Reinventing the Electricity Grid for Continuing Prosperity and Innovation

The European Utility Week, a summit working towards a fully integrated and interconnected electricity system, took place in Vienna this year. An environment for strategic planning across the whole utility value chain, EUW is a space for key players in the energy sphere to exchange ideas and learn about evolving innovation.

On the second day of the summit, Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Scobie presented in front of energy professionals and some of the world’s leading utilities in the Low Carbon Energy section of the afternoon. Introduced by Elmar Thyen, Head of Corporate Communications and Strategic Marketing for WSW Wuppertaler Stadtwerke GmbH, Andrew gave an overview of the historic challenges and opportunities within the current system.

Faraday Grid’s design considerations are universal and as such, informative for all. Enabling a highly efficient and robust platform, the Faraday Grid forms the ultimate foundation for all known and unknown future innovation, offering a viable integration of the interconnected energy system the visionaries of the Summit envisage.

Read Andrew’s speech on why the Faraday Grid is the necessary evolution of the energy system below.

Reinventing the Electricity Grid for Continuing Prosperity and Innovation

Good afternoon, everyone.  As I entered Messe Wien yesterday for the start of European Utility Week, I received a pamphlet outlining the conference’s three-day programme.

The pamphlet proclaimed: “Accelerating the clean energy transition: a 3-day programme that is as broad as it is ambitious in facilitating the shift towards clean, efficient and smart energy in Europe.”

This is a noble ambition and one that none of us in this room are likely to disagree with.

But how we achieve this aim is a very different question. 

I’d argue that the people’s hopes and dreams are constrained by the limitations of the energy system, and that affordable low carbon future we all desire will never be achieved without radical transformation.

The Challenge: Globally, electricity systems are failing.

Each day, week and month, we encounter sobering economic and environmental analysis which show the critical challenges we face in the 21st century cannot possibly be resolved with the 19th century’s electricity architecture.

And these challenges are brutal:

Recent Nobel Laureate William Nordhaus found that the Present Value of limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C is 37 trillion US dollars, a staggering 50% of global GDP.

As we are in the heart of federal Europe, let me bring this closer to home. 

The EU has promised to cut emissions by 80% by 2050.   A study of seven peer-reviewed models finds that to address this target, costs would rise to €2.9 trillion annually - more than twice what EU governments spend today on health, education, recreation, housing, environment, police, and defence.

Pushing hard for carbon reductions and renewables before addressing the energy technology deficit is a road to serfdom. 

In Australia, we are currently seeing six solar PV panels added every minute, leading to a situation that the Energy Security Board has labelled “anarchy”.

To be blunt, setting political targets is the height of folly when there are currently 1600 coal plants planned or under construction today, expanding coal-fired power capacity by 43%.

A recent peer-review of the feasibility of 100% renewable energy concluded: “Our sobering results show that a 100% renewable electricity supply would, at the very least, demand a reinvention of the entire electricity supply-and-demand system to enable renewable energy to approach the reliability of current systems.” 

At Faraday, we agree with this analysis and we’ve done just that – reimagined and reinvented the energy system.

History of the Grid: 

But as the philosopher George Santayana pointedly said: “To know your future you must know your past”, so before we talk about solutions, let’s talk about history.

The biggest and most sophisticated machine in human history, the electricity grid, didn’t appear out of nowhere.

The Grid unlocked the greatest economic gains in human history by allowing us to empower our technology.  Lifting billions from premodernity’s grinding poverty.  With billions still in poverty, this task is still not complete.

Furthermore, electricity is the primary input to prosperity, not was.  Destroying the economics of energy directly undermines productivity and the prosperity it develops.

The Grid: the great engineering triumph of the twentieth century is now turning out to be an exceedingly poor fit for our future.

The hub and spoke grid is a rigid, passive, one way delivery system, that must prioritise system stability before all else.

Centrally controlled, it is balanced volumetrically as it attempts to maintain stability and is simply unable to prioritize the cost of energy to consumers.

Historically electrons and inertia were provided as a bundle, by large principally coal fired generators at the centre of the system.

However, our values for an energy system have fundamentally changed.  Unfortunately, the grid has not.

Yet the grid remains the indispensable central nervous system of both our economic and social order.  And as we gather here today, focusing on the role of the electricity system is simply essential to resolving the existential tension between the environment and human welfare.

The Grid Today:

The Legacy Grid delivered on its design scope, meeting the values and enabling the hopes and dreams of 19th century citizens.

