The energy transition presents great challenges to our electricity networks. In future, smart grids need to coordinate the generation, distribution and storage of decentrally generated electricity from renewable sources. Because of this, all signs point toward transformation for the entire energy infrastructure. electronica 2022 will show the vital role electronics technology has to play in this transformation from November 15 to 18, 2022 on the Munich trade fair grounds.
On the path to an alternative energy system, the “smart energy” concept makes a significant contribution. The term refers to intelligent technologies and solutions aimed at achieving the efficient production, distribution, use and storage of energy, covering the entire value chain of the energy industry. According to a current study by the IMARC Group, the global market for smart energy is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.82 percent from USD 138.8 billion in 2021 to USD 247.8 billion by 2027. The analysts identified the growing demand for intelligent electricity grids—“smart grids”—as a main driver of this growth.
While the electricity network currently distributes electricity generated centrally by large-scale power plants to consumers, smart grids also bring together all the data streams for the energy supply. This makes it possible, for example, to balance the huge fluctuations in savings from solar and wind power plants in the existing electricity networks efficiently and control them in a targeted way. The quantities of energy produced and consumed need to be continuously measured and analyzed by IoT-capable sensors and devices.
On the consumer side, this is addressed with smart meters. They also control the supply of solar energy if the consumers also become producers (prosumers) with a solar system on their roof. The installation of the necessary intelligent measurement systems (iMSys) is only mandatory for an annual electricity consumption of over 6,000 kWh—or if the consumers themselves feed electricity into the network. In that case, a smart meter gateway (SMGW) with an integrated security module receives the measurement data and processes it for external market players, internal, controllable energy consumers and energy producers (intelligent household appliances, photovoltaic systems). By 2032 all electricity consumers in Germany will need to have at least a digital meter without a gateway.
Measuring, regulating, transforming and communicating—when it comes to the energy transition, power electronics are of particular importance. For example, while photovoltaic systems or batteries supply direct current, wind power plants supply alternating current at a frequency that cannot be used directly. Meanwhile electrical consumers have their own individual needs when it comes to electricity and voltage. Power electronics act as a connector, a potential efficiency of up to 99 percent. The energy saving potential is immense, as, statistically speaking, even today electricity passes through at least one power converter on its way from producers to consumers. According to a study by the European Center for Power Electronics (ECPE), more than a quarter of electrical energy could be saved through the use of modern power electronics.
And in some areas, silicon is no longer the first choice. Semiconductors with a wide bandgap, such as the increasingly used silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN), benefit from a higher switching capacity with the same low losses. However, according to analysts from Yole Développement, the technology is still in the early stages of development. They expect a revenue of USD 6.3 billion for SiC components in 2027. Meanwhile silicon components continue to surprise with significant increases in performance and will continue to be a source of revenue for the industry in the decades to come. In general, heat management, robustness, reliability and ultimately packaging are still pivotal topics in the field of semiconductors.
Semiconductors are also the building blocks of embedded systems in a digital, networked and automated energy world. For example, they supply data on the status of the network, the temperature, the flow of electricity and the angle of the cables. The data is processed in the cloud or directly on site (edge) with AI algorithms. Embedded systems also convert traditional building automation into a form of prediction-based management, with significant potential for energy savings. And in future buildings using intelligent consumer meters (iMSys) —connected to a smart grid—will not only be able to optimize their own consumption, but also to take on the role of electricity producers themselves by feeding surplus energy into the network.
Whether it’s at the trade fair stands, in the forums and conferences—visitors will encounter smart energy everywhere at electronica 2022, as electronics also has a key role to play in the energy transition. This will be the focus of the Power Electronics Forum which will cover the whole spectrum of power electronics, while experts will discuss the current trends and developments from this area at the electronica Embedded Platforms Conference. The exhibition area for the topic of electricity supply in Hall A4 will comprise the complete portfolio of transformers, electricity supplies, supply units and batteries. In the other exhibition halls, too, many exhibitors will be presenting their products and solutions relating to smart energy, such as semiconductors in Halls B4, C2, C3, C4 or embedded systems in Hall B4.