Grid flexibility accelerates net zero future

With a commitment to decarbonize and electrify Singapore’s maritime industry, innovation and R&D have been focused on building a resilient and green energy landscape. Grid flexibility factors into the equation and solution. It is the capability of the power system to ensure balance between generation and load during crises. Smarter and more flexible electric grids help to reduce energy losses. They are also critical in mainstreaming renewables, which are more variable than conventional energy sources.

At the Singapore International Energy Week October 23 to 27, Jan Stuerzl, VP Sales and Marketing, Service-Grid Integration at Hitachi Energy Asia, spoke about the changing face of grid flexibility in an increasingly complex energy system. The crux of the message was the power grid’s capabilities have a great impact on enabling a net zero future. He said that transformation can be difficult because the net zero challenge is a collective responsibility – bigger than one nation, one state and one individual. 

“Even though we see many countries and companies taking action, we need effective policies and programs to further our efforts and build an integrated renewable energy system,” said Stuerzl. He elaborated that electricity will be the backbone of the entire energy system, powering industries, transportation, and households. “Our future energy system needs secure, sustainable and scalable infrastructure that can support the supply and the demand with resilience.”

Certainly then, with cruciality and urgency comes pressure to measure up. “The changes… are daunting. We need policies, investments and technology to make it happen, but with combined efforts from all stakeholders, it is a possible transition,” said Stuerzl. 

The boost that companies currently lack may be capital investment. However, he feels the outlook has shifted. 

“While in the past there might have been some concerns about the financial viability of green or very innovative solutions, over the last few years we have seen investors shift focus to green projects.” 

Stuerzl observed that capital has been moved from conventional technologies, which are not in line with the sustainability efforts of countries, to green investments. “Green and digital investments are in my view perceived by the majority of stakeholders as viable and preferable,” he said. 

The focus is to decarbonize and electrify. This is essential as “the oceans are critical in maintaining environmental balance and diesel engines are a key polluter,” said Stuerzl, and it requires that very investment into infrastructure, regulations, and co-innovation by several stakeholders. 

“However, I see great potential here. Take for example the solutions surrounding shore-to-ship. Running diesel engines while in the harbor is not only creating noises to the surroundings and polluting the waters and air, it also contributes to the general CO2 emissions,” he added. 

However, an investment into shore-to-ship infrastructure “to supply the vessels with clean(er) power from the grid can remove all the negative impacts on the environment.” It also reduces costs for the ship owner and “opens new revenue streams for the harbors or those investing into the infrastructure in reselling the power.”

Having said that, the whole is always more than the sum of its parts, especially given the interconnectivity of maritime industries. Global affairs will always play a pivotal role in the transition and transformation of the maritime landscape. 

“No country escapes the impact of turmoil in another. Just as the world was recovering from the pandemic, and global supply chain constraints, we had the war in Ukraine and subsequent geopolitical decisions impacted every nation,” said Stuerzl. 

He added that “in some cases, this adversely impacted the momentum of energy transition initiatives in others.” It was especially so in light of energy security which gave impetus to harnessing renewables at greater speed and scale. He praised Singapore, saying that even though it has been challenging times, the nation “has done fairly well considering all these impacts.” 

“It still continues to be a center of commerce and also a leader in the transition.”

Photo credit: Hitachi Energy. Jan Stuerzl, VP Sales and Marketing, Service-Grid Integration at Hitachi Energy.

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