SweGRID annual conference: held digitally and emphasized continued digitalization
For this year’s annual SweGrids Conference, representatives from academia, business, and the public sector gathered online on November 12th.
The digital meeting was streamed from a studio and chaired by a moderator. The event considered current research and looked ahead to future initiatives. The international advisory group participated, with members from the US, India, Spain, and Norway attending. External guests included Bo Normark from InnoEnergy, who delivered a presentation on the role of batteries in the electricity grid.
SweGRIDS, the Swedish Centre for Smart Grids and Energy Storage, is a national competence centre for research and development in the fields of electricity, grids, and storage. SweGRIDS was established 2011 and is financed equally by the Swedish Energy Agency, KTH, and Uppsala University, as well as by nine industry partners, including Hitachi ABB Power Grids, Svenska kraftnät, and Höganäs ( see all partners ).
Emphasis on continued digitalization
The conference was opened by Lina Bertling Tjernberg, scientific co-ordinator of SweGRIDS, who also moderated the afternoon discussions.
This was followed by an introduction by SweGRID’s chairman Alireza Nami, who emphasized, among other things, the importance of more sustainable solutions for managing energy supply in a growing world. With an ever-increasing proportion of renewable energy sources in the overall energy mix, investment is needed in continued digitalization at a systems level, he said.
Rajeev Thottappillil, director of SweGRIDS, revealed more about the background of the competence centre and how it has carried out around 50 R&D projects since the centre was established. Approximately 30 projects are currently ongoing, the majority of which are doctorates and postdoctoral work. The SweGRID steering group decides which projects are implemented.
Research proposals are presented to the steering group according to an established model and projects require support from one or more industrial partners as well as participation in reference groups. Today, about a hundred researchers are associated with projects within SweGRIDS. SweGRIDS focuses on five strategic areas: smart power grid systems, digital tools for smart grids, controllable and intelligent power components, electrical energy storage, and material development for components for smart grids.
The morning rounded off with a presentation of about 30 ongoing projects in all five of the strategic areas. The presentations were pre-recorded and introduced by the moderator. You can watch all the presentations here (SweGRIDS).
Strong growth of the battery sector in the EU
Bo Normark, thematic director and battery expert at Industrial Strategy EIT InnoEnergy provided a presentation packed with insights about current trends in battery plant development in Europe and the rest of the world.
He provided details of the European Battery Alliance, which was launched within the framework of InnoEnergy in 2017, and led to the EU’s Strategic Action Plan on Batteries, which was adopted in May 2018.
In 2017, the Alliance predicted that 2020 would be the year electric cars would make a broad-based impact. It also emphasized the need for major investment in large-scale battery production in Europe. The Alliance also said that the absence of such capacity represented a threat to EU carmakers.
After rapid expansion, new collaborations and acquisition of knowledge, there are now about 20 battery factories under development in Europe. New mines are also planned for the extraction of materials such as lithium, manganese and graphite with the aim, inter alia, of becoming self-sufficient in lithium.
Battery parks as part of the grid
Normark stressed that it is not only electrification of the transport sector that drives progress but also planning to incorporate battery parks into the electricity grid. This can reduce the need for new electricity networks that counteract inertia in the electricity system and facilitate greater use of renewable energy sources.
Since 2017, research in this area has been significantly strengthened within the EU, including projects such as the Battery 2030 research initiative, which is co-ordinated by Uppsala University.
Today, investment in battery development in Europe is two to three times greater than in China, and it is estimated that as early as 2025, 80 per cent of all lithium in the world will originate from the EU, Normark said.
The afternoon session also included group discussions under the following four themes: Flexible and Digitalized Power Systems and Markets, System Operation and Reliability, Materials for Smart Grids and Storage, and Components and Controllability.
This highlighted critical research challenges each group identified and the sorts of collaboration needed to overcome them, as well as which new research projects should be initiated in the coming five years.
These challenges included the limited availability of rare earth metals, the need for improved cyber security, predictive maintenance safety solutions for networks, a review of the energy sector’s regulatory framework, and a look at how to improve the definition of renewable energy.
The groups agreed on the need for stronger international collaboration, especially within the EU, as well as closer collaboration between industry and academia, which could lead to more researchers finding roles in the industry.
Improved used of sensor data
Members of SweGRID’s international advisory group also contributed by addressing, among other things, the need for new business models to create greater market flexibility, and how the sector can benefit from better use of sensor data for analysis using machine learning and AI.
The SweGRID conference wrapped up with an orientation from some of the centre’s industrial partners and their current activities.
Emphasis was placed on, among other things, investment trends exemplified in initiatives such as Coordinet, digital trading venues for electricity capacity such as Switch, how the pace of digitalization is accelerating, and how this can better manage the need for greater flexibility in the introduction of more renewable energy sources.