A Simplified Look at a Complex Issue

Author: Marco C. Janssen, UTInnovation, Netherlands

When recently the oil price came down the discussion about the feasibility of renewable energy again emerged. A short-term vision, looking only at immediate profit, may justify such a discussion. However, I think that we need to keep our focus on the bigger picture.
Fossil fuels will be depleted one day and the sooner we make the switch to alternative sources for the generation of energy, the better it is for us, and for the generations to come.

As we all know, a move to 100% renewable energy requires a fundamental reconsideration of the entire utility sector. The behavior of generation, transmission, and distribution systems will change and the business models that have shaped the utility industry as it is today, will no longer work.

This may sound like an immense challenge and as a whole it is. Therefore, a pessimist may see this as a major problem as the change entails many unknown (possible) outcomes.

However, an optimist will recognize the enormous amount of opportunities that such a rethink of the power industry will create:

  • What about thinking of new principles of generation using combinations of electric vehicles, fuel cells, bulk storage systems, wind and solar?
  • What about a renewed search for new clean ways of generating power?
  • How do we rank the possibilities for individuals to create their own businesses as prosumers, alone or in groups?
  • What about other types of electricity systems, with new protection, new automation, new switchgear and new conductors?

The discussion about oil prices and renewable energy should in my opinion be seen as two separate issues. The world economy currently runs on oil, not just for electricity or transportation, but also for the manufacturing of millions of products that we use every day. I think that the introduction of renewable energy is a more fundamental discussion on how we wish to develop our future. Our planet is our home, as long as the star that powers it does not extinguish, and we should be concerned on how we treat our home. Today and in the future!

This may seem to be an oversimplification of a complex matter as one can argue that what I am saying will fundamentally change the way we live and thus must be treated as a very complex matter, since it touches on everything, as we know it.
However recent experiences have led me to believe that it is the simple way of looking at things that will help make the change. Humans tend to complicate things by trying to model all the possible scenarios related to a single decision.
Yet, I agree with Albert Einstein that if the idea is simple and can be explained in a simple way it is the right idea.

To test this I have the following questions:

  • How difficult is it to imagine that oil and gas will be depleted?
  • How simple is it to propose that we need to change the way we produce and use energy?
  • How simple is it to explain that the sun, wind and possible other mechanisms provide a different way of generating energy? Quite easy, right?

So, why complicate the decision making process by bringing in different angles? If it is the right idea, let's do it…

Marco C. Janssen graduated the Polytechnic in Arnhem, The Netherlands.  He developed further his professional skills through programs and training courses. Marco is President and Chief Commercial Officer of UTInnovation LLC, a company providing consulting & training services in the areas of protection, control, substation automation and data acquisition, and support on the new international standard IEC 61850, advanced metering and power quality.  He is a member of WG 10, 17, 18, & 19 of IEC TC57, the IEEE-PES and UCA International Users group.

Relion advanced protection & control.
BeijingSifang June 2016