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Koch: ‘‘Meeting the growing demand for electricity while minimizing environmental impact” Stampa E-mail
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by Davide Canevari





What are the major global demand trends in the power sector?
**The thirst for energy continues and the demand for electricity as a preferred energy source is growing at an even faster pace. There are still more than 1.3 billion people in the world without access to electricity and fast growing emerging markets like China and India whose per capita consumption is well below world average, are adding large amounts of power generation capacity and transmission and distribution infrastructure to meet growing needs.
As per IEA estimates, electricity consumption is set to double in the next 20 years mainly driven by economic and social development in emerging countries. When it comes to transmission and distribution (T&D), these areas have been underinvested over the years but cannot be neglected any longer.
T&D infrastructure to help evacuate new generation capacity in growing economies, strengthening and upgrade of aging grids in mature markets, integration of renewables and the emergence of more flexible, interconnected and smarter grids are some of the key market drivers shaping the power sector.


What role will renewables play in the evolving scenario and how does their increasing contribution impact the grid?
** Energy demands continue to rise but at the same time climate change concerns are also increasing. The big challenge is to meet these growing needs while minimizing environmental impact. Renewables (led by hydro, wind and solar) and energy efficiency are together expected to account for more than two thirds of the reduction in CO2 emissions required to keep us within the sustainable temperature tolerance zone. Recent concerns over nuclear energy have further accelerated the renewable push in many parts of the world.
The increasing contribution of renewable energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and minimize environmental impact is a clearly recognized opportunity. The generation focus of course is on efficiency, financial viability and technology developments to bring renewable energies closer to traditional fuel sources in terms of production costs and tariff parity, as governments struggle to continue subsidizing the sector.


But there are also some challenges when it comes to their integration, transmission and distribution…
**Of course. To start with, renewables are intermittent by nature and usually found or produced where best available for instance in remote locations, at great distances from consumption centers. Large hydro in the mountains, remote offshore wind farms hundreds of miles out at sea or large scale solar sources in deserts are some obvious examples. So, integration of renewables often requires transmission over long distances, or across challenging terrain, in a safe and reliable way, with minimum losses.
Renewables are also accelerating the trend towards more distributed energy sources closer to their fuel source as opposed to the traditional large power plant supply points often located far from their fuel sources requiring transportation of fuels like coal and gas. With many types of renewables such as solar PV (photovoltaic ), almost anyone can have their own little power plant by installing solar cells on the rooftop and feeding it into the grid. This means we now have millions of geographically distributed generation sources compared to the hundreds we were used to.
And then there is the control challenge driven by the need to manage these intermittent inputs while maintaining the stability of the grid and ensuring steady, reliable and quality power flow to consumers.
If these are the major supply challenges, the demand side is not far behind. Increasing need for energy effi- ciency is driving demand management efforts by industrial, commercial and household consumers. There are also new types of loads with new demands – for example data centers requiring vast amounts of high quality power or electric vehicles – another evolving trend that will test the grid.

             
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I consumi attesi di energia elettrica a livello mondiale dovrebbero raddoppiare nei prossimi 20 anni, trainati soprattutto dallo sviluppo economico e sociale dei paesi emergenti. Questa straordinaria sfida vedrà tra i protagonisti anche i grandi player mondiali del settore energy.
Nuova Energia ha incontrato Brice Koch - responsabile a livello globale della divisione Power Systems di ABB - per cogliere il punto di vista di una delle più autorevoli realtà industriali del comparto.

“In questi ultimi anni gli investimenti dedicati alla trasmissione e alla distribuzione - sottolinea brice Koch nel suo intervento - sono stati al di sotto delle reali esigenze; ora queste due aree non possono più essere trascurate. dallo sviluppo (nei paesi a rapido tasso di crescita) o ammodernamento (nei mercati maturi) delle infrastrutture di trasmissione dipende il futuro del settore power, in particolare per quanto riguarda l’integrazione di quote sempre più elevate di generazione da fonti rinnovabili”.
“Da un punto di vista tecnologico si apre dunque uno scenario molto interessante, visto che le reti attuali, così come sono state realizzate e configurate, non sono pronte per affrontare il cambiamento in atto. Quello di cui abbiamo assolutamente bisogno è una nuova rete che sia stronger, smarter e greener”.

