LAPP Renewable Energy
Decarbonisation & the Net-zero Conundrum. The winds of change are blowing for renewable energies

COP26 in Glasgow last year was the moment countries reviewed climate pledges made under the 2015 Paris Agreement,
seven years after calls to suppress global warming to below 2°C were made1.

Envision 2050: A Liveable Planet for Our Children

Notably, the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gas United States and China, pledged to work together to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as well as cooperate on other climate change aspects. Along with ramping down of coal for power generation and a pledge to help developing countries switch to cleaner energy, more than 100 countries further agreed to reduce 30% of methane emission levels by 2030.

All of these are necessary steps to ensure that our future generations have a sustainable world to live in from 2050 onwards.

Reducing carbon footprints to net zero isn’t something that countries can tick the “check-in-the-box” tomorrow as a completed action item. It requires countries at different stages of their sustainability roadmap to have a well-thought-out plan towards the goal. Thankfully, the emergence of renewable energy technologies has given the world a preview of how the balance of energy consumption, population growth, crop and animal production, industrial manufacturing, and technological advancement, to name a few, can all be achieved without exacerbating the environmental crisis.

Solar & Wind

Solar and wind have long been key pillars of the renewable energy landscape. With continued innovation in solar technology and photovoltaics declining in costs, perovskite is emerging as a potentially game-changing and cost-effective material for future commecial solar panels. Leading the way, tech giants such as Apple, Amazon and Google have also invested in solar infrastructure to “walk the talk” in the net zero game.

Looking at another mature technology, wind power has grown exponentially at 17% in 20212, with Big Oil majors like Shell and Exxon Mobil to ramping up offshore wind projects since 2020, as part of their strategy to diversify into renewables and build an unshakeable power value chain for customers.

With both solar and wind energy harnessed to stabilise the power grid, it is safe to say that power demand can now be managed with greater security during peak usage periods, regardless of whether the sun is shining, or the wind is blowing.

Electrification & Direct Current (DC)

Key to electricity delivery infrastructure, alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) each offers its own pros and cons. As renewable energy systems evolve, the way electricity is utilised in various segments or sectors will determine if the existing route of AC applications remain strong, or the increase in the opportunities of DC applications at the load level will supersede the AC versions.

As the industry contemplates plausible solutions, one concern is the loss of energy when the conversion from AC to DC is being implemented. Taking up an estimated 90% of the global motor installed base, the domination of the AC electric motor might be why the proliferation of DC has been hindered, as apparent from the ratio of existing AC motors to the DC variants.

According to 2020 figures, an estimated 29% of electricity supply globally comes from renewable energy sources2. New applications requiring electricity are also unfolding in the recent years—green hydrogen, touted to play a vital role in renewable energy, is produced from water via electrolysis, while the other gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen are extracted from air. The challenge of the net-zero emission dilemma remains how best to implement an efficient and sustainable cycle for power generation, by utilising and generating electricity to unlock decarbonisation. This will mean less reliance on traditional energy sources, such as fossil fuels and coal, and in return, yield better air quality for future generations.

Energy Storage Systems (ESS)

An essential solution alongside solar or wind power sources, energy storage systems (ESS) provide system reliability, stablise grid power by regulating voltage, and also act as substations by supporting short-team peak load demand.

In less than 10 years, lithium-based batteries have become the dominant technology, displacing hydropower. Despite having an enormous lead because of the lithium material cost advantage, operational limitations mean that it is still unable to store charges for long durations of more than 6 hours on average. Other options must be explored for applications which require 10s and 100s of hours of continuous power supply.

More technologies will likely emerge or evolve within the next decade — to patch up the gaps arising from the battery ESS or provide even more stability within the grid — to complete this piece of the puzzle, crucial to solving the net-zero conundrum.

Power-to-X (P2X)

A relatively new terminology, Power-to-X (P2X) is a collective definition of electricity conversion, energy storage, and reconversion pathways that use surplus electricity3, with X representing anything from gases (such as hydrogen), fuels, chemicals to liquids. Decarbonisation prospects of this power-to-hydrogen concept are huge if P2X integration into existing grid infrastructure can be designed to run effectively.

Furthermore, P2X presents opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in heavy transport vehicles such as trucks, ships, and airplanes. For example, synthetic kerosene manufactured from electricity generated by renewable sources is by far the only fuel that climate-neutral flights are using.

Distributed Generation

Also known as on-site generation (OSG) or decentralised generation, distributed generation is a term defining the generation of electric power for use in a particular area, or “on-site”, as compared to drawing the required amount of energy from the power grid from a centralised facility such as a power plant.

An estimated 5% of the electricity delivered from power grids is lost as a result of inefficient transmission.4 Localised power generation in either residential or industrial areas can reduce the electricity reliance on centralised power plants. With a strong push towards this trend, growth in small-scale renewable energy setups is expected, with solar panels and the smaller units of battery ESS stepping up as ideal choices.

Renewable Energy 4.0: Paving the Way Forward
Every bit of data counts, and every energy-saving initiative adds up towards the net zero goal. Renewable Energy 4.0 will keep the winds of change blowing, not just from the Moskva down to Gorky Park, but to every part of the world.

All technologies and trends in renewable energies above cannot work in silos; they must be fundamentally supported by concepts from Industry 4.0. Only when the big data has been fully monitored and comprehended can energy generation become more optimised. Take for instance, a lithium-based ESS is not purely a battery that stores and discharges electric power. A battery management system monitors statuses such as current, voltage and energy, identifies anomalies at lithium cell level and triggers in-built protection mechanisms if required, and allows remote management of the entire system over Ethernet connections.

To this end, LAPP has been playing a leading role in the field of sustainable industries. Discover its innovative connectivity solutions from photovoltaics to electric mobility, that help harness positive developments towards an environmentally-friendly future.