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Driving Forces Towards Electric Power System Evolution

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Expert Independent Consultant ,Electric Power Systems Engineering Free lancer

Summary- Full Academic Qualification by obtaining B.Sc. (1971), M.Sc. (1980) and Ph.D. (1991) of Electric Power Engineering.- Active continuous education by participating in long periods of hands...

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  • Jun 18, 2021 10:26 am GMT
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Driving Forces Towards Electric Power System Evolution

- Electricity is essential to modern society. We use it to light our buildings and streets and warm and cool the places where we live and work. Electric power ensures our supplies of food and clean water, powers commerce and industry, enables communication and computing, runs gas, transportation, water, and other networked infrastructures, keeps hospitals open and operating, helps to process our wastes, and many other things. In light of these critical roles that electricity plays, one has to ask about the future of electric power systems.

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- No one can predict precisely what the electricity system will look like several decades from now. Because the system consists of so many long-lived facilities, it is reasonable to assume that superficially, much of it will look very much the same as it does today. Instead , there are number of driving forces (social, technical, and economic) that are likely to alter the landscape of the electric power systems. However, those drivers of change will likely interact in complex and often unpredictable ways to produce varied outcomes at different times.

-In whatever ways the power system evolves in the future, the system must be simultaneously safe and secure, clean and sustainable, affordable and equitable, and reliable and resilient.

 

1) Safe and Secure

The main objectives of electric power system operator and regulator are ensuring safety while keeping the lights on, as well as making the grid and its components secure for both its physical and cyber elements. The electricity industry must continue, and build upon, its outstanding record of past performance. This include:

Developing better technologies and management strategies to ensure public and worker safety in the face of growing numbers and severity of extreme weather events.

Ensuring that continued attention to safe operation for both domains of utility operators and non-utility providers and customers.

Increasing the use of automation and other technologies that are used to build and operate the system, without endangering the livelihood of utility employees.

 

2) Clean and Sustainable

It is a must to accelerate the transition to a clean electricity system that produces no conventional air pollution; adds no net greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere; minimizes terrestrial and aquatic impacts; and imposes low ecosystem disruption. Advancing this objective will require:

Developing and deploying a large and diverse portfolio of carbon-free generation technologies, particularly as electrification to reduce and eliminate emissions from buildings, transportation, and industrial sectors.

Minimizing adverse land and water use and ecological impacts from the power system.

Adopting a longer-term perspective with respect to system planning and decision making on projects and systems to reduce the carbon intensity of the electricity system.

 

3) Affordable and Equitable

Moderately priced and universally available electricity service has been a pillar of social and economic development over the past century, and will continue to be essential even as some consumers have the means to adopt their own local technologies to generate, store, and consume electricity. Finding ways to continue to provide such service will be a critical element of ensuring continued industrial and personal prosperity. In that connection, this involves the following:

Ensuring that the cost of electric service is affordable for all will continue to be a key to strong and equitable economic growth.

Making concerted efforts to continue to balance the benefits and costs of system upgrades to ensures that strategies result in an increase in net social benefits.

 

4. Reliable and Resilient

Electric system planners, operators, and decision makers must achieve a better understanding of the concepts of reliability and resilience. In many cases, achieving an appropriate level of performance for both of these will require different technologies, policies, and strategies. To that end there are needs for:

Developing a secure system that can minimize the risks from physical and cyber disruptions and respond in a flexible and adaptive manner when disruptions occur.

Acknowledging that because there is no way to make power systems completely invulnerable to intentional or accidental physical or cyber disruptions and to the effects of extreme weather events, it is a must to move forward to create systems that can continue to provide basic services as they recover from disruptions.

Implementing technologies and polices that provide high-quality and highly reliable power to sensitive digital loads without compromising the quality and cost of service that is provided to regular customers.

 

Reference:

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2021. The Future of Electric Power in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25968.

 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 18, 2021

and will continue to be essential even as some consumers have the means to adopt their own local technologies to generate, store, and consume electricity

As those with more means start building out their own generation + storage assets, do you foresee that creating a problem for the rest of the population who will then be burdened with paying for more of the infrastructural costs through their power bills? Will this be an equity issue of growing focus moving forward? 

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Jun 18, 2021

Hi Matt

That is a very good question , has a double answer .

- No , if they are completely self dependent and full isolated from the utility infrastructure .

- On the contrary , Yes if they use utility as a backup without sharing the infrastructure cost .

As a matter of fact  on average , every one USD of electricity tariff include about 3o Cents for T&D facilities. .

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 18, 2021

Dr. Amal, as I've noted many times before, we'd be far better off if electrical system engineers were making the big decisions on the future of energy, and not venture capitalists. Their top priorities increasingly require our system to be:

1) Profitable. Investors will be able to recoup their investments in a timely manner.
2) Competitive. Energy system ideas must allow free market competition to determine winners and losers.
3) Unregulated. Government should keep its grubby hands off energy. Consolidation and an international market in fuels and equipment will create the lowest prices for consumers.
4)) A Job-Creator. Our system must create lots and lots of jobs. No matter how menial or duplicative, it must create jobs. The more, the merrier.

Needless to say, conflicts abound between your priorities and theirs.
 

"However, those drivers of change will likely interact in complex and often unpredictable ways to produce varied outcomes at different times."

The outcomes are not as unpredictable or complex as you suggest. Both lists boil down to two primary drivers: community-interest vs. self-interest. The difference in potential outcomes couldn't be more stark.

• Self-interest continues to make our power system less safe and secure. A plethora of controlling interests put our entire system at risk of disruption.
• Paradoxically, it promises the benefits of competition in a non-competitive environment.
• It continues social and economic stratification, making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
• By rewarding consumption, it trivializes long-term consequences, and is quickly pushing a solution to climate change out of reach.

On a ZOOM call yesterday I observed public comments to the California Public Utilities Commission regarding the structure of a proposed Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) - what sources should be generating our electricity. Every one of more than 40 parties who participated expounded on why CPUC should adopt policy to benefit their company or financial interest; not one advocated on behalf of California ratepayers or the enviornment.

That the advocates were predominantly solar and wind entrepreneurs is illustrative, if unsurprising.

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Jun 19, 2021

Hi Bob,

I am as an 70+ Old Expert belonging to the developing sector of the world , fully agree with your comments especially  sticking to the common interest not the investors profit. Also I wish if all electricity activities being state owned and managed wisely and effectively . That is because I realize energy services not less important than public health and public education. But , with deep sorrow to say that, the new liberals will be upset.  

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 20, 2021

"Also I wish if all electricity activities being state owned and managed wisely and effectively."

Agree, Dr. Amal. It amazes me those who believe in a universal, single-payer healthcare system would never think of adopting a single-provider energy system. They somehow feel they have the right to generate their own electricity, and force other customers to pay them retail rates for what they don't use. They shun any responsibility for the emissions created to generate their backup electricity after the sun goes down, or for the costs of maintaining the grid that transmits it.

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Jun 21, 2021

Hi Bob , Therefore Single provider assumes all RE resources are complementary not compulsory . In Egypt intention is made to reach as 40% RE by 2040.

 

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