Editor’s Comments: The Energy Transition

Dec. 3, 2018

The energy industry is in the midst of a historic transformation as it moves from a traditional grid framework to decentralized, decarbonized, and digital systems. And many believe that the paradigm shift underway will not only affect the power industry, but that it will profoundly impact global infrastructure and economics, as well as the way we live.

Evidence of this shift toward distributed energy generation is surging. British officials recently announced that in the UK, the capacity of renewable energy has surpassed that of fossil fuels. According to The Guardian, the amount of renewable capacity in Britain tripled in the past five years to reach 41.9 gigawatts, which coincided with a decrease in fossil fuel-powered plants to 41.2 gigawatts as facilities reached the end of life or became less economically viable.

Are you subscribed to Distributed Energy magazine? Click here for a free subscription!

A recent study conducted by analysts at Wood McKinsey predicts that a renewable energy tipping point is imminent. By 2035, the study indicates that close to 20% of global power needs will be met by solar or wind. Similarly, analysts estimate that more than 20% of all ground travel miles will be powered by electric motors rather than gasoline or diesel. After 2035, researchers expect adoption rates for renewable generation and electrified transportation to increase as they become the default choice for energy systems worldwide.

“The pendulum is starting to swing,” explains Simon Flowers, chairman and chief analyst at Wood McKinsey in the report. “The leading players recognize it and will commit an increasingly higher proportion of capital to power and renewables into [the] next decade.”

Add Distributed Energy Weekly to your Newsletter Preferences and keep up with the latest articles on distributed power, fuel cells, HVAC options, solar, smart energy systems, and LED lighting retrofits.    

In this issue of Distributed Energy magazine, we honor the transformation taking place with stories that highlight efficiencies resulting from the coordinated operation of distributed energy resources. We’re pleased to showcase some of the exemplary technologies, projects, and policies that are contributing to the momentum behind distributed generation, decarbonization, and digitization. And we hope that, in providing news about the latest innovations and regulatory shifts, we’re able to effectively support the advancement.

Increased support for clean power sources—especially in California and New York—has stimulated market opportunities for cogeneration. In “Cogeneration at the Core,” we see a variety of uses of steam produced during energy generation and the diverse system configurations in operation today. While some systems are plug-and-play, others work well in microgrid energy networks, and others are highly customizable. The common thread is that cogeneration provides all of them with a highly efficient portfolio base.

There’s a wave of technological development also taking place in the portable generator space. In “The Next Generation,” we explore the many ways of powering portable generators in remote areas and off-grid applications with traditional fuels like diesel, propane, and gasoline, as well as contemporary power generation options that rely on solar energy or battery power. The future looks bright for portable energy generation.

In “Achieving Unprecedented Efficiency,” we look at four key advancements in turbine technology: safety and monitoring, digitization, integration in cogeneration configurations, and new coatings that protect turbomachinery, while acknowledging the many benefits of turbine-CHP partnerships in energy systems. We see firsthand how leveraging evolving technology opportunities not only helps provide reliable energy; it can also strengthen economies and offer cleaner, more efficient power solutions.

Navigating through evolving policy and regulatory frameworks, along with innovating in the field of power generation, is key to achieving progress. In “Clean Peak Standard,” we examine a policy intended to encourage renewable energy generation and usage through a market-based program that provides a premium for cleaner energy sources and demand reduction. The goal of this regulatory framework is to incentivize renewable energy and establish a long-term market.

The energy transition is upon us. As technological advancements, policies, and integrative methodologies create a bridge to future energy generation goals, the once distant notion of clean, distributed power is quickly becoming reality. How will your organization navigate this transition?