Siemens’ Ralf Korntner on the next big thing in electricity

26 Jun 2017

Siemens global expert on Distributed Energy Systems Ralf Korntner. Image: Luke Maxwell

A revolution in distributed energy systems is about to begin, disrupting our relationship with the grid, says Ralph Korntner of Siemens.

Distributed energy systems (DES) encompasses a diverse array of electricity generation, storage and energy monitoring and control.

Driven by industry, commercial buildings, residential communities, college campuses and rural electrification schemes, DES has the potential to reduce energy costs and even enable communities and homes to sell electricity back to the grid or within their communities on a peer-to-peer basis.

Future Human

In recent weeks, we caught up with Ralf Korntner, a Siemens global expert on DES, who was speaking at the Energy Ireland conference at Croke Park in Dublin.

You can sell the electricity in the air

“Distributed energy systems technically means everything small, below 50mW below 100mW,” Korntner explained.

“The key logic behind this is electricity generated at or near the point of consumption. The logic behind it is to utilise locally available resources like wind, solar, renewables, gas, heat pumps, what not, and tailor them to the local demand.

“So, having your own electricity system integrating with the grid but being in your control, behind the meter on your voltage level.”

Korntner said that the forerunners of DES are going from a system where a few big companies invested billions in electricity generation assets to a world where it becomes affordable for communities, factory owners and even residential property owners.

“It could become a case of millions investing thousands in their own local energy supply, starting with rooftop PV to larger scale. The opportunities are there and it is getting cheaper every day. As we speak, additional functionality is arriving every day.”

Korntner said he is confident that the speed of development is going to accelerate in the next few years.

“The core of the driving forces are the cost of the technology and functionality of technology, enabling everyone to make a decision.

“I can make that decision as an investor to be energy intelligent, to be in charge of my own energy system and I make the decision.”

A fascinating development could be the ability for people to sell electricity back to the grid or to one another.

“I think the next big thing will be peer-to-peer trading when I can exchange energy in local communities.

“We are beginning to glimpse new business models. They won’t be straightforward, but new and innovative. There is distributed logic in that, not using central grid, but small micro grids emerging and trading with other micro grids, aggregating and creating value. It is complex, exciting and promises additional value for every individual.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years