Saving Energy through New Technologies:
Smart Grid and AmorphousMetalTransformer
“Smart Grid”, for the first time, was written into the report on the work of the Chinese government this year. During the interview, the rotating president of Asia Energy Platform (AEP) Mr. Jerry Li elaborated the characters of “Smart Grid” and compared three models among China, US and Europe.
Mr. Li pointed out that SmartGridin US would be more service-orientated, different from China and Europe’s transmission orientation. Therefore, Mr. Li predicted a broader prospect for the cooperation between China and Europe. However, he also expressed his concern that since the electric network in China was still a sensitive sector which did not open to foreign capital it might restrict its development.
During the interview, Mr. Li mentioned that amorphous metal transformer can effectively promote low-carbon economy by saving energy as well. He illustrated by taking China’s electricity consumption in 2008 as an example, that if all the distribution transformers in China were replaced by amorphousmetaltransformers, half of Three Gorges’ annual energy output could be saved every year.
Ms. Law: Dear friends, welcome to watch the special programme “low-carbon economy”. For this programme, we will invite experts from different countries and regions to talk about how to realize low carbon economy. Apart from reducing emissions, we should also develop new technologies to save energy. Today, we are delighted to invite Mr. Jerry Li, therotatingpresidentof Asian Energy Platform. Mr. Li will talk about two important issues related to reducing emissions - “Smart Grid” and “Amorphousmetaltransformer”. Welcome, Mr. Li.
Mr. Li: Thank You Yee Ping. Hello everybody.
Ms. Law: In the National People's Congress and the Chinese Political Consultative Conference held this March, it is grateful to see that “Smart Grid” for the first time, was written into the report on the work of the government and this is also a very heated topic nowadays, but I’m afraid not many people understand “Smart Grid”, I found that you have many publications on “Smart Grid” around Europe and China, so can you briefly introduce what is “Smart Grid” t?
Mr. Li: Certainly. In a nutshell, “Smart Grid” is an intelligent resource management system that provides the flexibility to match various power sources and user demand. This would effectively reduce energy wastage and improve efficiency.
Based on the “Yi te si da” strategy initiated by the President of State Grid Mr. Liu Zhen-ya, China is proceeding with unified the large-scale energy generation, connected by an electric highway of ultra-high voltage grids based on 1000 kv AC, ±800 kv and ±1000 kv DC transmission technologies. This highway would in turn facilitate the development of those very large scale coal-fire plants, hydro-plants, nuclear plants and massive renewable across the country, and effectively optimize energy usage at the same time. All these would certainly require a very intelligent Smart Grid system.
Ms. Law: As we knew, China promised to reduce the carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, compared with 2005, so how the smart grid can help to realize this goal?
Mr. Li: To achieve these targets, adopting clean energy is important. Shifting the economic structure to a low carbon orientation is important. Having a grid that deliver electricity efficiently is obviously also very important.
After US’s “Unified Smart Grid” and Europe’s “Super Smart Grid”, China has also announced the “Strengthened Smart Grid” plan in 2009. According to announcements from State Grid, this plan has been divided into three stages: planning and testing from 2009 to 2010 construction and development from 2011 to 2015, upgrading, fine tuning and completion of the most advanced Smart Grid from 2016 to 2020.
Ms. Law: There is “Unified Smart Grid” in US and “Super Smart Grid” in Europe, can you make some comparisons and tell us what the common areas are and what are the differences from the “Strengthened Smart Grid” in China?
Mr. Li: Although their names are different, their contents would have remarkable similarities. However, the actual deployment plan may vary significantly depending on the country or the region’s own specific circumstances, and therefore, the plan in China could be somewhat different from US and Europe.
Ms. Law: What are the characteristics of US’s smart grid? We heard that their name is “Unified Smart Grid”, so does it mean that it was distributed before and now they should be united?
Mr. Li: In the US, the Grid development happened relatively early. Network interconnectivity is relativity low. The power system there is more mature and more emphasizes are placed on end-user interface. Transmission has relatively received fewer attentions. In other words, it is believed that the US smart grid deployment plan would be more oriented towards integrating of users and service.
In China, however, the priority today is to develop a smart grid system that can fully realize the potential of UHV transmission. Developing user-end services and integration will be the nature next step.
Ms. Law: How about the situation in Europe? In your article, you said the European model may have some reference value to China.
Mr. Li: The development of smart grid in Europe is driven by multiple factors. First of all, HV grids in Europe were built a long time ago. Obsolete design and aging issues have put limitations for these grids to serve the energy needs today. In addition, EU has made great commitments to reduce CO2 emission. To realize those targets, the European grid indeed needs to be upgraded in a very intelligent way.
The petrochemical resources in Europe are far from sufficient and therefore the dependence on the renewable energy resources is high. Because of the intermittence in wind and solar resources, it is essential for Europe to develop a highly interconnected grid that covers a wild geographically span in order to ensure the stability of electricity supply. From this perspective, a large capacity, highly interconnected backbone would be appealing for both China and Europe.
