This post forms part of the SDG series at Scene Connect for Global Goals Week. As global representatives gather at the UN Headquarters in New York for the Sustainable Development Summit 2019, we reflect on how our own projects support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Dom, Project Coordinator, explains how Scene’s ZUoS project is helping to push our electricity infrastructure in the right direction. Where our current electricity grid is outdated, inefficient, and reliant on fossil fuels., the grid of the future will be characterised by flexibility, renewable generation, local energy trading, and lower bills.
Our energy infrastructure must be radically upgraded if we are to successfully increase the uptake of clean energy. The National Grid across the UK was first built 100 years ago to accommodate traditional forms of energy production. This was characterised by enormous centralised coal and gas power stations, sending energy to cities, buildings, and households in a one-directional flow.
However, our energy supply is rapidly changing due to the increasing use of renewable forms of energy generation. And while renewables are necessary, the main challenge associated with them is that their output is often distributed, unpredictable, and intermittent. We can’t just ‘turn up the wind’ when we want to boil our kettles. As more households and businesses start to generate, store, and export their own renewable energy - for example through rooftop solar and electric vehicle-to-grid charging - we need to upgrade our energy system in a way that can handle these new energy flows.
An energy system compatible with Sustainable Development Goal 9 – ‘Industry Innovation and Infrastructure’ – will need to resemble a ‘democratised, digitised, decentralised, and decarbonised’ model if it is provide a clean, affordable, and efficient energy supply to consumers who are informed and empowered. Much of our household energy demand will be met directly by locally-generated supply: from neighbours with solar rooftops, municipally-owned battery banks in nearby towns, or businesses with surplus to sell from their on-site generation and storage. Flexibility will be the norm, as interconnected appliances automatically switch on and off to receive the cheapest and cleanest energy supply. Our grid operators will not only address outages, but proactively use energy monitoring and forecasting software to modify and maintain an electricity grid which is flexible, efficient, reliable and integrates as much renewable generation as possible. In many cases these innovations must be retrofitted onto the existing electricity infrastructure. But for those countries in which the electricity grid is still being built, there is a huge opportunity. An opportunity to leapfrog over the inefficient and carbon spewing era of centralised fossil fuels to one of flexibility, elegance and abundant renewable energy.
One of Scene’s most recent developments, ZUoS, is an online platform designed for use by energy suppliers to provide households with locally-generated renewable energy at high efficiency and low cost. ZUoS will act like a ‘virtual power plant’, and will supply households with energy flexibly, efficiently, and locally, reducing demand on the national infrastructure, and increasing the use of renewables. With physical grid upgrades being costly and time-consuming, ZUoS exemplifies how the electricity innovations of the future will be primarily digital: while some physical upgrades will still be necessary, energy suppliers and network operators will be supported through software and digital data to make creative use of existing infrastructure and enable the green, flexible, and local energy systems of the future.
- Dom Stephen