Decentralisation, through the implementation of microgrids, could be the key to improving grid resilience, US-based electricity supplier Illinois Power Company and Tucson Electric Power Company CEO Charles Bayless told an audience in Johannesburg this week.
The design of microgrids, which generally refer to an energy system that is able to operate independently from the main grid, can be crafted to meet the needs of each individual community and society, he said.
Microgrids “are the way forward and will be one of the waves of change in future”, Bayless said at the Power and Electricity World conference.
Other “waves of change” include blockchain technology and digitisation, which would be key to ensuring that the industry “kept up with changes”.
Bayless cautioned that mixing new technologies, politics, economics and regulation could present some challenges for grid implementation, especially as a shift to carbon neutrality was sought.
“The big impediment to getting into a zero-carbon climate, to building the grid and bringing electricity to people, isn’t technical – it’s political and regulatory, which provide challenges of their own to grid implementation.”
Commenting on the future of fossil fuels in the energy mix, Bayless is adamant that these resources have to be phased out, pointing to the “quantum leaps” that have been taken to include renewable energy options within the global energy mix.
He also highlighted the importance of a holistic view on managing limited natural resources like energy, water, climate and population growth.
“We’re trying to achieve a low carbon economy, cleaner energy and universal access but there are multiple transition pathways in water, climate and population. A pathway for water, for example, may conflict with a pathway for energy,” Bayless noted.