Questa la domanda “ineludibile” posta dal mercato. e la risposta (tecnologica) di Abb? “Con i nostri prodotti, sistemi e servizi, copriamo le esigenze dell’intera filiera del settore power. Oltre alle offerte tipicamente dedicate al comparto elettrico, mettiamo a disposizione dei nostri clienti anche tecnologie di controllo e automazione quali, ad esempio, la piattaforma DCS Symphony Plus. Poi ci sono le soluzioni dedicate alla trasmissione sicura, affidabile ed efficiente dell’energia elettrica, in corrente continua o alternata. con un’attenzione particolare per le due famiglie di soluzioni HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) e FACTS (Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems)”.
“Nello specifico dell’HVDC - prosegue Brice Koch - sono i numeri dell’installato a confermare la nostra leadership di mercato. oltre la metà dei 145 progetti HVDC già operativi o in fase di implementazione in giro per il mondo ci vedono direttamente coinvolti. Nel 1997 ABB ha anche introdotto l’innovativa tecnologia HVDC Light® ideale per interconnettere alla terraferma isole, piattaforme per l’estrazione di oil&gas, fattorie eoliche offshore e così via”.

Grande interesse riveste anche lo sviluppo del settore solare con le tre tecnologie del fotovoltaico classico, del solare termico a concentrazione e del fotovoltaico a concentrazione. E le altre rinnovabili emergenti? “l’eolico offshore offre le più promettenti opportunità di sviluppo per la generazione su larga scala. coinvolgendo, ancora una volta, la già citata tecnologia HVDC Light. Non basta infatti produrre energia; occorre trasportarla in maniera efficiente e sicura fino alla terraferma, riducendo al minimo le perdite. ricordo che la connessione con il sito di BorWin 1, attualmente il più distante dalla costa a livello mondiale, è stata resa operativa proprio da ABB. Ed ora stiamo lavorando su DolWin1 e DolWin2, sempre al largo delle coste tedesche”.
E nello specifico del nostro Paese? “L’italia può contare su un sistema di generazione moderno ed efficiente, grazie ai recenti investimenti nei cicli combinati e alla crescente penetrazione delle rinnovabili. Anche in Italia devono ancora essere adeguatamente sviluppate le infrastrutture di trasmissione - con un’attenzione particolare alle smart grid - per favorire l’ulteriore sviluppo atteso di eolico e fotovoltaico. Per lo stesso motivo vedo importanti spazi di crescita per i sistemi di storage, in particolare per la tecnologia dei pompaggi, la più efficiente e matura oggi sul mercato”.

“ABB può anche vantare in Italia una presenza storica e una significativa footprint manifatturiera: ancora oggi sono oltre 5.700 gli addetti che lavorano in vari siti produttivi e direzionali, concentrati nelle regioni del Nord e del Centro. l’Italia riveste inoltre un importante ruolo di hub per l’area Mediterranea, intesa anche come Francia, Spagna, Portogallo, Grecia e Turchia”.
Significativo e da sottolineare è poi l’apporto fornito ad alcune importanti realizzazioni energetiche nel nostro paese, in anni recenti. “Ad esempio – conclude Brice Koch - il collegamento HVDC tra la Penisola italiana e la Sardegna (SA.PE.I.), in grado di fornire energia sufficiente per coprire la domanda di una città con due milioni di abitanti. oppure il settore solare. Nel giro di soli nove mesi abbiamo completato 14 impianti per una capacità complessiva di generazione pari a 100 MW”.
L’italia, dunque, si conferma a tutti gli effetti come un key market di primaria importanza per ABB.

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What does all this mean in technology and practical terms?
**These developments have multiple implications on the grid both from a demand and supply perspective and today’s grid is not ready to face many of these challenges. It needs to become more flexible and intelligent to handle the new complexities.
In a nutshell, what we need is a stronger, smarter and greener grid. In practical terms this means more efficient power generation regardless of fuel source, reliable and efficient transmission systems deploying the latest technologies which help to minimize losses and enhance power security, grid stability and reliability. Substations and transformers will need to be enabled for remote monitoring and control. It will also require breakers and switches to be motorized and communication devices, sensors and control systems put in place.
Charging stations have to be accommodated for electric vehicles and homes will need to be made accessible for demand control by the utilities. At the same time, tariff systems will need to be attractive enough to motivate energy saving. Political will and regulatory mechanisms will play a key role in facilitating the evolving grid in areas like supporting renewables, cross border interconnections, etcetera. Social considerations must also be taken into account when building infrastructure or devising policies and regulations.


