A few recent articles has got me thinking about energy projects. Transformational change is coming to a sector where we previously thought prices could only increase.
There are opportunities for projects and the project management of these projects. Companies need to see the opportunities that this transformational disruption will bring.
Cheap Data, Cheap Energy
The first article to catch my attention reminds us of the big changes in phone technology over the past 10 years.
It suggests that we are at a tipping point, where renewable energy projects will be cheap to install and maintain. This will provide plentiful – even surplus – energy.
The article refers in passing to the high cost of nuclear power at Hinkley point.
Think of the projects that this will create. In wind, solar, batteries, electric cars, electrolysis, and carbon capture /storage.
Nuclear energy provides a fallback for when the sun isn’t shining or the wind is not blowing. This is called ‘Intermittency’ of these renewable energy systems. As costs fall, one solution is to add more and more renewable capacity. It will be windy and sunny somewhere in the world. Previously, excess capacity was seen as a bad thing. However, with excess energy, the article suggests the following are possible:
- Electrolysing water to produce hydrogen for vehicles.
- Powering machines to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
- Making carbon-neutral aviation fuel from that hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
- Constructing and operating desalination plants to irrigate deserts.
- Manufacturing more renewable energy devices.
The suggestion is is that this will become a virtuous circle.
Somehow we need to capture the energy provided by sunny and windy days for future use. The second article addresses this issue of energy storage.
It tells of a project that is storing energy in the form of liquid air. The 50MW power plant being constructed by Highview power will be Europe’s largest energy storage facility. The technology is said to be readily available, and scalable. It can provide energy storage for weeks of future power supply.
Compared to the 10 year timescale for a nuclear project, it plans commercial operation in 2023.
Having discovered this project, I plan to follow its progress in meeting Time, Cost, and Functionality targets closely.
Implications of Cheap Energy
The third article that I read talks about the issues of millions of smaller sources of energy production. Energy will be automatically traded over the internet.
Demand management will allow devices to turn off, or return energy to the grid. This will happen automatically depending on supply and demand. Already there are projects where electric cars charge in the day, and supply energy back to the grid at peak times.
There are plenty of projects and lots of project management that will come from this disruption of the energy industry,