The criticality of grid stability in transitioning to renewable energy

Siemens Ltd
By Brett Watson, Executive General Manager, Electrification & Automation at Siemens Australia and New Zealand
Wednesday, 05 June, 2024


The criticality of grid stability in transitioning to renewable energy

The decarbonisation clock is ticking: on our path to net zero emissions, industry leaders must play a pioneering role. For Siemens, this means achieving a net zero-carbon footprint in all our production facilities and buildings worldwide by 2030, while enabling our customers to meet equally ambitious targets. But achieving such targets requires a holistic approach and strong partnerships.

As Australia attempts to make this transition, grid stability is a source of growing concern across the local energy community. Given the country’s size, state-based regulators and privatised sector, Australia faces arguably greater challenges than most to manage this issue; it’s a mathematical balancing act to simultaneously operate ageing power stations, decommission coal, and establish enough renewable sources. Delays, storage, labour and impacts on local communities all play into this as well.

But the fact remains, we won’t meet our emissions reduction targets (and ideally exceed them), without acknowledging the criticality of grid stability. As Siemens’ global head of Electrification and Automation Stephan May noted in a recent conversation with Enlit World, sustainability and grid stability are not contradictory but go hand in hand. The key ingredient that marries them together is technology. Harnessing innovations in artificial intelligence, digital twins, cloud computing and digitalisation, in combination with decentralised grid intelligence on low voltage levels, will be crucial on this energy transition journey.

Addressing grid stability

For most people in society, the electrical network may not seem tangible, but it will be the backbone of our energy transition journey. We are not able to increase network capacities as we could in the past; therefore, we must address three key areas to successfully deliver the energy transition. Firstly, we must maximise the use of the existing infrastructure and technology, which makes vast efficiency gains.

Secondly, the electrical networks on lower voltage levels must be made more transparent. The increasing decentralisation of renewables generation and movable loads, such as EV charging, on non-transparent lower voltage levels is making grid management even more delicate and complex.

Local leaders paving the way

With the Siemens Xcelerator and electrification portfolio based on international standards, we enable our customers to accelerate their digital transformation – easier, faster and at scale. By embracing this new way of solving grid issues, grid operators can speed up the transition and gain a competitive advantage.

Locally, Siemens has been working with Ampcontrol, a leading Australian provider of energy solutions, to collaborate on technology solutions for battery energy storage and grid applications for the Australian renewable energy market. The announcement comes at a time of growing demand for these solutions due to the rapid expansion of renewable energy in Australia.

The agreement will focus on solutions for battery energy storage and grid applications designed around Siemens’ renowned SINAMICS S120 inverters that provides virtual synchronous generator functionalities for system strength and grid stability in the network. This in an important project to increase digitalisation, grid resilience and support the nation’s transition to net zero.

Recently, Siemens also established the Energy Transition Hub, the most advanced future energy grid simulation hub of its kind in Australia delivered in collaboration with Swinburne University of Technology. Available for industry and academia, the Hub is a digital twin of Australia’s energy market, enabling commercial research teams to run simulations of new solutions, particularly the intermix and influx of various sources of energy into the grid. This will help commercial research teams, students and industry to work on solutions for greener, more efficient future energy systems using Siemens Xcelerator. Digital twins are emerging as an essential element in decarbonisation strategies, allowing the industry to accurately test scenarios before applying changes to the grid.

Another equally important part of the grid is switchgear technology that helps balance loads at various points for practically every industry. In a big step towards achieving significant sustainability goals, Ausgrid, the largest distributor of electricity on Australia’s east coast, recently became the first organisation in Australia to install Siemens’ innovative blue gas insulated (GIS) medium voltage switchgear which uses climate-neutral ‘clean air’ in replacement of F-gas. The use of blue GIS helps reduce Ausgrid’s carbon footprint and paves the way towards more sustainable, climate friendly grid infrastructure, supporting Australia’s pathway to net zero.

The electrical grid is the most important infrastructure for a successful energy transition. Wherever utilities are on their journey, managing this transition relies on sustainable hardware, software, and advanced digital solutions delivered through collaborative partnerships, to accelerate the transformation of grids into autonomous, resilient, and sustainable power networks.

For more information about the upcoming Siemens Beyond 1% Summit, visit here.

Brett Watson, Stephan May, Ampcontrol, Swinburne and Ausgrid will share their views on the holistic approach needed for grid stability during the upcoming Siemens Beyond 1% Summit from July 3–4 in Sydney.

 

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