“The ‘operating system’ approach: how to ensure the integrity of decentralized networks”
For Thierry Lepercq, Executive Vice President at ENGIE in charge of Research & Technology and Innovation, the energy transition must necessarily entail a technology transition and the development of operating platforms for decentralized systems. He shares his insight.
Extract from an article published on June 22, 2017
On November 4, 2006, a high-voltage line was accidentally shut off, triggering a cascade of system failures across Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and elsewhere… and reaching the Moroccan electrical grid just 20 seconds later. With judicious power cuts, a massive blackout affecting more than 400 million people was barely avoided.
In all likelihood, very few people remember this event, or were even aware of it. Yet this near-meltdown of a large-scale electrical system offers a glimpse of one possible avenue for electrical systems in the future—one we are all hurtling toward. A system that could break down and create a massive blackout.
True, this is a very dark vision. But it is quite possible, if we consider the eminently chaotic nature of tomorrow’s electrical systems. That is, chaotic in the sense used by physicists and mathematicians, essentially unpredictable due to their extreme complexity.
Electrical systems have been set on this path of chaotic development by three trends that are already well established. First, a pronounced decentralization of energy production sources. Second, consumption that is also increasingly diffuse, with millions of new high-draw consumption points being added in the form of electric vehicles. And finally, as a corollary to decentralization, decreasing inertia in the system. Without going too much into detail, it is enough to point out that fewer high-power production plants mean less capacity to absorb variations in demand, making it difficult to control the frequencies of current supplied.
In fact, no one knows exactly how to control an electrical system defined by these three trends.
Of course, the target we are aiming for is a “full 3D” system, i.e. a system that is 100% decentralized, 100% decarbonized and 100% digitalized.