The increase in working from home in the last months has brought an ecological rest for the planet. It has also evidenced that we need electric energy for almost everything. For this reason, a technological development that accompanies the transition towards changing the energy matrix becomes relevant (Tolmasquim and Yepez, 2020).
In post-pandemic reality, people will travel less but there will also be an increase in the use of energy. To mitigate climate change, countries must pursue decarbonization.
This is not a minor issue because renewable energy sources create opportunities in the whole supply chain. They foster technological development and, furthermore, they create employment.
One fact: in 2018, the technological development sector employed around 11 million people in the world. This means that betting on infrastructure for new energy sources could also help to recover the economy (Tolmasquim and Yepez, 2020).
The bottom line is that we are at a crossroad in fossil fuel deployment, its negative ecological impact, and the increase in energy demand. That’s why a transition to a different generation and supply model is a must.
There are some interesting actions in the scenario, such as the European Green Deal. This agreement has been planning actions to fight climate change since 2019 and will continue to do so until 2024.
The document explains that the EU wants to be neutral regarding climate by 2050. One of the lines of action is to invest in innovation (European Commission, n.d.). This a crucial starting point.
Now, we will explore technologies helping to break the dependence on petroleum. They will allow for the construction of a more sustainable environment in the future
Technological development of the smart network and sustainability
The implementation of technological developments has helped to improve the quality of electricity supply to the users (i-DE, n.d.). We are talking about the STAR Project, developed by Iberdrola, which installed over 10 million smart meters and has renewed more that 11,19 million meters in Spain.
By doing this, the analogical traditional network was digitalized and automated. In this way, the electricity generation and distribution has been managed in an optimal way. This is a real example of how smart grid can help energy transition and sustainability.
These types of technologies are crucial in the new energy paradigm for several reasons (Fundación Endesa, n.d.):
- They’re bidirectional: it is possible for users to generate their own energy and if there’s a surplus, they can return it to the system.
- Demand is better managed because consumption is monitored in real-time.
- Remote damage repair is possible. When there’s a breakdown, technology can detect and isolate the problem and thus electric service can be reinstalled faster.
- They facilitate electricity storage.
- Users have better data and, therefore, they can manage their energy consumption.
Blockchain: technological development for sustainability
The use of blockchain technological development is one of the innovations that are being implemented with a pilot project in the energy sector (El País, 2019).
With this technology, digital data can be transferred through very sophisticated encryption. For example, Iberdrola is using blockchain to automate renewable energy certification processes (Iberdrola, n.d.). Information is registered on a platform and results can be audited.
This is useful, especially when there are energy sale contracts based on renewable assets. One of the requirements of these transactions is precisely to prove the 100% green origin of the energy. By making the process easier, blockchain will foster the procurement of renewable energy by large corporations.
Blockchain development might contribute to the successful transformation of energy systems. It impacts the following processes (Dena, 2019):
- New business models.
- The omission of individual stages in technological development.
- Makes digitalization safer.
- A value can be assigned to information, and it can be transmitted and used in a traceable and executable way.
In general, the digitalization of the sector makes operation costs lower and facilitates the certification of energy. At the end of the day, this is reflected in a lower price for the final user (El País, 2019).
Wind and solar industries
The technological development of renewable energy is crucial for the energy matrix change. This is not just for the future, we’re talking about the present. One of the biggest advances are solar and wind technologies (Coble, 2020). In this field, work is being done to develop panels and turbines.
Regarding photovoltaic solar panels, silicon produced panels are being changed to carbon produced panels. These panels are structurally more flexible, less costly to maintain and require less consumption of energy for their fabrication.
The problem is that carbon panels are not yet as efficient as silicon panels, but work is being done in this field.
Regarding turbines, the power of wind machines is now ten times stronger. This reduces the number of aero-generators needed and impacts the installation in acoustic and visual terms.
It’s also important to highlight that solar and wind energy are inexpensive in almost every region of the world. The most competitive wind energy is found in the US and the most competitive solar energy is found in China.
The future is bright because there are many possible innovations within these two energy sources, such as green hydrogen, that address the issue of production costs.
Energy storage and technological development
In 2019, the inventors of lithium batteries won the chemistry Nobel Prize. Why? They made a rechargeable world possible (Aristegui News, 2019).
Storage systems are the core and the challenge of the transition to renewable energies. They are the link that warrants the integration to the electric network (SmartGridsInfo, n.d.). Furthermore, they foster the flattening of the demand curve by providing users with the means to produce their own energy.
So far, storage solutions are based on expensive gigantic batteries. Lithium batteries, however, could be less expensive and more efficient (Kazimierski, 2018). These batteries are not only a great scale solution. They are also strengthening electric mobility.
Storage capacity together with a network of charge stations will be vital in the future of transportation. The electric car era will redefine driving patterns and, in general, will make life quality better in urban areas.
Fortunately, the energy system panorama in the world is promising. We’re talking about a renewable solution, not depending on fossil fuel and with high local potential. The path is already drawn. The time for a more sustainable future has arrived. Technological development could be the lever to make this process advance
German Energy Agency, DENA. (February, 2019). Blockchain in Integrated Energy Transition.
Aristegui News. (October 9, 2019). Nobel Prize for the Inventors of Lithium Batteries.
Coble, J.J. (October 4, 2020). Why can´t the Advance of Renewable Energies be Stopped? The Conversation.
European Commission. (n.d.). A European Green Deal.
El País. (March 6, 2019). ‘Big Data’ and the Internet of Things Help to Reduce Electric Fees.
Endesa Foundation. (n.d.) Smart Grids.
Iberdrola. (n.d.). How can ‘Blockchain’ Credit the Origin of Green Energy?
i-DE. (n.d.). Projects.
Kazimierzki, M. (January 22, 2018). Energy Storage in the Face of the Imminent Renewable Paradigm: Lithium Batteries and the South American Perspectives. Letras Verdes. Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios Socioambientales.
SmartGridInfo. (n.d). Energy Storage.
Tomalsquim, M. and Yepez, A. (July 30, 2020). Redefining the Post Pandemic Future: Energy Transition and Employment. Inter-American Development Bank.