The rise in demand and production costs make reasonable energy use crucial
Carlos Mataix, Director of the Centre for Innovation in Technology for Human Development at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, opened the Forum's final session, devoted to energy efficiency and smart grids, with the following words: “There is a lot of room for improvement in the way we use our energy; it could be much more efficient and smarter”.
The participants in this session were Suket Singhal, CEO of Secure Meters; Kiran Ananth (Senior Counsellor at CII and Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre); Rocío Fernández Artime, Energy Efficiency Manager at Gas Natural Fenosa and President of the Spanish Technology Platform for Energy Efficiency, and Juan Prieto Vivanco, Head of Smart Grids at Indra.
They all emphasised the importance of promoting energy efficiency at all levels, for various reasons. For Kiran Ananth, the cost of energy has “a very high price” for the end user and in some sectors, such as the aluminium and textile industries, energy efficiency can make or break a company, as it makes it more or less competitive”. According to the CII's Senior Counsellor, “efficiency is the most crucial factor to achieving the changes we are pursuing in households, factories, industries… It was all-important 20 years ago and it is even more so today”.
For Suket Singhal, “energy efficiency is important for every company, and even more for those which operate in the energy market”.
Demographics is another factor that calls for increased energy efficiency. According to Rocío Fernández, the rise in population will mean that “by 2040, energy demand will be 30% higher than it is today”.
For Juan Prieto, the key lies in “the whole cycle benefitting”; in other words, the creation of value through energy efficiency. “If we open a space in which the client, the supplier and all agents can exchange more efficiently, then we are creating value for everyone”. In order to achieve that, “it is important to have clear, efficient regulations”. Rocío Fernández adds that financial instruments and exemplary actions at the public level are also very much needed.
The panellists also discussed certain projects and initiatives designed to improve energy efficiency in different sectors. One of these projects is Gas Natural's renewable gas project, which uses urban waste to produce gas and electricity. Another is Indra's AGM system, which has connected 70 smart buildings at an Australian university campus through a microgrid. Kiran Ananth mentioned the possibility that Spain could participate in a similar programme to the one carried out by India with the Swedish Energy Agency to put IT SMEs in touch with Indian companies.
The audience also participated and made interesting contributions, such as suggesting joint action against energy losses. According to World Bank data, in 2014 energy losses in power transmission and distribution in India totalled 19% on average, although in some areas this percentage was materially higher, up to 50% according to some studies. In developed countries, losses rarely reach 10%.
The role that smart meters can play in this regard was also discussed. India recently started the first installation phase of these devices, fitting several million units. What experience does Spain have in this area? As explained by Juan Prieto, utility companies have practically managed full deployment of these meters. “Utility companies have invested a lot installing these smart meters. We are now analysing the input and defining new services for the end user”.
The round table also analysed the deployment of electric vehicles as well as their benefits and related problems in the two countries. The study Utility of the Future, carried out by Iberdrola and MIT together with Universidad Pontificia de Comillas, stresses the importance of transport for the low-carbon economy we are striving for. According to Kiran Ananth, the Indian Government has placed an initial order of 10,000 electric vehicles for official use, which will serve as a test for a potential broader EV rollout.
In this case, according to Rocío Fernández, it will be necessary to consider both cost and necessity. “In cities like Delhi, where pollution is extremely dangerous, electric vehicles are a necessity. But there are other types of transport in which price will be a factor, as it is in the US”.
“Despite their limitations, electric vehicles are finding their niche in Spain,” claims Juan Prieto. However, their deployment “is limited by a critical factor: energy storage”. We will therefore have to wait for future generations of electric vehicles to improve in that area.