Reflections on the future of electricity

Insight from three industry experts.

Marina Lombardi: "The rules of the game are changing"

"Grid edge technology – the decentralised technologies that have sprung up in the electricity grid – is about to transform the electricity system and bring benefits to the system and broader society.

We’ve explored three main interconnected trends. Decentralisation includes distributed generation, storage and demand management systems, such as photovoltaic panels and batteries used in homes. Electrification consists of devices such as electric vehicles and heating, while digitalisation involves smart meters and the Internet of Things with its variety of sensors and devices.

It’s difficult to know exactly when the tipping point for these technologies will occur but it’s clear that it will happen, sooner than expected. Some see this development in terms of winners and losers. Instead we’ve identified an actionable framework that provides CEOs, policy makers and regulators with recommendations to accelerate the adoption of new technologies in the electricity sector.

Both the public and private sectors will need to contribute to successfully accelerate adoption of grid edge technologies, as neither can do it alone. New York REV, UK RIIO or the EC Winter Package are some clear examples of how the rules of the game are changing to prepare for the future electricity system."

Marina Lombardi
COMPANY: World Economic Forum (WEF), seconded from Enel
TITLE: Grid Edge Transformation Project Lead, author of a recent WEF report on the future of electricity
BACKGROUND: Former Head of Unit, Solution Development Center for New Technologies and Innovation Projects at Enel. Master/MBA in Technology and Innovation Management, M.Sc. in Telecommunication Engineering

Johan Grövik: "New investments in modern, flexible grids"

"The electric systems of the future will have to meet the challenge of contributing to a sustainable, reliable and cost-efficient infrastructure. This is placing major demands on the electrical industry and in turn means increased demand for transformers. We can identify five mega trends for electrification driving that demand.

Firstly, the continued growth of renewable energy is a central driver. It is also related to a second mega trend, namely an increased interest in smart electricity grids, which makes it possible to manage different energy sources in the grid, from surplus energy from solar panels to charging electrically powered vehicles.

A third mega trend is the replacement of old transformers, which together with the EU’s Ecodesign Directive will minimize transformer losses and increase efficiency. Furthermore, there is a large demand of inter-state connection projects, not least in Europe where the aim is to create a more efficient transmission grid. Lastly, growing investments in the electric systems in Africa, India and other emerging countries is another key trend driving demand.

All of this requires new investments in modern, flexible electricity grids. Nynas’ transformer oils are both high-performance and environmentally adapted, they have a low maintenance cost and are 100% recyclable after being used for 50-60 years. By constantly developing our products, Nynas wishes to play an active role in the ongoing transformation, supplying the industry sustainable solutions."

Johan Grövik
TITLE: Global Marketing Manager Electrical Industry
BACKGROUND: A chemical engineer educated at the Royal Institute of Technology with an MBA from the Stockholm School of Economics.

Tobias Parker: "Storage that can balance production with demand"

"The cost of generation from renewable sources is now reaching parity in many parts of the world with generation from fossil fuels. However, most renewable sources are, of course, intermittent – the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow when you want them to. This has meant that we’ve had to have huge infrastructure to provide backup during power downs but that’s no longer essential as we build storage that can balance production with demand.

The EU, US and Asia are all moving into this area rapidly. So you’re seeing more competition and this means that some really interesting things are starting to happen as the pace of change speeds up. The Chinese and the Germans have been investing heavily in batteries as the big car manufacturers see this as an area for expansion. Some say that it’s only a matter of time before battery driven cars overtake fossil fuel cars.

Complementing this, on the demand side we’re seeing a continuous convergence between data and smart technologies. So governments are creating markets that allow people to receive financial benefits for using energy in a smarter and more intelligent way, such as a time of day when there’s less demand."

Tobias Parker
COMPANY: Sustain, a leading UK energy and carbon management company.
TITLE: Managing Director
BACKGROUND: M.Sc. in Environmental Sciences Policy & Planning, University of Bath, and an Executive MBA from Imperial College, University of London.