Europe is massively investing in Renewable energy production. Detractors of these technologies have a lot of compelling arguments and one of the most relevant is the energy availability: What if there is an instant surge in demand? What if everyone in England starts their kettle at half-time during the Euro’s final and there is no wind and no sun energy available?
Adjustment of energy production and consumption
This problem is not a small one. Failure in system capacity caused the 2019 blackout in England. A lightning event at a major production site and successive failure to maintain the grid frequency between 49.5Hz to 48.8Hz, as the system needed more than 2,100MW replacement capacity and only 1,000MW was available, caused a partial shutdown of the grid. More than 1 Million users lost electricity for 45 minutes. Indirect damage lasted over two days as train were still suffering from delays 48 hours later. Part of the incident was blamed on the Electricity System Response.
This event paved the way to a complete reshuffling of the energy production properties and technical requirements and new energy production tenders in the UK. One of the most important improvement required was that the speed of response must be faster than 0,5s from electricity request to input in the grid. Obviously, with no control over wind and sun, how can renewable energy producers face such challenges?
The role of energy storage
The solution resides in energy storage technologies. The most common are the battery storage facilities but there are many different options already in use that can be divided in three groups: electrical, electrochemical and mechanical.
Each of these types of storage represents new challenges, new technologies, unknown risks and a very steep learning curve – for the insurance sector. Clearly, pumped hydro and room temperature battery represents intrinsically distinct risks requiring unique risk management strategies. Massive capital will be deployed in these technologies in the coming years, as the Green Deal will accelerate renewable energy production development and accentuate their main problem of energy availability.
The new Super Power paradigm
In order to tackle this problem, the grid’s reserves must be equal to 3 days of consumption. With that in mind, we can already foresee an incredible energy paradigm shift materializing: Super Power. This revolution in our energy capacity will translate into more energy production than can be used and consequently, free energy at moments when energy storage is at full capacity and that there is more energy produced than consumed, as shown in the image below.
This could lead heavy electricity consumers to maximize their energy needs according to these periods and develop new real time production processes that will allow to lower their operation costs. Cryptocurrency mining could feed exclusively on the excess energy production.
The paradigm change will materialize as “maximizing rather than minimizing energy use, because it is not harmful to utilize electricity generated from sunshine and wind but rather it is harmful to let it go to waste” . Maximizing energy use could also lead to new economical business model such as converting Seawater into drinking water.
This new paradigm, Super Power, will change the energy consumption scenery drastically and lead to upheavals that we cannot even foresee. As insurance brokers, we must investigate the horizon to better understand our client’s vision and help them find new and innovation solutions. We can therefore adequately support your company growth in the energy production and storage sectors even more when implementing new technologies.
Georg Winter offers some insights into his vision for GrECo. Interview was originally published in Lockton Global Partners Magazine.
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General Manager GrECo Specialty
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