Electricity distribution: The key to advancing clean energy

Article | Ignacio Santelices*

Last year, my family and I moved into a house that we remodeled to make it sustainable, so we asked to include solar panels, electric climate control, and an electric car charger in the project; in addition to the use of gray and rainwater, solar thermal systems and thermal insulation, among other aspects.

Of course, when the proposal arrived, the panels, the air conditioning and the charger also included the redesign and reinforcement of the house’s electrical network, changing the connection and a backup system, because the consequence of a cut would not only be a power cut or to defrost the refrigerator; it would also mean being cold in the winter and not being able to use the car.

For most of you, the above should be pretty self-explanatory. No one would think of converting their home to “full electric” and installing panels without first checking and reinforcing the electrical system. However, what is obvious for a house, so far, seems far from obvious for a city.

In Latin America, we talked a few years ago about the energy transition and the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable electricity, but we didn’t talk enough about the infrastructure and technology necessary to allow an explosive increase in electrical consumption, driven by transport, heating or industrial uses. , in addition to the massification of solar roofs.

In a few more years, in the big cities, in the event of a prolonged blackout, not only will hundreds of companies run the risk of paralyzing their production and thousands of homes will be left in the dark; in addition, these houses will not have air conditioning and cities may even be paralyzed, since public transport will be mostly electric.

So why don’t we discuss these issues today, when we still have time to prepare? Allow me to explain: on the one hand, the fastest and most visible is the necessary development of solar or wind farms and the increase in the number of electric vehicles. In contrast, the reinforcement of distribution lines is not so easy to visualize. In addition, the transformation of the distribution network will be a more complex process that will require new regulations to face the massification of distributed generation and the promotion of new investments that are totally necessary to increase reliability, resilience, quality, flexibility, cybersecurity and intelligence in networks.

In this context, it is possible and urgent to advance strongly in the energy transition and for that to happen, it is essential to work, from now on, on these new regulations and technologies that allow a robust infrastructure for the electrification of consumption and thus guarantee the evolution to a 100% of renewable energy.

* Ignacio Santelices is Executive Director of the Electric Energy Distributors Association
of Latin America, ADELAT.