Text originally published on the Standards Council of Canada website.
In the information economy, electricity is essential. Days in the developed world start and end with electrical consumption, from our alarm clocks to climate control in our houses and all the devices that allow us to cross items off our to-do lists.
But as the global demand for energy grows, particularly in developing countries, the world will need solutions to ensure supply can keep up. This challenge is especially difficult in light of global climate change, as renewable sources are not only trying to meet new demand but also replace the fossil fuel-derived energy generation that has largely powered the world to date.
To solve these challenges and ensure the global economy can continue to grow, technical experts from around the world are working towards Global Energy Interconnection (GEI). Canadian specialists, with support from the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), are right in the thick of the development of GEI ensuring that Canada’s expertise, needs and capabilities help to drive this innovative technology forward.
As GEI becomes closer to reality, it is increasingly important that experts and professionals get to work on identifying and developing the standards that will underlie this revolutionary technology. To assess the worldwide needs, benefits, policies and preconditions for GEI, the International Electrotechnical Commission recently published a white paper on GEI. It is a highly detailed and analytical document that provides concrete recommendations on how standardization for such a large “system of systems” will require to become a reality.
A World Wide Web—for Energy
Sustainable energy sources—including hydroelectric, wind, geothermal and solar—are supplying a growing proportion of global energy demand as suppliers worldwide try to move away from carbon-intensive energy generation. Renewable energy has massive potential, but it also has some challenges, including the fact that sources are often distant from the major urban areas where the energy is needed and the inability to “scale up” production during peak times—if the sun is not out or the wind is not blowing, then electricity is not being produced at solar or wind energy facilities.
Because of this, it is becoming increasingly clear that connecting electrical grids is an efficient way to reliably and securely meet energy needs worldwide. GEI makes these connections: by interconnecting energy grids using technologies like ultra-high-voltage electricity transmission, suppliers are able to get their energy to markets quickly and safely.
The IEC White Paper prescribes a three-phase process for the development of GEI. Initially, regional grids would be joined, followed by integration across continents and, finally, transcontinental interconnection to bring distant energy systems together. Ultimately, GEI will make energy produced anywhere available everywhere.
For example, Canada’s North has huge untapped wind energy potential—but, even if generation facilities were built, there is no way of transmitting that energy to southern areas where it’s most in demand. GEI would enable delivery of this energy to markets anywhere, whether they are within Canada, North America or anywhere else in the world. Similar situations exist for potential solar energy generation in the central United States and Northern Africa, among other places, according to the IEC White Paper.
An international system like GEI, however, requires internationally recognized standards to ensure safety, security and compatibility. Standards also fuel a more competitive and innovative Canadian economy, help businesses thrive and compete, keep Canadians safe, and support clean growth and infrastructure. Canada—under SCC’s leadership—is playing a major role in developing these standards.
SCC’s International Leadership to Drive Innovation
Many different technologies will be required to fully enable GEI, including those related to clean energy generation and storage, transmission and smart-grid systems capable of measuring global energy flows. The IEC has 27 technical committees, advisory committees or subcommittees that focus on these necessary technologies, and Canada maintains a presence on 20 of them.
SCC’s role in enabling GEI lies in these committees. For example, Canada’s National Committee recently presented a new work item proposal (NWIP) to the IEC Technical Committee 57 (TC57) to develop a new international standard on human-machine interfaces (HMI) for energy-related equipment. An HMI presents the user with control and status of their power system network in a manner that allows the user to react appropriately and in a timely manner. Standardized HMI offers substantial cost-efficiencies throughout the specification, engineering, commissioning and operation of the substation. Canada’s HMI submission was approved in November 2016 and Canada will lead this standards development activity through to the publication of the international standard.
Canada brings this innovative work to all 20 committees on which it maintains a presence, helping to move standards forward and enable the technological progress underlying GEI. Doing so helps the world move towards a more sustainable, responsible energy future.
“The Standards Council of Canada has made it a priority to recognize Canadian-made innovations and promote them through proactive standardization solutions. Under SCC’s leadership, Canada is helping to shape international marketplace rules in order to give innovators an all-important first-to-market advantage in their field.”
– John Walter, Chief Executive Officer, SCC
“In the last ten years, Canadian TC57 members have worked hard to develop and promote the work being done at IEC on electrical substation automation systems. Our efforts have been recognized by the international community and our country is considered today as a strong contributor. The approval of the HMI NWIP is another example of the Canadian contribution to make IEC standards capable of fulfilling the need of tomorrow’s grid. We expect that the next ten years will be as challenging as the last decade and that Canada will continue to show leadership in that area.”
-Jean Goulet, Chercheur, Hydro Québec Institut de recherche
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