What is the energy transition and what are its challenges?

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In order to palliate the effects of climate change to the greatest possible extent, there is an urgent need to switch from the current energy model, based on a centralised, hierarchical electricity system predominantly comprising thermal generation, to a new decentralised model based on renewable energy sources, with priority given to the distribution networks, which should be capable of managing bidirectional energy flows and a large part of the installed generation, and to the consumers, who should play a more active role and have greater energy involvement.

What are the objectives of the energy transition?

The objectives of the energy transition are based on the electrification and digitalisation of all processes and sectors of the economy, with a view to achieving its subsequent decarbonisation through the use of clean energy resources.

This energy reform advocates the decoupling of economic growth from energy consumption and the excessive use of raw materials, promoting energy efficiency, sustainability and the circular economy.

To overcome these challenges, it will be necessary to use different energy transition technologies. One of these are the so-called smart grids, based on coupling the physical layer of the grid with the digital layer. This requires the sensorisation of the assets by means of IoT devices for data acquisition and processing and consequently the ability to perform remote control and monitoring, the ultimate objective being to achieve maximum system automation.

New trends towards the energy transition

Another challenge is that of suitably integrating new players, such as the prosumers (simultaneously producers and consumers), energy communities, electrical mobility and energy storage, which in turn provide new energy services, such as demand side response management or flexibility and/or balancing services for the operators of distribution systems (DSO) and/or transmission systems (TSO) via independent demand aggregators and distributed energy resources (DER).

If all the aforementioned points are dealt with suitably, the efficiency, reliability, resilience and security of the system will be improved since competition between a larger number of players in the electricity markets will be promoted. These would dispatch energy in a more decentralised manner and closer to the consumer, thereby partially counteracting the variability of renewable energies that might threaten the security and quality of the supply.

Technology and the energy transition

For this energy change to be successful, a balanced set of standards is required, bounding and coordinating the competences acquired by the new participants with those of the traditional players and allowing for the development of new business models and services involving the consumers.

Other technologies that help in the development of new integrated energy services are simulation and regulatory sandboxes for the planning, management and adjustment of solutions in future scenarios entailing some degree of uncertainty prior to their implementation in a real-world environment.

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