The future landscape of the energy industry is set to be transformed by technological innovations that drive towards a more convenient, efficient and ecological infrastructure.
Energy systems of the future will be vastly different to what we know and use today. The scale of change over the next couple of decades will be considerable.
It’s common knowledge that burning fossil fuels as a way to harbour energy is both dirty and bad for the environment. Technological advancements in the energy sector will look to leave this approach in the past.
As we stand, the burning of fossil fuels takes place in a small number of large-scale plants. These currently work at about 50 percent efficiency and waste a significant amount of heat. Future energy plants will be smaller in scale and far more commonplace.
These producers of low-cost renewables will bring energy to a local level, allowing the everyday person to generate and trade energy.
A significant benefit of bringing energy production to a local level is the reduction is waste. Surplus heat from localised producers will be passed on to nearby homes and businesses. By taking a local approach, we are also likely to see a reduction in waste as energy has less distance to cover.
This shift towards a new greener way of producing and consuming energy will only be possible if major consumers are on board.
For instance, the cold chain in the UK is believed to currently consume around 14 percent of all electricity, with food retailers operating large networks of machines distributed throughout the UK.
Internet of energy
The Internet of Things is an emerging tech industry which is already receiving a significant amount of press and attention. This type of technology is starting to be utilised to deliver a greener approach to energy use.
The ‘internet of energy’ will make use of connected digital systems to control how we use and store energy. Modern appliances are being designed with a level of interconnectivity. This means we can programme each item to use or not use energy when we choose.
An example of this will be the flexibility to allow for power surges or lulls. For instance, at half time of major football matches, there’s usually a surge of energy demand when people make drinks or food. To meet this demand, we can either utilise the power from a local power station or alternatively, power down other appliances for as little as ten minutes to satisfy the excess needs in an eco-friendly way.
This goes a step further. If you have a surplus of energy (such as an electric vehicle), it will be notified of the demand and, if programmed to do so, sell some of its stored energy back to the grid to make you money.
Energy as a service
It’s important for energy to become part of the circular economy. This is where resources are kept in use for as long as possible, recovered, regenerated and re-used wherever possible.
For this to be a reality, there will need to be a shift away from buying energy in kWh and towards buying energy as a service.
Buying energy as a service means that consumers won’t purchase energy from a supplier. They’ll instead pay a company for energy at the best price, get the best value from the energy they generate and will actively improve the efficiency of their homes so they use less.
Energy doesn’t have to be a drain on the environment – or people’s wallets.
It has become easier than ever for us to generate green energy. The cost of renewable equipment is falling while the amount of energy on the grid is increasing.
The UK is now home to so many renewables that on particularly sunny or windy days, there’s actually a surplus of energy on the grid.
This can have a negative effect on wholesale prices, meaning you could actually be paid to use or store the energy. Essentially allowing consumers to enjoy free green energy.
Focus on consumers
One of the largest changes that will take place is that consumers will find themselves at the very core of the energy industry.
The control will be placed in their hands and it’s important for users to be educated on how to be as eco-friendly with this as possible. An active user of energy in the future will be able to play a vital role in ensuring our energy isn’t having a detrimental impact on the Earth.
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This article is based on a press release from Innovate UK.
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