustainability.

Renewables will be at the heart of forward-thinking businesses in 2020. Once considered an ‘alternative’ power source, now more than 150 global companies (including Schneider Electric) have committed to sourcing 100% of their electricity from renewable sources.

Making the most of such new opportunities requires digital transformation and a rethink of the energy grid, from generation to distribution and the management of excess power. Here are the four top technologies which will fuel the energy management revolution and prove essential to making net-zero business a closer reality in 2020:

  1. Energy management goes micro – Microgrids should be considered as an important decentralising technology that companies should adopt, as they bring together a combination of clean technologies to help organisations operate autonomously from the traditional electrical grid. With their implementation they will be able to insulate their facilities from the risk and changing cost components of an ever-evolving energy market.
  2. Decarbonising energy storage Batteries play a key role in enabling companies to embrace clean, low-cost, renewable energy at a higher level. By mitigating the intermittency issues that renewable power sources have traditionally faced, storage will help remove a significant barrier to greater adoption of wind and solar resources. As the price for batteries and other storage solutions drops, corporate buyers can maximise their energy investments, while contributing to the clean energy transition. Additionally, with microgrid opportunities on the rise, energy storage may become commonplace for companies.
  3. Balancing baseload with new fuel cell technologies – Fuel cells electrochemically combine a fuel (ranging from pure hydrogen to natural gas or biogas) with oxygen and convert the resulting chemical energy into electricity without any form of combustion. Because they require a constant, steady source of fuel to produce electricity, fuel cells are able to provide a continuous baseload source of clean electric power.
    This will provide facilities with a need for a reliable minimum supply of energy to incorporate renewables into their energy mix without compromising the safety and stability of their baseload. Ultimately, they should become a vital technology to carefully consider within the active energy management landscape.
  4. Bring transactions into the 21st century with blockchain – Currently, the only means to track renewable energy generation is through EACs, and information sharing among market participants is a manual process. This is creating an obstacle to adoption, as moving to renewables is being seen as a cost centre for businesses, rather than a value driver. But with blockchain, EACs can be created instantaneously as renewable energy is put onto the grid — no matter the size or physical location of the producer. With the increased autonomy that blockchain introduces, corporate energy buyers may find it easier to accomplish these goals — and at a lower cost and time commitment.
  5. The rise of EV adoption – Electric vehicles will soon form an essential part of power generation, transmission, distribution and consumption. The potential for electric vehicles to act as flexible energy storage must be embraced to make ambitious environmental targets a reality. By doing so, we can create an integrated renewable energy ecosystem – charging a growing fleet of electric vehicles, while sending some of the energy stored in these electric vehicle batteries back to the grid at peak demand times. Taken together these measures will help to balance demand and supply, and dramatically reduce costs and emissions. 
    The secret to combining the benefits of all these technologies lies in an approach of active energy management. As we move into 2020, by developing an efficiency and sustainable energy strategy, businesses can be sure that whatever the future brings, they will be ahead of the curve.