Innovation is vital to the energy system’s integration and operation design, and we need to further recognise its crucial role. I believe we undertake a radical transformation in the way we supply, transform and use energy. This requires a profound transformation in technologies, systems, and infrastructure.

Innovation is made up of many enabling technologies that support energy. This complexity requires innovative approaches to be built in highly systematic ways, with the ultimate result offering innovation that can continually look for re-imagining new market designs and business models to create the solutions for our future energy transformation.

Innovation needs to be transformational, offer greater value than what it is replacing, show the real advantage, set out to achieve competitive gains and offer a higher level of sustainability, value and impact.

We need an innovating mantra for energy

Energy is a vital part of any country’s ability to be competitive. Today, half the world’s capital is invested in energy and its related infrastructure, as it is the backbone of any industrial and urbanisation strategy.

We need to keep pushing for discoveries, for experimentation, and for demonstrating. We must nurture innovation, and we must continuously look for ways to facilitate its pathway.

Our economic prosperity will be determined by transforming the energy sector, and it is through innovation we will achieve this. To avoid the predicted consequences of climate change, the global energy system must rapidly reduce its emissions. The vast majority of global CO2 emissions come from the energy production sector, from our buildings, or from our transportation systems. They all need a purposeful design of a new, cleaner energy system.

Innovation needs to be at the top of its game, to be accelerated and scaled

The energy transition is one of the most critical issues our world is facing–and one where innovation needs to be at its absolute best to make the level of change necessary. We need to deploy every innovative tool to leverage ideas and discoveries and then accelerate the validation into a commercialisation path sooner than later.

Innovation needs to get out of the laboratories, move from theory to application, and off the desks of executives who fail to see the urgency of change that we need.

Innovation has risks always associated with it, but that imperative to push the boundaries needs to constantly be in our minds. Global warming, pollution, and resource finality are our “burning platform.”

We need to ramp up our need for solutions to reduce greenhouse gases, redesign energy generation, transmission, and distribution to bring a balance back into our environments.

Pushing our present understanding, looking beyond the knowns:

  • Currently, solutions are centred on decarbonisation, applying digitalisation, and switching to a decentralised energy system. Going forward, we must find imaginative, innovative solutions that become essential to achieve this climate change through the energy transition we are undertaking.
  • Each organisation within the energy transition looks at its own position and applies any changes to advance its competitive position. Quite rightly, but in focusing on one specific perspective, you can lose the bigger opportunity.
  • We need to extend the reach of electricity; we need to focus on Hydrogen, validate carbon capture and storage (CCUS) as well as bioenergy. Let’s take these technologies out of the lab, out of the realms of theory and validate the innovation concepts into scalable ones that deliver the gaps we have in our energy transition.
  • We must find innovative solutions to reduce air pollution, strengthen energy security, and develop a more resilient energy system. We need to find solutions to reliable and sustainable energy solutions that deal with heating, lighting, cooking, and cooling. Any change needs to find a way to create local economic value and jobs, as others in any change of this magnitude will be displaced.
  • As we search for enabling technologies, we need to constantly facilitate the integration of renewable energy, accelerate storage, explore sector coupling, introduce new ways to operate within the electricity system, seek out new power generation, design the grids for increased flexibility and digitalise solutions to provide further services, tools and distributed generation deployment knowing how to diffuse innovation in these general five approaches becomes valuable.
  • We need to continue to decarbonise industries like steel, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, or our transportation systems if we wish to achieve any positive outlook of curbing carbon emissions and moving onto a pathway towards a zero-carbon future.

Demonstrating innovation helps to give market confidence and encouragement that the progression is designed to take decisions through this innovation-adoption approach.

Everything we are looking at in energy solutions faces a scalability challenge. 

It will be the ability to harness the existing with the new, and this is the role of innovation to deliver the changes by being the bridge and being the catalyst of change with new technology and innovative solutions.

Innovation adoption in the technology lifecycle for Energy Translation

Technological innovation has a central role to play in the Energy Transition currently being undertaken throughout the world. The shifts need to take the different parts of the energy system through a lifecycle approach to any future energy system.

The six critical focal points of the energy transition

The six main thrusts for technological innovation within the energy sector for today’s needs are:

  1. To accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies throughout the system.
  2. There is a real need to find innovative solutions that focus on the end-user sectors of transport, industry, and buildings.
  3. The technological and digital innovative solutions need to focus on the overall system design and operational needs.
  4. Innovation needs to increase electrification through emerging solutions on the grids’ digitalisation, and provide grid-scale energy storage for resolving variable renewable power and building out further energy storage.
  5. To push, nurture, and facilitate different energy sources to provide solutions to scale them up. These include solar power, geothermal, biopower, hydropower, onshore and offshore wind, and tidal power.
  6. Lastly, innovation needs to achieve an affordable decarbonised industrial transition.

Many new innovation solutions need to continually unlock the system’s flexibility

Besides technological innovation, there is growing potential for redesigning operational systems through new services, tools, and distributed generation deployment. There are opportunities to find fresh market designs that have demand-response models central to then provide new, more tailored services and then the exciting potential of designing new business models that look to greater co-creation, more flexible power purchase agreements and bring the consumer into the system as contributors, aggregators and highly energy aware.

Innovation must be at the forefront of the energy change; otherwise, we will fail to deliver on the 2050 commitments and goals, and that will have consequences for our very existence as we know it.