The power sector is at the crossroads of technological change: a shift in energy sources; changes in the transmission, distribution and consumption of power; and digitalization as both an agent and enabler of change.

Wind energy continues to grow rapidly worldwide, and in many places onshore wind now delivers the lowest cost of energy and, by 2025, only solar will out-compete wind, and then only in locations with good solar irradiance.  Physical changes (e.g., ever larger turbines offshore) will be accompanied by a host of digital innovations – not least new sensors and smart control systems, with ambitions including the intelligent management of large numbers of units.

The march of solar will continue unabated - the learning curve of solar PV shows that the module price decreases by over 20% for every doubling of capacity – lending urgency to the quest for efficient storage of energy, where the challenge and opportunities over the next decade are as much technical as they are regulatory.

Other emerging topics include smart energy producing buildings, demand response management, and cyber-physical power grids.

Wind energy exceeds 20% annual penetration in a number of European electricity grids, with Denmark exceeding 40% in 2015.


… is growing rapidly worldwide. In many areas, onshore wind now delivers the lowest cost of energy and, by 2025, only solar will out-compete wind in areas with good solar irradiance.

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Wind turbines are now manufactured in very large numbers and represent a mature technology. Still, significant developments continue. Turbine sizes for the offshore market are increasing, driven by the high cost of foundations and installation. Turbines rated up to 8MW and with diameters greater than 170m are already installed, with designs reaching 12 MW and 200m. For deeper offshore waters, where bottom-mounting is prohibitive, floating turbines are starting to be piloted commercially, and are likely to achieve full-scale deployment by 2025, taking advantage of simplified installation and standardized mass-produced units, thus opening up huge new potential. By 2025, multi-rotor concepts may appear, benefitting from the mass-production of larger numbers of smaller rotors.

Further developments in turbine technology include light, flexible blades and aerodynamic control devices, innovations in transmission systems, new sensors and smart control systems. Equally important is the intelligent management of large numbers of units, using condition monitoring and central data acquisition and analysis to optimize operation and maintenance.

More advanced controls are being developed both at wind turbine and wind farm level. LiDAR technology may be used to identify approaching turbulence, allowing the controller to optimize turbine performance. Greater use of measured and estimated load data allows the operation of turbines and wind farms to be tailored dynamically, enhancing economic performance as environmental and electricity market conditions change. An example is to reduce power output to preserve component life when turbulence is high, or electricity prices are low, or forecast production is exceeded. Within timescales of just a few seconds, controllers may transiently increase or decrease power output in response to grid frequency variations, increasing grid frequency stability and facilitating higher wind penetrations.

Wind farm controllers can adjust the behaviour of individual turbines to minimize wake interactions between turbines, increasing farm production while reducing fatigue loads to extend life. In addition, controllers will be able to adjust aggregate active and reactive wind farm power in response to grid requirements.


Source: The European Wind Energy Association (2012)



Advanced materials for renewable energy range from solar panel coatings and new battery chemistries to hybrid reinforced composites for (direct drive) wind turbines blades.

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For solar PV technologies, materials such as graphene have the potential to increase efficiencies dramatically. Whereas silicon-based cells currently achieve 15-20% efficiency, a solar cell made from stacking a single graphene sheet and a single molybdenum disulphide sheet will achieve about a 1-2% efficiency. Stacking several of these 1 nm thick layers boosts the overall efficiency dramatically. Then, further along the horizon, materials like halide perovskite (also called hybrid solar cells) show even greater promise.

For power converter technologies, silicon-based power electronics is reaching its limits. Other wide bandgap semiconductors promise better performance. These materials are capable of higher switching frequencies (kHz) and blocking voltages (upward of tens to hundreds of kV), while providing for lower switching losses, better thermal conductivities, and the ability to withstand higher operating temperatures. While issues like defect density control for silicon carbide and the extremely high decomposition pressures for bulk gallium nitride production still remain, they will increase the reliability and efficiency of next generation electric grids.



Solar power is technology-driven, and unlike extractive industries, its cost-curve will continue to trend downwards.

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PV systems have many different applications, ranging from small rooftop-mounted (< 20 kW), to utility-scale (>1 MW), to off-grid applications, and as such there are many differing “grid parities”. A PV-system for a residential roof, for instance, competes with the retail price of electricity, whereas a utility-scale PV system competes with the wholesale price of electricity.

The present worldwide boom in solar is matched by an equally large R&D effort. A wide range of technologies, from conventional silicon to organic-based cells, is being investigated. Each new innovation will accelerate the already rapid uptake of solar energy use.

Solar PV has shown exponential growth almost since the start of grid-connected deployment. The learning curve of PV shows that the module price decreases by over 20% for every doubling of capacity. Inverters also show steady learning curves and lifetime expectations have improved significantly. The balance of system cost is expected to fall, mainly through improvements in efficiency of the modules. Combining the expected market growth and the historical cost reduction, it is clear that by 2025 solar PV will be the cheapest form of electricity in many regions of the world, driving several changes in the power system.

Decline of solar PV cost relative to installed capacity


Source: Fraunhofer ISE (2015)

On-site storage solutions will require a push from regulation or policy to reach economies of scale.


Over the next decade we expect a steep decline in battery prices and a correspondingly rapid increase in home energy storage solutions.