Now, the Legacy Grid is being asked to handle variable renewable energy, transport electrons and to balance supply and demand in a decentralised world that is increasingly and inherently unpredictable

All while remaining rigid, passive and fragile.

But the Grid was only intended to be a transportation for an energy system with huge spinning generators at its centre providing the essential inertia that stabilised that system.

In pursuit of our modern values and ambitions we have crammed the grid full of volatile renewables, an increasingly unpredictable demand, while removing the stabilising central generators.

Therefore, we continue to spend more on balancing costs and expensive Band-Aids that only address symptoms.  We are constantly chasing our tail.

Right now, we are at an historic junction point.  The decisions we make about the future of energy could lock us into a path for centuries to come.

The Solution:

So what’s the solution?

If we are serious about decarbonising while improving living standards, then revolutionary technology breakthroughs are required to deliver clean energy cheaply and reliably.

In trying to create the grid of the future we can look to the greatest machine of the 20th century - the Internet.

We have an opportunity to reimagine the grid according to modern values and make it future proof.  Not to simply download a patch for the Legacy Grid.

The Grid of the Future cannot continue to suffer from the limits of central command and control.  To do so will dramatically reduce the choices of future generations.

Imagine instead the Grid as a platform for Smart Cities, EVs, domestic prosumers competing as suppliers of energy.  Competing so well they don’t need to be subsidised.

The grid as an endless platform for innovation.

The Internet of Energy - decentralised control and permissionless innovation.

The internet creates an evolving space for innovation, cheaper prices and greater security.

And that’s what Faraday has done. 

The Faraday Grid is the internet of energy.

The Faraday Grid is a system of decentralised control that puts the grid at the centre of our energy system for the first time ever in history.

Built on Faraday Exchangers, they provide the inertia that allows it to be agnostic to the nature of supply and demand.

As you can see from the video behind me, the Faraday Grid dynamically balances power flow, voltage, power factor, and phase, while removing all harmonics.

A plug and play device, it drops into the legacy Grid in the transformers’ location, just as we dropped routers in to create the internet without disturbing the telephone system.

The Faraday Grid can increase grid tolerance for renewables to 90% and reduce the cost of energy to consumers.

Faraday Grid comes preloaded with Emergent.

Emergent is a transactive grid protocol that will enable consumers, utilities, disruptors and generators to buy and sell energy at the lowest marginal price.

Outputs:

Our technology has taken the energy system well into the 21st century.

A Faraday Grid provides approximately 50% of the inertia of a traditional thermal plant carrying the same load.

In August 2016, the UK Grid Inertia fell to 135 Giga Volt Amp seconds (GVA.s) reducing the operational margin to less than 1 Giga Watt (GW).  Although the UK has since decided to open up it’s Rate of Change of Frequency (ROCOF) threshold, this just delays the re-occurrence of the problem.

A Faraday Grid, at 40% penetration, would essentially double the operational margin (tolerance of lost generation) across the load range.

In doing so, a Faraday Grid could save the UK over 40 Mega Tonne (MT) of CO2 per annum – primarily through enabling increased renewables.

A Faraday Grid at optimal deployment would put more stability into the UK grid than has been cumulatively lost since 2006.

What This Means:

We at Faraday already knew that our technology would balance the energy system at the lowest marginal cost, while increasing network capacity and efficient integration of renewables.

And now, leading researchers and testing facilities around the world are validating Faraday’s revolutionary capability to resolve the energy trilemma.

Just two weeks ago, UK Power Network (UKPN) announced that it would deploy Faraday technology in its existing London network for live testing in spring 2019.

UKPN described our technology as “revolutionary”, a system that can adapt to “variations in the network to maintain stability, providing inertia and primary frequency response.”

Other strategic partnerships in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific are to be announced shortly, demonstrating our technology’s ubiquity.

Conclusion:

As former Director of the CIA Robert James Woolsey recently said in the Financial Times: “Without electricity, our way of life is untenable.  We rely on an uninterrupted supply of power to bring food to our supermarkets, water into our homes and prosperity to our citizens.

“Yet the critical infrastructure on which society depends has been built for efficiency, not for resilience.  It is fragile.”

Woolsey is correct.  For too long, we’ve allowed our energy infrastructure to curtail our economic and environmental prosperity.

But it doesn’t need to be this way.

The Faraday Grid is an energy system that enables rather than constrains human ambition.

Our future doesn’t need to be more fragile, more expensive or more vulnerable.

We can have a low carbon future of greater prosperity and human choice

Thank you for allowing me to share Faraday’s vision.  Faraday seek to enable sustainable prosperity for all and I look forward to you joining us on the journey.