Ms. Law: In your opinion, how’s the prospective cooperation among China, Europe and the United States in the smart grid field?
Mr. Li: Because of the common interest I have just mentioned, I personally believes that the regions have great potential to work together. On the other hand, it seems that the cooperation between China and US are moving faster. In July last year, the US Secretary of Energy Mr. Steven Chu and Secretary of Commerce Mr. Gary Locke visited State Grid and exchanged opinions with Mr. Liu Zhen-ya regarding UHV grid development, smart grid cooperation, and many others. In December, news reported that Duke Energy and the State Grid are discussing about different forms of collaborations.
Ms. Law: We noticed that, during Steven Chu and Gary Locke’s visit to State Grid of China Corporation, they had very high comments on our Ultra High Voltage Grid. Can we say that, the development of UHV grids and smart grid in China is actually not inferior to US and Europe, and it also has the opportunity to become the new impetus for next economic take-off?
Mr. Li: According to the information posted on State Grid’s own website, they have talked about the potential collaboration on clean energy between the countries. They’ve also exchanged ideas on promoting large-scale adoption of clean energy.
It seems that the US delegation has got a very positive impression about State Grid’s achievements in UHV research and engineering practices, and also appreciating that the development of UHV grid can be very beneficial for large-scale clean energy development. Steven Chu also mentioned that, the wind resources in the US are mainly found in the northern region, while solar energy resources more available in southwest. The country is therefore also facing long-distance, high-capacity transmission and energy storage challenges when deploying clean energy.. State Grid’s studies and practices have offered very valuable references for all the countries in the world.
Ms. Law: You also mentioned foreign capital participation in your article. According to Chinese law, electric network is a sensitive sector that does not open to foreign capital, and it will restrict the development of smart grid.
Mr. Li: I am looking at this from a different angle: while there is no doubt about China’s financial strength and technological capability, smart grid project is a trillion dollar long-term investment. In addition, many different forms of advanced technology will be involved and some of those are already available in different part of the world. Foreign capital participation can become an important driving force that greatly accelerate the development and avoid reinventing the wheel of China Smart Grid. Having said that, how to overcome the statute barrier in a legitimate and reasonable way could be an important element for the accelerating the progress.
Ms. Law: We know that, Mr. LI is also the Asia Pacific Vice President of Hitachi (Metal Division). Hitachi Metals is the world’s biggest manufacturer of amorphous metal materials, so what is the correlation between amorphous metals and smart grid?
Mr. Li: Currently, there are three important aspects for improving grid’s energy efficiency. Besides the Smart Grid plan we have discussed, expanding UHV transmission and deploying amorphous metal transformer are the other two major projects. UHV transmission can effectively address the loss problem in long-distance transmission, and amorphous metal transformer is the solution for improving the efficiency of distribution segment. While these two technologies belong to different areas in the grid system, they are complementary to smart grid plan.
Ms. Law: I am very interested in the function of amorphous metal that can reduce energy consumption. I know that at present, amorphous metal transformer is the main transformer that can save energy. Compared to conventional silicon steel transformers, iron loss can be greatly reduced by 70-80 percent.
Mr. Li: Yes. Distribution transformer core loss generally accounts for about 1/4 of the total T&D loss. Taking China’s electricity consumption in 2008 as an example, about 60 trillion watts was wasted by core loss. Even the huge Three Gorges plant has generated only 80 trillion watts in the same year. So you see how large this core loss is. If all the distribution transformers in China were replaced by amorphous metal transformers, this core loss would be reduced by 70 percent. In another word, half the Three Gorges plant could be saved.
Last year, we have announced a new generation of amorphous metal called HB1. This material has a higher magnetic saturation and will further improve core loss. Very soon, we will see how this new material bringing even better values to the grids in China.
Ms. Law: We heard one saying that the whole industry is working for you since HitachiMetals is the leading supplier in amorphous market. What do you say?
Mr. Li: I think I can answer this question in two different angles. Firstly, transformer is an essential product for the grid, no doubt of that. Whether to choose amorphous transformer or traditional transformer, it's actually an economic decision, meaning that the value of amorphous transformer is built on its saving capacity. If the cost of amorphous transformer is even higher than they can save, there is no value to choose this kind of products. Secondly, in China actually AT&M is another important supplier of amorphous metal material. We are larger but not the only one. It's not really true that we are on the position that the whole industry is simply working for us. I would not agree with this.
Ms. Law: You are the leading one not the only one. Hopefully the Chinese company may catch up with.
Mr. Li: In fact, it's good to have this in some stance competitor but in some other stance “our partner” to grow the global market of amorphous metal transformer. We are working in the same direction to really improve grid efficiency globally.
Ms. Law: Thanks for Mr. Li’s detailed explanation on smart grid and amorphous metal transformer. There is a National Grid Gallery in the shanghai expo venue, in which has more introductions about smart grid. What’s more, the power supply system in the expo venues adopts amorphous metal transformer provided by Shanghai Zhixin Electric Corporation. Please keep an eye on this when visiting the Expo. We will introduce more in our programme. Thanks for watching, goodbye.