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As introduced by Isabelle Kocher, CEO of ENGIE, the big challenge of the 21st century is to ensure the energy transition while emphasizing on 3 main parts:

  • Decarbonisation of the power production

  • Digitalisation of the power value chain (from power plants to production)

  • Decentralisation of power production

Today, the transition to a third industrial revolution requires technologies for mass production of renewable energy, IoT, smart grids, green mobility technologies but also efficient storage facilities. As a matter of fact, Hydrogen is an element with valuable properties that could solve all the issues related to the use of intermittent energy. This is why it’s interesting to emphasize this element and its properties.

This article shows the importance of hydrogen and its properties in the power system for the energy revolution, the value chain as well as the market players.

What are the main issues for a sustainable energy transition today?

Global power sector issues today could be summarized as below:

Power production

 

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Transforming the intermittent renewable production into a base load production:

  • While power production is going greener, the energy generated is more and more variable as most of renewable power generation depending on variable meteorological parameters (sun, wind). Renewables intermittency is a major disadvantage to be considered as a base load production source and thus one of the most important challenges today is to smooth the renewables’ output in order to ensure a baseload energy production.  

 

Ensuring the energy security during demand peaks:

  • To meet the daily demand variation, polluting capacity productions are used such as gas turbines (capacity reserves, capacity markets, etc). These plants have the added benefit of presenting a highly flexible power production; which is not the case of renewable and nuclear plants (low flexibility).

Grid

grid

Ensuring the supply/consumption balance:

  • Because of the lack of available storage capacity, a main issue for utilities today is to balance their electric grid with regards to production and consumption. An increase in the penetration rate of intermittent energy (such as wind or solar) requires an increase in grid flexibility measures to ensure the system’s global balance. Two main parameters affected are voltage and frequency.

Power system architecture

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Ensuring power access to isolated consumers and industrials:

  • Today some of the isolated clients are still not enjoying this access because of the low profitability of such structures. The solution could be to have an independent system for renewable power production & storage through a micro grid architecture expecting an efficient storage solution.

 

Increasing power system efficiency:

  • More generally, to ensure a sustainable energy transition, the power system architecture should be optimized. This optimization would decrease the power demand and generation as well as decrease grid losses while using green energy.

Power exchange

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  • Power exchange is an important element that is highly contributing to the energy security as well as decreasing the total power needed to meet the demand. However, the main form of power exchange today is through limited capacity power grids that require high investment in grid cables.

Mobility

  • Since 1980, Global CO2 emissions from transportation have been representing an average of 20% of the total worldwide (1). The challenge today is to make this sector greener.

In order to overcome all these challenges and to ensure a secured move to a sustainable green energy system, an efficient storage capacity is needed as:

  • It could present a complementary to intermittent production in order to keep the grid balanced (enabling a decarbonizing of the power production). In fact, according to a Navigant research report, Total Annual Revenue for Energy Storage for Renewables Integration is  Expected to Exceed $23 Billion by 2026 (4).
  • It contributes to make micro power systems autonomous (decentralizing power production)

An efficient (LCOS**) storage capacity could be defined according to these criteria:

  • Power capacity
  • Energy storage capacity
  • Prices
  • Lifetime
  • Load losses
  • Etc

H2 the missing block to move to a sustainable energy system?

Hydrogen shows a good potential as:

  • It is a clean energy vector if produced through clean energy
  • It offers a significant flexibility in terms of production sources and methods (many start-ups are working on hydrogen technologies in order to decrease cost production) as shown on the value chain illustrated in the graph below.

Besides, thanks to its liquefaction properties, hydrogen could be easily stored and transported. Driven by clean energy applications in power production as well as mobility, the liquid hydrogen demand is rising. However, this solution is still expensive compared to the classic gas storage.

Hydrogen value chain

Thanks to all its properties, Hydrogen could fix all the issues previously enumerated and could be summarized on the graph below (from power plants to clients):

hydrogen power plants to client

  1. Balancing the intermittent output of the renewable generation
  2. Compensation the renewable over/under production in a micro grid structure
  3. Storing energy for mobility (fuel cells)
  4. Grid balance

Read the next part of this article about the market players

 

Authors

Amal Abid, Consultant
Anthony Dos Reis, Manager

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