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Enabled by high power electronics - Energy efficiency, renewables and smart grids

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1 Author(s)
P. K. Steimer ; ABB Ltd., Power Electronics and MV Drives, 5300 Turgi, Switzerland

The global demand for electrical energy is growing continuously, at double the growth rate of primary energy consumption. A clear transition to more electric energy systems is mandatory as energy efficiency from primary fuel to the enduser and the integration of renewables are the future key challenges. This transition to more electrical energy systems requires the transformation of today's electric power system to a smarter future grid. High power electronics is the key technology to build the next generation of the more electrical energy systems to support the major trends in energy efficiency, renewables integration and smart grid. High power electronics will continue to innovate itself due to the substantial improvement of conventional silicon devices and their packaging technologies reaching higher junction temperature and voltage levels. New wide band-gap material with substantial application benefit will enter niche markets. Multiple new multi-level topologies will change high power electronics fundamentally to support energy efficiency and the direct connection of standard power equipment. Energy efficiency is the most important topic: A real step change in regards of efficient use of primary energy is needed. Energy efficiency requires focus on efficient electrical power generation including mandatory use of waste heat, hybrid and pure electrical transportation and increased industrial process efficiency. We need to create an energy-efficient culture - from primary energy to end user -supported by global regulations. As energy as such will increase in value, efficient use will get attractive. The fast transition to more renewables energy sources is the other important topic. The energy of fifty hours of sunshine hitting the earth is equivalent to the energy stored in coal reserves globally. Therefore the future dominant role of the most important renewables, i.e. solar and wind, is actually unquestionable. The question mark lies on the speed of the transit- - ion. Especially solar power, as simple technology in the application, will develop much faster than expected. Its speed in the last years has always exceeded expectations. The same is valid for wind power since more than a decade. Again this important change needs to be supported by strong global regulations to achieve speed and competitiveness in the market place in this transition phase. And last but not least: To harvest all the investments done in our AC grids, the transition to a smarter grid is mandatory. Such a smart grid will be based on two key ingredients: Intelligence and High power electronics. Intelligence will allow a better utilization of existing assets and will increase the stability margin of the conventional AC grid. High power electronics will mainly add new DC grids and AC Var sources at the transmission and distribution level, serving as backbones and additional stability pillars to existing AC grids.

Published in:

Power Electronics Conference (IPEC), 2010 International

Date of Conference:

21-24 June 2010