Energy transition is a necessity rather than an obligation; to meet climate targets we must move towards a sustainable energy model that promotes the use of renewable energy sources.
Industrialised countries generate most of their electricity from conventional power plants, such as coal, gas or nuclear. These plants provide a huge economic benefit for the generating companies, where users pay for their energy needs by buying electricity and fuel from the relevant public utility companies. This form of supply is easy to use but often entails high costs and is quite inefficient in terms of the rational use of energy.
Energy transition is difficult but not impossible; the first step is to change the way energy is generated. For this, the generation points have to be decentralised. This energy model is known as Distributed Generation (DG). This system is based on generating energy at the same point where it is consumed, directly reducing network losses, which contributes to environmental preservation through the use of renewable energy sources.
Distributed Generation has multiple advantages compared to the conventional system, offering technical, economic and environmental benefits.
It improves the quality of the electric service because it reduces the probability of failure due to downed high-voltage power lines, as the percentage of use of those lines is reduced.
DG systems are modular and give the electric power distribution system flexibility. This means simple installation in a short time. It also provides the operating system with a great advantage, maintaining the flexibility of its total capacity, increasing or decreasing the number of modules.
DG reduces energy losses in the distribution and transmission lines.
It avoids investment costs in transmission and distribution, generating a lower cost in electrical infrastructures and thus achieving operation and maintenance savings.
It reduces fuel costs due to improved efficiency in the case of cogeneration applications. These systems use waste heat for reuse in heating, cooling or to increase their efficiency by generating electricity, saving primary energy.
It reduces the emission of pollutants. DG favours self-consumption using in situ generation systems. This helps to reduce the consumption of primary energy from conventional sources by generating cleaner energy, like that from a photovoltaic system, and avoids emissions generated due to transmission losses from power plants to cities.
These systems can include multiple generation and storage systems, allowing generation by conventional systems to be shifted to solar or wind generation.
However, to achieve energy transition, it is not enough to decentralise the generation points and make use of clean energy sources, the way energy is consumed also needs to be changed. Therefore, success lies in changing consumer awareness and making rational use of energy resources.
Reducing energy consumption is based on the following three key pillars:
Electrical Energy Efficiency
This is the reduction in the power and energy required from the electricity system without it affecting normal activities carried out in buildings, industries or any transformation process. An electrically efficient installation enables its technical and economic optimisation, or rather a reduction in its technical and economic operating costs.
In short, energy efficiency involves:
- Helping the sustainability of the system and environment by reducing CO2 emissions through optimisation of the energy demand.
- Improving the technical management of facilities by increasing their efficiency and avoiding production downtimes and possible failures.
- Reduction in both the economic cost of energy and the operation of facilities.
Energy transition is not possible without electric mobility; the electric vehicle is the future. Transition to the electric vehicle means a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. You only have to think about the difference in efficiency of a combustion engine and an electric motor.
An electric motor has an efficiency of around 95%, whereas a heat engine has an efficiency of around 30%. To travel 100 km, an electric car consumes three times less energy than a conventional vehicle.
This is based on the premise that the energy used by electric vehicles can come from clean sources, whereas the energy used by a conventional vehicle can only come from fossil fuels.
Nearly zero-energy buildings (nZEB)
Consumption in buildings constitutes 40% of Europe's total energy. Reducing consumption in buildings is one of the main points of action to reduce energy dependence and thus comply with international agreements to slow down climate change.
This was the reason behind European Directive 2010/31/EU, on the energy efficiency of buildings, under which all member states must take steps so that as of 2020, all new buildings have nearly zero-energy consumption (2018 for public buildings).
Nearly zero-energy buildings nZEB have a very high level of energy efficiency and comfort, and very low energy consumption, coming mostly from renewable sources in situ or the environment.
In short, energy transition involves a series of complex challenges to be addressed but, if managed properly, the benefits of the new energy model will help to halt climate change and improve everyone's quality of life.