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This development, which is driven in part by the rapid rise of renewables in the energy mix, will pave the way for a growing number of electricity prosumers. However, new rules and regulations need to be in place for energy storage to play a key role in the utility system.

Electricity can be stored in a direct way in superconductive coils or (super) capacitors. However, electricity is usually stored in a non-electrical form, such as electrochemically in batteries, as moving mass in a flywheel, in hydro reservoirs (pumped hydro), in pressurized gases, and in heated or cooled substances like molten salts and liquid nitrogen. Power to gas (to hydrogen or methane and back) is an option for seasonal storage.

Analysis of residual loads reveals the need for different electricity discharge durations. Different electricity storage technologies will be optimized for different discharge duration and power output requirements. Storage technologies with a discharge duration of several hours, such as chemical batteries, can, for instance, perform peak-shaving for consumers, whereas storage technologies with a high power rating and long discharge durations are most suited for energy applications on a systems scale, such as load shifting, renewable forecast error back-up and frequency restoration services to the transmission system operator (TSO).


Source: B. Dunn, H. Kamath and J.-M. Tarascon (2011)



DRM of heat pumps, EV charging and industrial heating/cooling processes may be the best way to create flexibility in response to variations in renewable power generation.

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DRM is performed by either controlling customer demand directly (dispatchable DRM) or by issuing a time-of-use price, rewarding customers that respond to this (non-dispatchable DRM).

Both dispatchable DRM and non-dispatchable DRM have major disadvantages. Dispatchable DRM can be quite intrusive to customers because it is difficult to adjust measures to changing customer circumstances. Examples are remotely controlled air-conditioning and load-shedding contracts. Non-dispatchable DRM offers much less flexibility because it relies on the willingness of residents or businesses to adjust their electricity consumption in response to price incentives. Examples are day/night tariffs and critical peak pricing.

Technological developments are starting to make DRM solutions possible that combine the benefits of both approaches without the disadvantages, resulting in much more viable DRM options that create much-needed flexibility for wind and solar integration. By 2025, DRM will be an indispensable service to prosumers and, as such, will provide retailers and aggregators with a tool to differentiate their services in new ways.

Demand Response Management

Expected savings from Demand Response programs for selected EU countries by 2020

Source: Capgemini 2008

Within 10 years energy producing buildings will be the standard for new residential properties in many industrialized countries.


Energy efficient measures like improved insulation, heat pumps and PV panels are commonplace. Attention is now shifting to the energy performance of whole buildings.

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The challenge is how buildings may be smartly designed such that, on average, they produce more energy than they need. Within 10 years energy producing buildings will be the standard for new residential properties in many industrialized countries.

A vision of a smart energy-producing house is one in which solar is the main source of energy. Adding devices that have some flexibility in their energy behaviour, like battery energy storage, heat pumps, air-conditioning, and charging of EVs enables further optimization of energy use with smart self-learning thermostats. Smart meters will make it possible to measure this flexibility and monetize it.

While developments in solar and storage may suggest that buildings will go “off grid”, the opposite is more likely to occur. Buildings have the potential to become energy hubs, an invaluable asset in the management of power systems, offering much-needed flexibility. Instead of the grid providing buildings with power, it will be the buildings themselves that help the grid to remain stable by being able to providing power to other residential, industrial, and commercial customers from renewable energy sources.


In 2025, power grids will have omnipresent sensors.


As distributed power grids evolve the mostly stand-alone sub-systems will be connected.

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Increased adoption of renewable energy, the desire to provide universal access to electricity, and requirements for increased grid resilience are driving an increasingly distributed power grid. But distributed doesn’t mean disconnected – going forward, mostly stand-alone sub-systems will be connected. Smart devices reacting on price incentives from aggregators or retailers and smart energy-producing buildings will also be connected to the grid.

In 2025, power grids will have omnipresent sensors within the grid. These will provide real-time data, enabling operators to make decisions, learn, and adapt to the variable behaviour of renewable energy sources. The grids will have features such as self-configuration for resilience and reduction of losses, self-adjustment for voltage variations, self-optimization for disturbance mitigation, and dispatch automatic demand-response to avoid capacity problems. In effect, power grids will become cyber-physical energy systems – physical entities controlled by digital control systems.

This introduces new challenges related to, for instance, the validation of safety and reliability, and new modelling techniques will be required to design, test, and verify the power grid management in a systems context.



By 2025, we will see more hybrid grids that combine flexible AC and HVDC technology – promising much, but introducing increasing levels of complexity.

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In order to accommodate the increasing share of renewable energy, electricity will need to be transmitted over ever-longer distances. HVDC is the solution of lowest cost in this regard. In the next ten years, development of new converter technology and protection systems will drive implementation of HVDC grids onshore as well as offshore, for example in the North Sea.

In the future a SuperGrid, combining ultra-high voltage DC and AC systems, will be introduced to make possible integration of renewable energy, while ensuring security of grid operation. Nevertheless, transformation of existing power systems to SuperGrids will take decades.

In 2025, hybrid grids will emerge during the transition period that will be forged by increasing penetration of flexible AC and HVDC technology, allowing optimum control over power transmission systems. The trend towards a hybrid grid with embedded HVDC is already visible in Europe, USA, and China. Hybrid grids hold considerable promise, but they also involve increasing levels of complexity. For example, combining slow, mechanical controls, typically associated with AC systems, and faster electronically-controlled HVDC systems, involves complex interactions.


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