Schneider Electric: To innovate in the electrical distribution sector, you have to find sparks of inspiration


Electrical distribution can be easily overlooked in everyday life. It’s out of sight and out of mind – electrical equipment is hidden away in metal enclosures and unpretentious substations, while transmission lines run under our streets or are suspended above them. It can be easy to forget that distribution is such a crucial part of our electrified world, a fact that is reminded us when the lights go out or something goes wrong.

Like the myriad of tiny blood vessels in the body that deliver oxygen and nutrients to vital organs, electrical distribution takes place through a network of electrical products and solutions that connect power producers and grids to energy consumers and prosumers, who can generate their energy. It works without most of us having to think about it.

This network is however in transition. Traditionally, electricity production and distribution has been centralized, with large power plants sharing electricity through grids. But the way electricity is produced and consumed is increasingly decentralized and software-driven, relying on customer resources like rooftop solar panels and battery-powered energy storage. These changes are primarily aimed at addressing the various challenges we face in our attempts to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

Find the spark

While we may recognize that decentralized, two-way energy grids are the secret to powering our future, we are still in the early days of understanding what is needed to deliver them. This will likely mean challenging the status quo, forging new partnerships, and leveraging the things that inspire us most.

I find connecting with nature reminds me of the importance of creating more sustainable ways to generate and distribute energy. For example, in particular, outdoor activities like skiing or cycling bring us together in natural environments, perhaps even making us want to create solutions that protect our precious planet.

Wherever we find the motivation to change the world for the better, we must channel it into the areas that are most critical in the ongoing energy transition. To decentralize the power distribution sector, we will need micro-grids that take advantage of hybrid AC / DC innovation, energy storage improvements to enable prosumers to generate electricity themselves, and a digital transformation fueled by the activation of IoT within our infrastructure.

Reduce the AC / DC divide with hybrid innovation

Hybrid AC / DC micro-grids are eliminating the century-old battle of currents, harnessing the best of AC and DC solutions to power the homes, offices, data centers and electric vehicles of the future. As solar PV applications generate electricity in the form of direct current, we will see rapid growth in direct current technologies that harness renewable energy to power decentralized distribution systems.

To achieve this, electricians and engineers will need to acquire new tools and skills for future-proof electrical distribution. It is no longer a question of alternating or direct current, but rather knowing how to best use the two currents in synergy – an energy system can use the alternating current supplied by a wind farm or even one of the new nuclear microreactors, while also using direct current solutions. efficiently generate and consume solar energy in local communities and commercial buildings. We must also not forget the expected increase in DC loads – with everything that works with battery electric cars, bicycles, our laptops all consuming DC power.

This combination of alternating current and direct current is an area where the shared expertise and innovation of industry professionals will be essential in leading our transition to net-zero.

Turn energy consumers into prosumers with storage solutions

Energy storage is another crucial piece of this puzzle. Think of all those electric vehicles that are just big batteries on wheels. As prosumers generate more renewable energy in decentralized grids, it will be crucial to efficiently store this energy for future use or to share it with peers via microgrids. Since there will inevitably be peaks and troughs in energy demand and renewable energy production – for example, depending on how much sunlight is available at different times of the day – we need to batteries capable of storing electricity produced at peak times for use at times when less is readily available.

Suppose we focus our innovation spark on improving storage solutions, increasing their capacity and efficiency. In this case, we can enable a new generation of prosumers to take control of their energy production and consumption and actively contribute to their wider local energy grids using the latest decentralized electricity distribution technologies.

Enabling IoT can connect the dots

While innovation in hybrid power and storage will make our power distribution industry more efficient and decentralized, Internet of Things (IoT) solutions will allow us to make our infrastructure smarter and more flexible. By introducing an open, IoT-enabled architecture and new wireless hardware, we can create digitized power distribution systems that are more resilient and sustainable.

The benefits of enabling IoT for businesses, consumers and most importantly the planet cannot be overstated. The ability to leverage IoT data to optimize processes means that systems can run more efficiently while reducing downtime due to device outages, which is costly and even dangerous. By innovating in IoT, we can create more connected and reliable power distribution networks.

Innovation will trigger smart electrification

There is a range of power distribution solutions that we can use to achieve a more sustainable future powered by smart, clean electricity. But to get there, it will take all of our energy and ingenuity. We need to come together and find better ways to create and share energy, having the conversations and interactions necessary to find that spark of innovation that will change the way we power our increasingly digital and electrified world. for the best.


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