Nations’ desire to become energy independent and the need to phase out fossil fuels – numerous countries aim for ‘Net zero’ emissions by 2050 – are two of the main reasons for the global energy transition. Electrification is at the heart of this energy transition. As a result, electricity’s share of the global energy consumption mix is expected to keep rising rapidly in the coming years. According to McKinsey’s Global energy perspective 2022, electricity demand will more than triple by 2050, from around 83 million terajoules (TJ) in 2020 to more than 252 million TJ.
The demand for equipment that makes electrification possible continues to grow: wind and solar energy systems that provide green electricity and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, for example, energy storage systems that help reduce dependency on existing energy infrastructure and charging equipment for electric vehicles. These solutions must be seamlessly integrated with the power grid to avoid overloading and maintain a stable power supply.
The Internet of Things (IoT), with its electronic sensors, controllers, actuators and software, is essential in collecting and deploying data to better manage interconnected assets and processes. Developments in microgrids and decentralization are also helping achieve a more resilient and efficient electricity grid, for example by reducing transmission losses, enabling local management and effectively integrating distributed energy sources such as solar and geothermal energy. Good Power Quality is indispensable when integrating renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy, into the electricity grid. The variable yield of these sources can cause voltage fluctuations and power imbalances. To ensure a consistent and reliable power supply, these need to be continuously monitored and managed.
Increased reliability and lower losses
With the increasing use of renewable energy, energy storage is becoming increasingly important. New technologies, advanced materials and smart designs help to balance energy supply and demand, limit fluctuations and improve Power Quality through grid stabilization. Storage can play an important role in electrification by improving the entire power network’s operational capabilities and reliability and reducing the cost of infrastructure and maintenance investments.
With renewable energy sources, it is important to bear in mind the fact that significant losses can occur during the transmission of electrical energy between the point of generation and the point of use. These losses are often the result of (sometimes significant) deviations from ideal values in Power Quality parameters. Basically, any deviation from nominal values as described in EN 50160 (such as frequency, voltage level, or harmonic distortion) leads to higher transmission losses. Thus, compliance with Power Quality parameters means that clean power is as clean as possible.
Greater focus on Power Quality
As the world moves towards electrification and renewable energy sources, more attention is also being paid to the quality of voltage and current. Unstable or poor-quality power not only stands in the way of electrification but can also have harmful effects on sensitive electronic equipment and industrial processes. Maintaining stable, high-quality power is crucial to ensuring grid reliability and efficiency.
Fortunately, new developments in smart grid technology allow increasingly precise monitoring, control, and management of Power Quality. Real-time data analysis and automation can help quickly identify and address Power Quality issues. Furthermore, technological advances in power electronics contribute to better Power Quality by improving the efficiency of energy conversion and reducing harmonic distortion.
As a result of the energy transition, more and more emphasis will be placed on the resilience of the electricity grid and associated Power Quality. Measures to counteract disruptions in Power Quality play an important role in achieving a more flexible electricity grid which is less sensitive to disruptions. Governments and regulators are increasingly aware of the importance of Power Quality in relation to the energy transition, which will result in new standards and policies for maintaining electrical quality.
The rise and changing functionality of power electronics, new ideas about grid management, integration of renewable sources, microgrids, DC low-voltage distribution networks and the large-scale integration of electric vehicles require new assessment methods and ways of ensuring Power Quality.