Rapid development and urbanization around the world has impacted our needs of living, and electricity has become an essential part of this urbanized infrastructure.
In fact, the global demand for electricity has been increasing so significantly over the last decade that it is expected to double by 2030. However, with resources becoming increasingly challenged in terms of availability and transportation, especially in remote areas where resources are sparse, the energy supply chain is getting stretched and becoming more expensive. This is further accentuated by geo-political challenges.
Therefore, it is clear that the energy market has turned into a problem of supply-and-demand. There are several ways to address this, using such methodologies as energy efficiency, lifestyle adjustments, and use of distributed and renewable energies. This article addresses energy savings through efficiency improvement trends and distributed energy concepts, also known as smart grids, to alleviate this problem. These are ways to address energy savings while still meeting our needs.
Block diagram of a smart grid system illustrates the co-existence of remote and distributed (local) generation, energy management, and flexible consumption. Such an ecosystem is called the smart grid, which is the future of modern energy generation and transmission systems.
(Source: Texas Instruments)
Energy savings is the reduction of the cost incurred by the consumer while meeting the same energy needs. This reduction could be electricity cost for a home, commercial real estate, or an industrial site. It could also be the fuel cost to drive transportation. As the energy sector grows more fragile due to supply chain challenges and geo-political issues, energy prices get more volatile. Furthermore, different governments offer their own forms of subsidies for different terms.
Collision of this global demand with supply issues has resulted in consumers -- household, commercial, and industrial -- looking at smart devices and green energy to reduce cost. This makes consumers less susceptible to price volatility and ensures the bottom line result -- energy savings.
Going green is a catchy phrase and an attractive way to sell products from a marketing standpoint. As it happens, there are also significant savings involved. Here's why: The new landscape of energy utilization involves a government mandate for reducing carbon emission. Such mandates are incentivized to the consumer through financial benefits such as tax credits, or subsidies (if one were to use renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and so on). This, in turn, results in energy savings, although one might argue that there is an upfront capital investment for such sources.
It is important to point out that significant impact in energy savings from green energy is reflected over a period of time, for example, around five to 15 years for a domestic solar installation. This time period, commonly called the payback time, after which the consumer is energy independent, is declining significantly. It is expected to continue to fall over time due to decreasing manufacturing. Moreover, financial engineering in this market coupled with these government incentives has become quite sophisticated -- enough to give consumers numerous options.
Finally, green energy is the source of a distributed energy generation ecosystem, which is also referred to as smart grid. The smart grid is the future of energy generation and transmission, coupled with intelligence built into it.
Green energy markets create opportunities for increased energy efficiency throughout the value chain. The upstream portion is the set of solar panels or a wind turbine. The downstream portion of the value chain is the power regulation to supply the energy back to the grid, a load that could be a home or a battery for storage purposes.
Power regulation is done nowadays by switched-mode power supplies. They are fundamental to improving efficiency, as opposed to the linear power regulation systems that still exist in older generations of systems, which are bulky and bleeding with low efficiency. Switched-mode power supplies are based on semiconductor switches with power electronics to control them.