Energy transition

With a global shift to more renewable power, we have an opportunity to reinvent the way our energy system operates to unlock a low-carbon energy future. 

Flexible energy systems will power the future

The transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon future is accelerating. This energy transition is driven by the progressive replacement of carbon-based fuels with renewables, clean air regulation and the direct and indirect electrification of more applications. More distributed generation and electrification is increasing bi-directional flows of energy and the associated requirement for intelligent power management to balance the grid.

Technologies that convert energy from wind and the sun into electrical power and allow for short-duration storage have matured and are more cost-competitive, driving significant increases in the share of renewable power used in a growing number of countries. However, weather-dependent renewable power is often highly variable and can result in an inconsistent power supply. The challenge facing electricity network operators worldwide is how to accommodate ever-larger shares of renewables while providing reliable, consistent power and ensuring grid stability.

From renewable energy systems, to easing the integration of additional electricity sources to meet future demand, the energy transition unlocks the door to a low-carbon energy future. Through our Everything as a Grid approach, advancing technologies and digital intelligence, we are increasing and optimising the energy the world relies on. 

Everything as a Grid

Everything as a Grid is our perspective on, and approach to, leading and managing the change in how energy is distributed and managed. Utility power once flowed in a single direction away from centralised sources. Today’s modern power flows bi-directionally, back and forth through the grid, between an increasing number of decentralised renewable generators, microgrid energy systems and electrical loads at the edge, to offer cleaner, more reliable power across the world.

The transition to renewable power

Global renewable adoption is on the rise; electricity demand is expected to reach 38,700 terawatt-hours by 2050—with renewables providing 50% of that energy.1

The highly distributed nature of renewable energy is upending the traditional power delivery model. Electricity no longer flows in one direction from the utility that generates it to those who consume it. The new energy ecosystem comprises an intricate network of “prosumers”: consumers and businesses who produce their own energy locally, use what’s needed and, in many cases, export excess power back to the grid. Furthermore, the electrification of transport, heat and industrial processes will drive considerable increases in demand for electrical power over the coming decades.

This will give rise to vast bi-directional electricity flows requiring a network with the flexibility to cope with higher volatility and demand.

Increase in global electricity demand by 2050
57
%
Increase in global electricity demand by 2050
Growth in energy storage installed base by 2030
13 x
Growth in energy storage installed base by 2030
Growth of electricity required for data and computing by 2030
4 x
Growth of electricity required for data and computing by 2030

Planning for the shift to more electrical power

The electrification of more areas of the economy, including transport, heat and industry will drive a substantial increase in power demand by 2050. It is technically feasible to meet this extra demand with electricity generated from low- or zero-carbon sources. However, this will require concerted government support through policy and regulation as well as research and development to reduce the cost of new green energy sources such as clean hydrogen.

Decarbonisation: Cleaner power

Businesses and consumers are participating in cleaner power initiatives. Active corporate sourcing of renewable electricity reached 465 terawatt-hours (TWh), with production for self-consumption reaching 165 TWh.2 On the consumer side, electric vehicle (EV) charging technology prices continue to fall, while charging point accessibility continues to rise. Prices for battery packs used for electric vehicles and energy storage systems are down 87% over the last decade and still falling.3 And as of March 2020, the US had approximately 78,500 charging outlets and almost 25,000 charging stations for plug-in EVs.4

By facilitating the trading of self-generated clean electricity to reduce energy bills, we’re enabling energy users, both consumers and businesses, to participate in demand response programmes where the utility can turn demand and/or on-site generation up or down in response to signals for real-time grid balancing needs. This additionally helps reduce the requirement for expensive upgrades of local distribution grids.

Democratisation: Less reliance on the grid

More homes, businesses and communities are becoming self-sufficient power producers that rely less on the utility grid. They generate, store and consume their own energy via renewable solar arrays, wind turbines, microgrids and battery storage—creating a bi-directional flow that changes the way power is managed and lessens the impacts from sudden outages caused by rolling blackouts, cyberattacks and extreme weather events. These prosumers may also sell excess energy back to the grid and leverage demand response programmes to help reduce utility bills. 

Digitalisation: Connectivity behind powerful decisions

IIoT-enabled devices can be leveraged to make smarter business decisions to a level previously unheard of, with sensor technologies used to dissect the fundamental make-up of power. It’s the transformation of these data into actionable insights that help consumers and businesses drive new efficiencies and maximise uptime.

Through bi-directional power generation, storage, and energy management that balances volatility and demand growth, Eaton plays a critical role in re-imagining and rebuilding the electrical power value chain. 

johan-cruijff-arena-topview-night.png

Embracing the new power paradigm

Homes, offices, stadiums, factories and data centres can now generate and store more of their own power to optimise energy costs, lower their carbon footprint and, in some cases, reduce reliance on the grid. Everything as a Grid embodies these new capabilities.

Traditional electrical power infrastructures must be upgraded, with software and services optimising every process, to realise new energy benefits. We enable a systems approach to infrastructure integration and the technologies that help transform power generation and distribution for homes, buildings and utilities. 

We focus on enabling our future electricity system to:

  • Integrate renewables into the energy system by enabling greater consumption of self-generated power
  • Leverage IoT-connected devices to collect data for smarter decision-making and a more reliable grid
  • Employ and support advanced storage technologies to supply on-demand power and remit surplus power back to the grid
  • Capitalise on shifts in demand and lower market prices through intelligent power management systems  

When you see Everything as a Grid, you can envision a future when homeowners use electric vehicle batteries for back-up power during blackouts, data centres power operations with renewable energy stored on site, and manufacturers lower operating costs by selling electricity back to the grid. The potential for flexible, intelligent power is limitless.

