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The steps needed to build tomorrow’s carbon-neutral power system

By Gerhard Salge
24-05-2023 | 3 min read

The world is in an accelerated phase of an energy transition.

Ongoing global issues, such as climate change and the energy crisis, are stark reminders of the vulnerability and unsustainability of our current energy system.

The pathway towards carbon-neutral energy is essential to limit further global warming.

To avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, we need to ramp up electrification and renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar whilst gradually minimizing fossil fuel energy consumption.

Electricity will be the crux of a carbon-neutral energy system

Electrification will, therefore, be the backbone of the entire future energy system. Besides being a more sustainable solution, renewable-based electrification will significantly improve energy efficiency in many applications across all market sectors, industries, buildings, and transportation.

By 2050, the global power system is expected to have an installed power generation capacity of around four times that of today and be transferring around three times the electrical energy.

Navigating the complexities of the energy transition

Tomorrow's power system will undoubtedly become much more complex to accommodate this huge growth in supply and demand.

Additionally, transforming our existing power system into one that is powered by a high share of variable renewables also comes with several technical challenges that will need to be managed:

  • Firstly, a phased approach will be required to upgrade and significantly expand many parts of our current power system infrastructure and integrate new technologies to keep the total system reliable, flexible and secure.
  • Secondly, although renewables like wind and solar provide energy at very low generation costs, they are also less predictable than fossil-based power generation. Therefore, power generation patterns will have significantly higher variations from day to day.
  • Thirdly, meeting the rising and more dynamic electricity demand requires integrating much larger volumes of renewable energy between different regional power grids across time zones and geographies. Luckily, there are modern power electronics and digital technologies available and under continuous development that can help manage this complexity.

Lastly, complementary energy storage is required to balance the power in a renewable-powered system to store energy when it is abundant and release it when demand is higher.

Building global electricity networks

The energy transition is a truly momentous undertaking.

Building an integrated global solution requires innovation and collaboration. Although each country and region will have an individual, tailored approach to upgrade and enhance its energy system toward sustainability, it is crucial for a successful energy transition that collaboration across regions and countries takes place as much as possible.

Hitachi Energy is supporting and building the vital electrical infrastructure needed. This ranges from small to large scale, whatever the specific boundary conditions for a country or region may be, by utilizing global experience and platforms and adjusting them to the local needs.

We are in the critical decade of accelerating climate action and must act now to guarantee a sustainable energy future for all.

If you would like to learn more about how Hitachi Energy can provide your organization with tailor-made solutions, please contact us here.

Note: This blog was originally published on the Earthshot Prize blog in May 2023, which can be found here

    Gerhard Salge
    CTO Hitachi Energy

    Dr. Gerhard Salge is the Chief Technology Officer of Hitachi Energy.

    He joined Hitachi Energy’s predecessor in 1999 working within Corporate Research. From 2005 to 2007, he was Global Technology Manager within the Medium Voltage Products Business Unit. From 2007 to 2014, he was responsible for the global R&D within the total Business Unit. In 2015 he became Global Head of Technology for Power Products, then Business Chief Technology Officer - CTO for Power Grids in 2016.

    Dr. Salge holds a M.Sc. and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from RWTH Aachen University, Germany.