With the global push to reduce carbon emissions, electrical power producers are challenged find non-hydrocarbon fuel sources and maintain reliable grid operations. At CERAWeek 2018, Emerson’s Power & Water Solutions business president, Bob Yeager, joined a panel moderated by IHS Markit’s Catherine Robinson. The panel also included leaders from E.ON, Norsk Hydro and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES). Here was the session’s focus:
To meet the greenhouse gas reduction commitments made in Paris, all aspects of energy consumption will be impacted. In Europe integration between sectors will be important, and existing and new technologies will be pushed to their limits. What are the views of the policy makers, utilities, and end consumers on the changes that will be required? How can utilities and end consumers thrive in the new environment?
Bob opened his part of this discussion by sharing statistics about the amount of carbon emissions by country. He also described the emissions by fuel source including natural gas and coal. While in North America there has been a significant conversion from coal to natural gas, Asia still uses coal as a large fuel source for electrical power generation. Coal consumption for power generation has dropped by 20% over the last several years.
Bob believes what is happening as intermittent renewable energy sources are added to the grid. It is causing a lot of cycling of coal-fired plants to “chase the wind” and cycling causing a lot of stress on the generators and other power plant assets. It’s important to balance the base and intermittent sources to keep the grid operating reliably.
There is a clear trend among many states in the U.S. where consumers are choosing to add solar to their residences and selling extra power generated back to the grid. The grid must have enough inertia to quickly supply the immediate demand. Power producers are going through a digital transformation where a virtualized version of the fleet is in the cloud to train new workers coming into these companies. Another important innovation is blockchain technology to optimize a global carbon trading market to reduce overall carbon emissions. Digitalization offers accountability and transparency in driving change in reducing carbon emissions.
One interesting perspective from one of the panelists was that digitalization could help make electrical demand follow electrical supply. If the supply suddenly drops then loads on the grid then pre-determined load is shed. Whether technology advances enough to do this without grid instability in the time lag to shed load remains to be seen.
Visit the Ovation area of Emerson.com to learn more about the role industrial control systems (ICS) play in helping power producers manage reliable grid operations.