Grid notes from Berlin

The World Smart Grid Forum in Berlin and a recent IPCC report renews focus on the evolution of the grid of future

Over 500 smart people gathered in Berlin recently for the second World Smart Grid Forum, an event organized by the global standards body, IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) and the German standardization body VDE. ABB was a Gold sponsor.

More than 40 nationalities were represented at the event with the majority of people at this two-day forum coming from China, Germany and Japan. The presenters covered topics relevant to the evolution of Smart Grids across the power value chain with a refreshingly  large part devoted to the contribution of evolving transmission grid technologies.

The first keynote speech by Zhenya Liu, Chairman of SGCC set the scene and elaborated on the Chinese vision for a ‘stronger and smarter grid’ emphasizing the need for the grid to be strong and reliable for it to be smart. It also elaborated on the Chinese plans for the addition of a significant number of 800 and 1100 kV HVDC links as well as the ambition for several ultra-high voltage AC links, which will connect the North to the South and West to the East.

China continues to add grid capacity and has one of the most modern power networks in the world. The speakers emphasized  that the ‘wider grid’ cannot be replaced by smart microgrids even in an era where distributed generation is on the rise. A solid transmission backbone provides the infrastructure for smart power flows and integrated transmission-distribution grids can accommodate local generation.

Resource shortages and climate change concerns call for an integrated approach to solve the innovation challenges to build stronger and smarter grids. As a case in point, by increasing the share of electricity as a secondary energy source by 1 percent, SGCC has lowered total energy byas much as  4 percent per GDP-unit.

I had the opportunity to present ABB’s ongoing development on HVDC, High Voltage Cables, Power Semiconductors and Offshore wind connections. The offshore installation of the 9,600 tonnes topside platform of Dolwin 1 and the Statcom operation of the Dörpen 320 kVDC land station are recent examples of the rapid developments in this space. The opportunities that open up with ABB’s recent  Hybrid HVDC breaker breakthrough is another significant development in the evolution of  future transmission grids.

Almost coinciding with the above event, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its fifth report to which 800 scientists contributed. It cites more than 9,200 scientific reports and is peer reviewed by more than 100 experts.  The first key conclusion is that the last three decades have been the warmest on Earth in 150 years. The second  is that it is now extremely likely, i.e. >95% certain, that this warming is caused by human activities. So we may expect a 1.5 to 4 degrees warmer climate by the end of the century ; the trends are clear. And yet, despite urgent calls for action to turn around this development, the rate of CO2 release steadily increases decade by decade.

Mitigating actions will be proposed during the WGIII meeting in Berlin in April. But we can safely say that HVDC transmission has a lot to contribute to lowering environmental impact by making our energy system more efficient and enabling the reduction of fossil fuel usage and helping to integrate  remote renewable energy sources. It is all about making the best use of our assets to make the world a better place.

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About the author

Magnus Callavik

Vice president and General Manager ABB Sifang Power Co. Ltd., Previously Technology Manager for BU Grid Integration, a part of ABB’s Power Grids division
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