Responding to the high demand for low carbon 

Renewable and battery market shares continue to rise and continue to play a heavier global power supply role, even in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though new capacity additions in 2020 will be lower than previously anticipated, renewables’ steady increase in competitiveness, along with their modularity, rapid scalability and job creation potential, make them highly attractive as countries and communities evaluate economic stimulus options.5

The challenge lies in balancing variable renewable power and storage options against the always-there, always-on power users demand. We actively support the grid evolution by helping utilities, building managers and homeowners adopt renewable power and storage strategies to make clean energy available when and where it’s needed.

Energy storage

Capture renewable energy whenever it’s available and use it on demand. You’ll see immediate gains in reliability, realise greater independence from the utility grid and avoid dips in grid power supply due to brownouts, cyberattacks and weather-related events. This transformational technology revolutionises power for all, with energy storage available for the home, commercial and industrial buildings, and even large-scale implementations for utilities. 

energy storage icon blue

EnergyAware UPS

Our EnergyAware technology helps users like data centres support energy providers by balancing sustainable power generation and consumption. The technology optimises power usage during peak demand hours and helps facilities earn additional revenues from currently deployed assets while maintaining complete control of deployed UPSes and batteries.

battery icon blue

Electric vehicles

Changing energy demands will impact infrastructure investments—and understanding that impact will be critical in enabling a resilient systems approach that seamlessly and scalably integrates different assets and EV infrastructures. By digitalising power systems, EV manufacturers and charging infrastructure providers can drive a deeper understanding of energy usage to maximise energy efficiency and lower operational costs to consumers.

electric vehicles icon blue

Grid modernisation

Discover how utilities can proactively adopt grid modernisation technologies to build resilient, efficient and secure power networks.

buildings grid icon blue

Adapting to fast-changing regulations

Grid regulation was designed for a centralised power generation model in most countries. But more policy makers and industries will be part of the energy transition; in European economies alone, more than half of the total electrical energy supplied to grids will come from variable renewables by 2030.6 Such growth requires regulatory and market design changes to unlock private investment in the flexibility needed to address the challenge of renewable intermittency.

Regulators are starting to make important changes to incentivise services like demand response to reduce costs, encourage and integrate the uptake of clean energy and increase customer participation. However, we have far to go if we are to replicate best practices and further encourage innovation. This includes financial mechanisms that reward utilities and distribution companies for contracting with distributed energy providers in place of capital investments—a departure from traditional regulation in which the addition of new capital assets is the main source of profit. Through market data analysis and expert insights, we help companies and countries prepare for and embrace the regulatory changes needed to assure a reliable power mix. 

Ensuring cybersecurity throughout the transition

Only 48% of utility executives feel they are prepared to handle the challenges of a cyberattack interruption.7 As utilities address the challenges of improving power reliability and efficiency, they must also contend with the near-constant barrage of security threats.

We proactively address cyber threats via a system-wide defensive approach and an unwavering focus on the dangers malware, spyware and ransomware present across the globe. Our team members meet and exceed competencies recognised by international standards organisations like UL, IEC, ISA and others through rigorous, in-depth technical training programmes. Our “secure-by-design” philosophy, processes and secure development life cycle are integrated into product development and guide our labs, procurement and design teams as the foundation of innovation. And our understanding of and influence in changing global standards help guide safer, more efficient energy infrastructures. 

Powering the energy transition

The technologies that convert wind and sunlight to renewable energy have matured, allowing for more flexible power possibilities. The growth of renewables, localised electricity production and bi-directional energy helps more homes, businesses and communities produce their own clean, dependable energy for less reliance on the utility grid. Count on Eaton for the technologies and digital intelligence needed for you to join this energy transition. Through our Everything as a Grid approach, infrastructures can be revamped to manage and optimise renewable integration, so you can realise more efficient, sustainable power that costs less.

  • Energy transition insights

References

1 BloombergNEF (September 2018). Global Electricity Demand to Increase 57% by 2050. Retrieved from https://about.bnef.com/blog/global-electricity-demand-increase-57-2050/#:~:text=Global%20electricity%20demand%20will%20reach,our%20New%20Energy%20Outlook%202018

2 IRENA (2018). Corporate Sourcing of Renewables: Market and Industry Trends. Retrieved from https://irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2018/May/IRENA_Corporate_sourcing_2018.pdf

3 BloombergNEF (December 2019). Battery Pack Prices Fall As Market Ramps Up With Market Average At $156/kWh In 2019. Retrieved from https://about.bnef.com/blog/battery-pack-prices-fall-as-market-ramps-up-with-market-average-at-156-kwh-in-2019/

4 Wagner, I (March 2020) Electric vehicle charging stations and outlets in U.S. - March 2020. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/416750/number-of-electric-vehicle-charging-stations-outlets-united-states/

5 IRENA (2020). Renewable power generation costs in 2019. Retrieved from https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2020/Jun/IRENA_Power_Generation_Costs_2019.pdf

6 Henbest, Seb (2019). BloombergNEF New Energy Outlook 2019. Retrieved from https://about.bnef.com/new-energy-outlook/

7 Accenture (2015). The New Energy Consumer Unleashing Business Value in a Digital World. Retrieved from https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/Accenture/next-gen/insight-unlocking-value-of-digital-consumer/PDF/Accenture-New-Energy-Consumer-Final.pdf