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Energy Overview

Electricity utilities reinvented and bypassed


eath by a Thousand Cuts” was the brutal appraisal of the power generation goliaths by Jeffrey Eckel of Hannon Armstrong, the leading energy investment house, at the Barclays Future Energy Conference December 2016 in London. The Euro 1 billion/GW big-is-beautiful model for electricity utilities is being inexorably destroyed by such things as the humble LED needing almost no electricity and the energy independent electric vehicle needing no electricity at all. Local micro-generation, much of it off-grid, becomes more and more viable. See the IDTechEx report, Energy Independent Electric Vehicles Land, Water, Air 2017-2037.

Losers and winners Oil and coal are now rapidly losers and the future is wind and solar with solar costs dropping faster than predicted by the industry. In addition, electric vehicles could erode as much as 10% of global gasoline demand by 2035, according to the oil i ndustry consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. Innogy sees electricity suppliers transitioning from spending more to get more over to simply spending the same to get more in a new golden age. In one example, wind power leader Vestas said cost parity of wind with gas can be expected not long after 2030 heralding the beginning of the end of gas as an interim solution. Vestas sees 3D printing as its key enabling technology for wind turbines and replacement parts in future. See the IDTechEx reports on this rapidly emerging technology. Expect taller towers and longer blades. Decommissioning “a lot of concrete and steel” in old sea towers may be an unbudgeted cost and IDTechEx notes that Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) at one tenth of the cost and accessing the more consistent and stronger wind at 300-1000 meters looks promising as an alternative


by Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman, IDTechEx

one day. See the IDTechEx overview report, Energy Harvesting: Off-Grid Microwatt to Megawatt 2017-2027.

Sidelining marine sources for now Wave and tidal generation were not considered important because of cost. However, IDTechEx believes that that could eventually change with the new forms that do not involve parts rubbing together, notably dielectric elastomer generators, magnetostriction and the subject of the IDTechEx report, Triboelectric Energy Harvesting (TENG) 2017-2027.

Gas is a bridge Most of those in the electricity supply industry cite gas as a vital transitional generation fuel with thermogas and biogas growing. 90% of global trade is carried by sea and about one third of the oil and gas extracted worldwide comes from offshore sources. Both are enabled by large dedicated service fleets of varied vessel types that produce significant GHG emissions. Franco Gonzalez, head of EV and energy storage research at IDTechEx notes, “However, even here help is at hand. For example, the Corvus “Energy Orca” energy storage system from Canada brings Zero Emission Energy solutions to the maritime market. The Corvus team is working with industry leaders to help accelerate the adoption of solutions that use energy storage to reduce vessel carbon emissions worldwide”. See his new IDTechEx report, Electric Boats and Ships 2017-2027.

Nuclear rebalancing Nuclear is a constant supply backbone with France having too much and the UK having too little as replacement capacity is belatedly supplied. Nevertheless, at the event, speakers saw little place for nuclear in future due to high cost and wind and solar unstoppable despite Donald Trump,

Energy Manager Magazine • january/february 2017

this being due to low cost. ABB saw microgrids and increasingly global smart grids co-existing but IDTechEx advised that utilities need to reduce their projections of EVs as their only big opportunity for increased output to 2040: they need to deduct energy independent electric vehicles (EIVs). Utilities see EVs as usefully taking off-peak demand: 1TWhr/yr of renewable energy is currently wasted due to its timing and, outrageously, that wastage is increasing. Most EC electricity demand currently comes from motors and lighting we were told. Ironically, geothermal heat pumps – with maybe 12 million in the UK one day – constitute a significant new electricity demand they said. IDTechEx is not so sure.

Electric vehicles to the rescue IDTechEx expects EVs to create significant electricity demand in about ten years and be key to huge improvements in local noise and air pollution and in global warming reduction. See the IDTechEx overview, Electric Vehicles Change the World 2017-2037 which has number and value forecasts in 47 categories land, water and air, off road and on-road, on water and underwater. It is all one business now, with companies increasingly making parts and even vehicles for more and more sectors. It could be a trillion dollar business in about ten years and industrial and commercial vehicles are the majority by value and will remain so. See the IDTechEx report, Industrial and Commercial Electric Vehicles on Land 2017-2027. Energy harvesting and regeneration in many new forms are becoming key enabling technologies for EVs as scoped in the IDTechEx report, Electric Vehicle Energy Harvesting/ Regeneration 2017-2037.

Fuel cells and hydrogen Fuel cell companies present said that green electricity at the wrong time of day could be used in electrolysis to create

Energy Manager Magazine Jan/Feb 2017