The GSEP and its annual summit
The GSEP was created in 1992 in the context of the UN Rio Earth Summit, with the aim to promote sustainable energy development through electricity sector projects and training programmes for developing nations. The original GSEP founders, Électricité de France and Hydro-Québec, invited the chairmen of some of the largest electric utilities among G7 countries to create an international group. Today the GSEP brings together the world’s 14 leading electricity companies.
The GSEP Washington summit featured exchanges between the GSEP member companies’ Chairmen and distinguished guests including former US President Bill Clinton and World Bank President Dr Jim Yong Kim.
During the summit, Wucherer participated in a panel discussion on the impact of emerging technologies and innovations on the current business models. The IEC participated in the summit as an invited guest as did MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), the World Energy Council and EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute).
Keep the electricity on, no matter what
IEC President Klaus Wucherer welcomed participants at the IEC-hosted session which discussed how microgrids may assist energy utilities to resist disaster and to enable faster recovery when disaster strikes. SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China) CEO Liu Zhenya gave the opening address, stating that coordinated development and integration between UHV grids and grids at all levels was the key for constructing a “strong, smart, green” next generation grid. He highlighted that IEC International Standards are fundamental for these innovations to be realised. Glenn Platt of the Local Energy Systems division of Australia’s CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) moderated the discussion.
Recent natural disasters including tsunamis, widespread flooding, hurricanes and bushfires have left millions of people without power and the critical services it assures. Ensuring that the electricity stays on when natural disasters strike is crucial, especially since climate change science suggests the frequency of these disasters is likely to increase. In addition, despite the best efforts of system engineers, major unrelated power outages have occurred when small electrical faults have cascaded into serious network-wide failures.
Energy microgrids in disaster recovery
“Smart microgrids present an accessible and reliable solution for recovery, given their flexibility to resist outages caused by disasters,” said IEC President Klaus Wucherer. “They allow energy to be available and distributed to communities where or close to where it is generated. Microgrids could help ensure that when a disaster occurs, the electrical power is kept on, to help life get back to normal for those affected.”
For the utility, microgrids may ease the challenge of controlling large numbers of distributed resources by making distributed generation control an internal process, operating within the microgrid.
The role of small-scale renewable energy systems, such as roof-top solar, in disaster recovery and the role that IEC International Standards could play in microgrid operation and disaster recovery were also discussed. On the agenda as well were the interdependencies that can complicate today’s electricity networks – such as relationships between communication systems, fuel supplies and distribution system operation.
Discussions also recognized the urgent need to upgrade infrastructure to ensure the reliability of the grid, and the challenges that this brings, such as rising costs and consumers not wanting price increases. Policy makers and utilities will need to look at this in different ways to find new solutions.
IEC and CSIRO working on new White Paper
Recognizing these opportunities and the challenges still to be overcome, in September 2012 the IEC MSB (Market Strategy Board) started working on a MDR (microgrid for disaster recovery) project. A Microgrid Disaster Preparedness and Recovery workshop and meeting was hosted by IEC in early 2013. In cooperation with CSIRO and an IEC MSB member from Japan, the IEC Market Strategy Board is preparing a White Paper on microgrids for disaster recovery, with publication planned for October 2013.
A microgrid is a collection of controllable and physically proximate distributed generator and load resources, with multiple sources of power of which at least one is based on a renewable energy technology.
There are a number of reasons why microgrids are now receiving significant attention. If the wider grid is operational but strained, a microgrid can assist by reducing the load on the wider grid or by exporting power from the microgrid to a surrounding area. As well as power management, microgrids can also help with voltage and frequency control in such situations.
Microgrids group distinct distributed resources such as generators or loads so that they represent a single generator or load to the wider electricity system. They are also useful in areas not yet reached by the main grid.
IEC work on microgrids
IEC SG (Strategic Group) 3: Smart Grid, developed the Smart Grid Roadmap with microgrids placed within DER (Distributed Energy Resources). Guidelines for the General Planning and Design of Microgrids have been submitted as new work proposals in IEC TC (Technical Committee) 8: Systems aspects for electrical energy supply. TC 8 also prepares International systems Standards for equipment, protection schemes, and communication systems.
Clean energy for all
A highlight of the summit was Jim Yong Kim’s speech on the role the World Bank can play in advancing universal energy access and the importance of having a coordinated effort across sectors. His intervention stressed the importance of GSEP’s UNSE4ALL (the Sustainable Energy for All initiative of the UN) commitment. President Clinton stated that the answer to poverty reduction is access to electricity and that international cooperation is essential to achieve this on a global scale.
The IEC participates in the UN Foundation Energy Access Practitioner Network to address market barriers to achieve universal energy access, as part of the global initiative on SE4ALL.