Access to reliable and affordable electricity for everyoneOver the last century, more people have come to enjoy reliable and affordable electricity. That is unless you’re among the roughly 850 million people left behind, as reported by the International Energy Agency. And it’s not only people – it’s schools, hospitals, businesses, cities and industries that cannot flourish without access to electricity.
In fact, daily life can be an immense struggle. Imagine dealing with extreme environments where heating or cooling aren’t accessible. Imagine not being able to cook a warm meal or operate modern hospital equipment that can save lives. Imagine not having access to the internet and the countless possibilities it offers. The list goes on and on.
We believe access to electricity is a basic human need. It is the backbone of economic and societal development. The demand for electricity continues to rise and the world needs a sustainable, affordable and reliable energy supply. This is why we support, and are driving, a steady energy transition towards more sustainable, greener energy systems.
Global companies have an important part to play, but policy makers must take the leading role and set the right framework to foster innovation and investments for a sustainable energy future. True sustainability balances three things together – economics, environment and society.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) the share of renewable energy in global electricity generation has grown to 26 percent in 2018. But the fact is that the reality of today's energy system still depends on fossil fuels. Coal, gas and oil, as well as nuclear, are still required to meet global power generation needs.
Much needed progress is being made, but the necessary transformation of the existing infrastructure takes time. The pathway to addressing the energy transition will be different for every country and its individual energy system depending on their circumstances, resources and needs.
There is no quick fix
Climate change is real. We realize that deep decarbonization must be achieved to tackle this challenge. The collective response has been a call for the expansion and integration of renewables, and this certainly is key. Still, they are not a complete answer to meeting global energy demand.
While the share of renewables is growing and they are an important part of the future energy mix, they are also intermittent in nature and cannot always provide uninterrupted power supply. For the foreseeable future, we see fossil fuels and renewables working side by side.
If we abandon existing systems before sufficient replacements are up and running, people will not have access to reliable and affordable electricity. This a complex challenge which cannot be achieved through individual actions.
Siemens is fully committed to doing its part to driving decarbonization across all sectors.
The steady transition to a carbon neutral futureWe need to focus our attention and collective efforts on all the ways we can reach our decarbonization goal while balancing the need for energy security and affordability for consumers. All of us – industry, politicians and individuals - need to take collective action to speed up this transition.
In the short term the most efficient and modern technology can be installed into the energy infrastructure that builds on existing assets, both enhancing their value and lowering their emissions while they’re in use. While some solutions require longer programs over three to five years, which will take additional investment and resources, there are others we can implement today. Small, out-of-the-box, transportable gas turbines can replace less-efficient diesel generators that are usually deployed on difficult terrain. There are even floating installations for coast-line cities. Gas and steam turbines can be upgraded, optimized in operation, or exchanged, retaining and upgrading much of the existing infrastructure.
Hybrid solutions are the next step in this evolution. These solutions integrate different technologies, such as gas power combined with batteries or solar, within a single plant. This delivers multiple benefits, offering reliable, flexible solutions optimized to eliminate waste of any power that can be kept in the system.
The oil and gas industry is not – and should not be – excluded from this decarbonization effort. We have access to innovative technologies to implement new systems and upgrade the industry’s significant installed base. We should use them. With technologies for increasing electrification, automation, and digitalization, we can significantly decarbonize oil and gas.
New technology is a powerful ally: we need to use it to help decarbonize the existing energy infrastructure.
Ultimately, the goal is to apply green, CO2-neutral energy throughout the entire energy system, deploying it by the most efficient and integrated means possible. As we’re targeting an increase in the share of renewable power, the aim is to apply it throughout all energy sectors – power, heating, mobility, buildings and others.
The convergence of sectors is bringing new ways address the challenge of climate change while ensuring affordable and reliable electricity. The rise of Distributed Energy Systems (DES) is driving the decentralization of the energy grid and enabling the faster integration of renewables. They are specially designed to generate, store and distribute green energy. Smart infrastructures are connecting all parts of the ecosystem; proactive consumers can flexibly provide load or even storage capacities. Intelligent power storage, such as batteries for home and industrial sites, as well eMobility charging infrastructure are good examples. But it also works with Power-to-Heat; hot water is a medium that stores energy very well. By integrating energy sectors this way, the fluctuations of wind power and photovoltaics are compensated by using their own electricity surpluses.
The second great element for all energy sectors to decarbonize is hydrogen, or synthetic fuels. Converting the electric surpluses through electrolysis, hydrogen and synthetic fuels can be used to store energy on a large scale and to apply green energy widely in mobility, heating and agriculture. Re-using this energy to generate power in gas turbines also makes smart use of the existing infrastructure.
The technology of electrolyzers has not yet been fully realized. We’ll need to see progress in this technology similar to what we’ve seen in the solar industry, but it’s strongly picking up with research and development in hydrogen applications. With our newest research project in Leuna, Germany, we are aiming for a 100 MW electrolysis plant, lifting it to a new, industrial scale.
Changing energy systems is no simple matter. It is a complex and long-term process—one that will require major and concerted efforts by governments, businesses, and members of civil society.