What are the key enabling technologies that ABB offers to address these new challenges?
**ABB has a range of products, systems and services across the power value chain. In addition to our electrical solutions there are control and automation technologies, like our Symphony Plus DCS platform that enable power plant automation, optimization and efficiency. Then we have key integration and transmission technologies that facilitate the safe, reliable and ef- ficient transportation of power using AC (alternating current) or DC (direct current). This includes HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) and the FACTS (Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems) family of solutions.
From transmission or the supply and connect part, let us take a quick look at the distribute and control piece. There will be millions of new data points from sensors and meters and operators will face a virtual tsunami of data. However, if this information is analyzed in a clever way, it can support much better and faster decision making, enhancing grid reliability and also allowing for faster fault restoration, for instance.
There is a greater degree of control and automation required to manage the many new supply and demand complexities. We need powerful data management systems to handle the multitude of inputs and outputs and provide real time control. This calls for OT (operational technologies) like Distribution Automation and SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems and IT (information technologies) to manage the data.
With the acquisition of Ventyx, Mincom, Tropos and other recent investments, we are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between operational (OT) and information (IT) technologies and support our customers in handling the opportunities and challenges of the evolving grid.


Could you tell us more about HVDC and ABB’s track record in this field?
**ABB pioneered HVDC nearly 60 years ago and has continually invested in technology and innovation, increasing voltage levels, distances and power capacity while reducing losses. Our track record as a market leader speaks for itself with an installed base that accounts for more than half of the 145 HVDC transmission projects in operation or under construction around the world. HVDC is one of the key enabling technologies for many emerging trends. HVDC applications include high voltage power highways that bring hydro power from mountains to urban centers across thousands of kilometers; links that connect countries and others that help integrate offshore wind power through sub-sea cables. HVDC would also be the enabler for future developments such as transporting solar power on a large scale from the deserts of Africa across thousands of kilometers to mainland Europe, a more interconnected European network or for that matter the evolution of integrated grid solutions.
ABB introduced its innovative HVDC Light® technology in 1997. This technology enables the efficient and reliable transmission of power underground and under water, bringing several environmental benefits. It is ideal for applications such as providing power supplies from shore to islands and offshore oil&gas platforms, interconnecting countries across the sea, integrating offshore wind farms to mainland grids and enabling city center in-feeds. ABB is uniquely positioned as the only player with in-house design and manufacturing capability for high power semiconductors, high voltage cables and converters – the key components for HVDC systems. We have been investing significantly in these areas for capacity expansion and R&D (for example at our semiconductor plant in Switzerland (over 150 million US dollars) cable factory expansion in Sweden (400 million dollars) where we focus on subsea cables and a new cable factory we are building in the US (90 million dollars) focusing on land cables.


How is ABB positioned in the solar business?
**In addition to our wide offering and turnkey fast-track project capability for photovoltaic (PV) plants, we have recently strengthened our presence in the solar sector with investments in Novatec Solar, a leading provider of Linear Fresnel Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Green- Volts, a pioneer in turnkey Concentrating Photovoltaic (CPV) technologies. We also recently acquired PowerCorp that has technologies to manage renewable energy generation in isolated grids, ensuring utility grade power quality and grid stability. This enables very high levels of wind and solar power penetration into isolated diesel powered grids, thus reducing emissions and dependency on fossil fuel.


What can you tell us about offshore wind as an emerging renewable energy sector?
**Offshore wind offers the most promising opportunity for large scale wind generation. Of course the wind farms are located well out at sea to maximize wind in-feed. The first challenge is to efficiently and reliably transmit this power to shore. HVDC Light is the optimum technology to cover the distance and carry power underwater, reliably with minimal losses. ABB leads the way and has proven experience with 19 HVDC Light installations completed or under construction around the world since introducing the technology in the 1990’s.
The BorWin 1, project, connecting the most remote offshore wind farm in the world, was put into operation by ABB in 2010 and we are presently executing the DolWin1 and DolWin2 projects also off the German coast. As a frontrunner in this evolving area, we already see many learning curve benefits and have also introduced several innovations including a more efficient design for the offshore platform that hosts the converter station.


