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Interconnected energy systems key to energy efficiency - Karel Smrcka -

Interconnected energy systems key to energy efficiency

May 24, 2010 - Karel Smrcka -

The closing message of the World Energy Dialogue (WED), staged at Hanover 2010, could not have been clearer: a high degree of interconnection is key to achieving sustainable energy supplies for today’s rapidly growing urban centres. Only by means of integrated power grids across regional and national borders can long-term efficiency be attained and future challenges be adequately tackled.

Under the leadership of WED chairperson Dr Klaus Töpfer, scientists, politicians and industry representatives and an audience of about 500 participants dealt with the key issue for future energy supply – the creation of energy supply systems which will allow for a massive increase in renewable-energy generation and a dramatic jump in efficiency.

The official patron of WED 2010, Germany’s Federal Minister of Economic Affairs, Rainer Br’uderle, noted that one of the priority goals of the government of Germany was to formulate a comprehensive energy policy extending beyond the 2050. The aim of this concept is to create an intelligent energy supply system for increased levels of integration through technical innovation.

Dr Werner Schnappaut, execu- tive director of the Federation of German Industries, stressed that the consistent deployment of energy efficient products that are already available today could cut carbon dioxide emissions by around 40%, but that making the “leap into the technological New World” calls for prompt support if implementation is to be achieved in time. He urged policymakers to create favourable conditions for deploying already available technology, while remaining open to new advances.

Optimising Energy Consumption
As the discussion revealed, it is not enough to approach the optimisation of energy consumption merely in terms of individual properties or facilities. The audience learned that around half of the world’s population currently lives in cities, and experts expect this figure to rise to 60% by 2020. This highlights the importance of engineering more-efficient structures in urban spaces. Transport issues were also identified as rising in signi- ficance. For example, even an energy-optimised building could trigger an elevated degree of energy consumption if located in the wrong place, noted Dr Hermann Knoflacher, of Vienna Technical University.

Climate Protection Beyond National Borders

The Desertec project illu- strated the crucial importance of regional and interconti- nental collaboration for the climate-friendly generation and optimum use of energy. It was pointed out that the idea of generating solar energy at a location near the equator for transmission to Europe hinges on smooth collaboration between European and North African politicians and the use of highly efficient tech- nologies.

Paul van Son, head of the Desertec initiative, highlighted the importance of giving sufficient consideration to local components of the scheme as the basis for securing acceptance of the project in Africa. He suggested that his renewable-energy project could first be used to meet electricity demands in North Africa or the Middle East and later to export power to Europe. Estimates indicate that around 15% of European demand could be met this way, he said.

Other important issues inclu- ded knowledge transfer and the creation of technology competence centres in partnership with universities in North African countries. The key requirement for actual implementation of the project from 2012 was described as finding a feasible way to convey this special form of energy to where it is needed, since transmission across enormous distances to Central Europe would require low-loss power lines using high-tension direct current (HTDC) transmission technology, for example.

Stefan Kohler, CEO of the German Energy Agency, tackled the issue of efficient energy transport and the availablity of storage facilities from a European perspective. In his lecture on ‘Challenges and requirements for viable grid systems for the future’, he argued that the predicted increase in fluctuating generation capacity in the wind power and photovoltaic sectors would lead to installed capacity of around 80 000 MW as early as 2020.

An international approach is the only way of efficiently handling this power produced at various locations, he said.

Energy Hub of the Mediterranean Region
Italy’s Minister of Economic Development, Claudio Scajola, highlighted the importance of transmission grids, particularly in the international context. He described his country’s plans to become a pivotal hub for energy exchange throughout the Mediterranean region, for both electricity and natural gas, with the involvement of Africa and the Middle East. He referred to the Desertec project as a catalyst for the capital investment needed for related restructuring.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu

Updated: 2016/06/30

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