I am currently at the Innovatve Smart Grid Technology 2012 conference.
Let me share some random notes from the plenary session on "Smart Grid Perspectives and Solutions":

Jochen Kreusel of ABB, talking on global energy matters, compares outlooks for the US, Europe and Asia. He makes sure to show us a map of Europe that contains Greenland. Makes the rest of Europe look rather small, but I think it might serve a different point.

Helmar Rendez of Vattenfall:
* Forget about storage capacities of E-Vehicles: if one million cars would actually exist in Germany, he claims they could only store 7 minutes of german electricity demand (during day-time).
* Berlin will never be able to power itself by all-local renewable generation.

Ronny Belmans (KU Leuven) asks if we actually need a new grid. Good question. For instance, the rail system could move to high-speed trains without a major upgrade. He expects that the current grid will remain in place until at least 2020 and can carry us towards the 20-20-20 targets of the EU. However, afterwards we need to start upgrading the basic grid technology - the current one will by then be as outdated as sailing ships were once, when coal-powered ships replaced them.

Question from the audience: affordability will probably prevail (especially considering the recession), is the renewable electricity-dominated scenario actually likely under that assumption?
J. Kreusel: we do not yet have wide consensus, true, but it is not only Europe that goes into this direction. We still have unexpected developments like shale gas, but also the sudden drop in PV costs.
H. Rendez: I like change - it means opportunities (and I want to make money for my company). We must think in scenarios and take risks. No risk, no fun - and I want to have fun.
L. Schmitt (of Astom): We look at it as a portfolio of solutions and we are not putting all our eggs in one basket.
R. Belmans: This will not be the final solution, true. Consider how the The German government rapidly changed course recently (Fukushima). But the request for a more flexible way of using demand and supply is not new. We have not changed our approach to grids since 60 years and the IEA (Intl. Energy Agency) has been consistently advocating a more efficient usage for 15 years now.

15 Oct 2012 - 7:35
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