Sun. May 26th, 2024

Decentralisation, blockchain and AI, the future grid and the space race are some of the areas in which numerous advances have been made in 2023 and are set to continue during 2024.

The energy sector in 2023 has been dominated by many advances, such as the drive for decentralisation, the increasing use of Web3 and AI technologies and the focus on the grid as the foundation or ‘backbone’ of the renewables-driven grid of the future and we expect these to continue into 2024.

Decentralisation of the energy system is a given for the future as consumers are able to install own generation such as rooftop PV or storage, either fixed or in an electric vehicle – and in turn deliver excess to the grid or trade with peers or form part of a local energy community. Rising energy prices and the threat of disruptions has been a driver for much of the latest uptake of distributed energy resources – National grid in the UK, for example, has reported more than 40,000 new connections since April 2023 – but coming with this is the increasing need for flexibility. In the UK again, Octopus reported that one million customers had signed up for a demand flexibility scheme for the current 2023/24 winter season.

One of these is blockchain, which a couple of years ago was being hyped as a technology but since then that has died down as it has matured and its promoters have stood the test of time. Key issues have been around scalability, interoperability and energy efficiency. Which use cases that can most benefit from blockchain are still open to debate but one area that is attracting growing interest is renewables tracking and certification and by extension the tracking and certification of other commodities such as e-fuels and CO2 emissions. Another driver for increasing demand for tracking is ‘circularity’, in this case of ‘hard’ products such as batteries and their components and which is being enabled with the emergence of other Web3 technologies such as self-sovereign identities and digital passports.

Another technology that is now widespread is AI, particularly in data related applications and platforms. But much of the future focus is likely to be on generative AI as utilities and companies look to harness it for both customer and internally related applications. So far only a few sector players have publicly announced their foray into generative AI – most recently E.ON – but these and other early movers are likely to be those to gain the most advantages over competitors.

The future grid Few would claim to know what the 2050 grid will look like but there are many scenarios from organisations such as the IEA and IRENA and regional bodies such as the EU with its newly released grid action plan as to how to get there. These include the need for significant and urgent investments, in Europe for example an estimated €584 billion ($641 billion) by 2030. At the heart of the future grid is smart metering, particularly the second generation meters that provide grid-related data in addition to the regular consumption data.

Space is increasingly being seen as the next frontier for the energy sector, with space-based data being utilised for utility applications such as renewables siting and vegetation management as well as for other climate related issues such as carbon and methane monitoring and disaster management. Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) has gone a step further, developing and launching its own satellites and has the vision to offer satellite data ‘as a service’ to other utilities. But perhaps the most significant interest in space from the energy perspective is the potential for space-based solar power. Caltech’s Space Solar Power Project is the most advanced to date and has delivered three positive demonstrations amid ongoing investigations – that energy can be transmitted from space to Earth, that low cost solar cells show potential for use in space and that it should be possible to deploy the large flexible membranes that will be required for what will be kilometre-scale satellites in space.

Related Post