What do you see as the next step in the evolution of the grid?
**Deployment of transmission links like HVDC has led to an increasing number of point to point connections. The logical next step is to connect the lines and optimize the network. This will enable balancing of loads, efficient integration of intermittent renewables, lowering of transmission losses and energy trading across regions and even countries.
ABB's portfolio of technologies already enables the construction of multi-terminal systems that can be further developed into HVDC grids. Other key components required are under development and progressing well, which means that the planning for such grids can start and technology will not be a stumbling block. In addition to closing the technology gaps, we also need political and social consensus, standards, funding models and a regulatory framework to be put in place.


Could you comment on the power scenario in Italy?
**Thanks to last year’s investments (23,000 MW of gas combined cycle plants) and the rapid penetration of renewables, helped by feed-in-tariffs (14,000 MW for PV and 7,000 MW for wind), Italy today has a modern and ef- ficient energy infrastructure. The country continues to be relatively dependent on fossil fuel resources and renounced the use of nuclear power in 2011 but has seen a rapid increase in gas and renewable energies in the last 10-15 years.
About 50 per cent of Italy’s energy mix is accounted for by gas, 15 per cent by coal and more than 20 per cent from renewable sources. Italy is one of the leading European countries when it comes to renewables with an 89 per cent growth rate between 2006-11. 43 per cent of Italy’s renewables come from hydro, 31 per cent from solar and 17 per cent from wind. There is a need to develop the transmission infrastructure to accommodate growing renewable energies with a focus on reliable and smarter grids. The improvement of electricity storage systems will also be important and among available technologies, pumped hydro is the most efficient and mature. It is reasonable to assume that Italy’s future energy mix will not face substantial changes, with a continued heavy dependence on fossil fuels, and natural gas in particular. There is however a belief that the contribution of renewables will continue rise in the coming years.


What can you tell us about ABB’s presence and recent success in Italy?
**ABB has more than 5,700 people across several operational units concentrated in Northern and Central Italy. Italy serves as a hub for the Mediterranean region which includes France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey. ABB has a historical presence and a significant local manufacturing footprint in the country. Italy is home to the production of a range of low voltage products like molded case (MCBs) and air circuit breakers (ACBs), residual current devices (RCDs), pressure sensors and transmitters, motors and gengenerators and a range of medium voltage air insulated switchgear and breakers.
Our Italian operations also steer the development of power plant automation products and are a center of excellence for automation solutions and turnkey oil and gas plants. Some of the major power products manufactured here, include small power transformers in Monselice, transformer components (Comem) and our medium voltage products at Dalmine, where we have also recently set up a state-of-the-art smart grid products and network Simulation Lab.
ABB has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the port city of Genoa, to jointly work on developing smart grid infrastructure as part of its aspirations to evolve as a smart city – a concept that envisages an interconnected infrastructure to make utilities more efficient and innovative in producing, conserving, delivering and managing essential elements like water, gas, and electricity. Smart Cities aim to address challenges associated with rapid urbanization, growing city populations and increasing environmental concerns.


Can you tell us about ABB’s recent track record in Italy?
**ABB has a strong performance track record in Italy and has built up a significant installed base. Some of the key projects we have worked on recently include the SA.PE.I. HVDC power link connecting the electrical network on the island of Sardinia to the Italian Peninsula. The system delivers enough power with the capability to serve a town of two million people and represents an important step towards cross border interconnections. It is also worth highlighting Italy’s geographic advantage as a natural crossroad for future links as the grid in Europe becomes more interconnected and also as a gateway for connections beyond the continent.
Another recent success story for us has been the solar sector and in a space of just nine months, we delivered 14 photovoltaic power plants in Italy with a combined generating capacity of more than 100 MW. We remain committed to our strong customer base here and to leverage Italy as a key market and as a manufacturing and resource hub.

 
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