Digitalisation of entire energy system key to successful decarbonisation – report
Clean Energy Wire
A successful transition to renewables will only be achieved if there is a comprehensive digitalisation of the whole energy sector, a report by research institute Fraunhofer IEE has concluded. The researchers found that cross-stakeholder process automation could be enabled through a data economy and cyber resilience should be prioritised in Europe to increase energy supply security. "The timely and economical implementation of the energy transition requires a far-reaching digitalisation of the German energy system, from system controls to the upper network levels," said Reinhard Mackensen, head of Fraunhofer IEE.
The report focused on five key areas of digitalisation: data economics, sector coupling, facility communication, grid planning and operation, and cyber security. Researchers forecast a growth in data economics, heightened through advanced measuring, storing and analysing tools and claim decentralised data storage will allow for an "enormous" increase in efficiency and the introduction of innovative methods of artificial intelligence within critical infrastructures. Within digital sector coupling - including power-to-mobility, power-to-heat and power-to-gas/hydrogen - digitalisation must take on an even stronger role for system integration, the report's authors recommended. Additioanlly, digitalisation needs to be increased in the lower voltage levels of the grid, as it has happened with high and medium voltage transmittors. Regarding cyber security, researchers found that a focus on the mere defence against attacks is not sufficient. Instead, the possibility of disruptions and vulnerabilities must be taken into account when designing future energy systems.
The energy transition is set to bring a new era of decentralisation of the grid, which will rely heavily on digitalisation in the exchange and trade of surplus power among consumers and in linking household appliances to industry machines and batteries. With this comes the need for greater cyber security. Fossil fueled power systems do not require much digitalisation, as power supply is constant and can be switched on and off depending on demand. Wind and solar power are prone to fluctuations hence the need for a more sophisticated system to manage the power supply. Germany is commited to phasing out coal by 2038 and aims to be climate neutral by 2045. Expansion targets for renewable energies and e-mobility for 2030 can only be achieved through the use of efficient digital tools and processes, according to industry experts.