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Energy in Transition


Concerns with future power grids

Our modern society has become highly dependent on a reliable power supply—mostly due to increased interactions with other infrastructures, such as IT services, transport, and water management. Grid investors, owners, and operators are unsure as to whether the system remains suitable for the reliable supply of the right amount of electrical energy, at the right moment, and in the right place. There is also the question of whether the grid is robust and flexible enough to quickly restore itself in the event of faults or disruptions, all at acceptable societal costs.

The power grid is rapidly changing from a relatively simple, albeit large, physical system into a complex, non-linear, digitally controlled system. These changes also involve risks, mainly in the area of stability and especially in terms of cyber security, in lieu of an increasing portion of the power supply which is accessible via the internet for control, monitoring, and maintenance.

To illustrate this aspect from a different viewpoint, I took an image from the computer game GTA, which used parts of the power infrastructure to help recreate a realistic picture. The infrastructure can be entered and even sabotaged, with all the expected repercussions for the virtual gaming world.

GTA 5: What is real and what virtual?

GTA 5: What is real and what virtual?

Together with an approach to prevent power cuts with improvements in technology, procedures, and operational instructions, a more knowledgeable power system operation staff helps to bring more attention to fast recovery, the creation of fallback/last resort resources, and the incorporation of greater flexibility. Better coordination and cooperation between all organizations and institutions—who are active in the power delivery system, risk assessments, evaluation of new technology, and determining the required extent to which the operation has to be automated—form key ingredients to stay in control of future power grids.

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