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The Electrical Grid

Technologies for Getting to Zero Emissions by 2060

Question: How fast are technologies to address climate change developing, particularly with regard to the electrical grid?

GenerallyEclectic looked at Canada's Greenhouse Gas emissions and found that in 2012, the combustion of fossil fuels (petroleum products, natural gas, coal) account for just under 80 percent of emissions. In a low emission world, this energy source will need to be replaced. There are a number of candidates to produce the energy to replace fossil fuels: solar, hydro, thermal, tidal, nuclear and wind.

Once produced, this energy will need to be distributed. When GenerallyElectic looked at how to Canada will get emissions to zero by 2060, it concluded that the electrical system will need to grow by about 3.76 times. Clearly, the creation of a large, reliable, efficient electrical grid will be important to a zero emission future.

The vastness of Canada provides a unique set of complexities for the development of an electrical grid.

To answer the question on how fast electrical grid technologies were developing, GenerallyEclectic looked at articles in Science Daily on the electrical gridfor the previous eighteen months, which at the time of writing was December 1, 2018 to May 31, 2020. Titles, summaries and links to the relevant articles are provided, so you can make your own judgments.

The summaries presented here are limited to Science Daily findings, which are in turn determined by Science Daily's methodology, which is outlined at About Science Daily. To the extent that Science Daily undoubtedly missed some technological developments, this summary under-reports developments.

Question: How fast are technologies to address climate change developing?


  1. Resarchers develop viable sodium battery 21 Apr 2020: Researchers have created a sodium-ion battery that holds as much energy and works as well as some commercial lithium-ion battery chemistries, making for a potentially viable battery technology out of abundant and cheap materials.
  2. Engineers develop way to improve efficiency and heat tolerance of devices 20 Apr 2020: Using ...small, engineered materials also called metamaterials,... the researchers altered the dielectric capacitor to increase storage capacity while also increasing electric charge efficiency, meaning the capacitor can withstand greater voltage with very little energy loss at temperatures higher than 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Households in Switzerland could feasibly be energy self-sufficient by 2050 3 Mar 2020: By 2050, photovoltaic technologies that convert sunlight into electricity could enable many single- and multi-family buildings in Switzerland to produce enough energy to meet their own consumption needs, including the charging of electric vehicles.
  4. Say goodbye to power outages: Researchers shine a light on ways to keep the energy flowing 27 Feb 2020: New research is redesigning how electricity is distributed within power grids. The research describes a power system operation that will consist of multiple microgrids -- separate grids operating like individual islands that can disconnect from the main power supply and run independently.
  5. Could every country have a Green New Deal? Report charts paths for 143 countries 19 Dec 2019: Researchers offer an updated vision of the steps that 143 countries around the world can take to attain 100% clean, renewable energy by the year 2050. The new roadmaps project that transitioning to clean, renewable energy could reduce worldwide energy needs by 57%, create 28.6 million more jobs than are lost, and reduce energy, health, and climate costs by 91% compared with a business-as-usual analysis.
  6. Grid reliability under climate change may require more power generation 20 Nov 2019: Researchers applied a new modeling approach for long-term planning of the U.S. power grid under future climate and water resource conditions. The new approach shows the grid may need an additional 5.3% to 12% of power-generating capacity to meet demand and reliability requirements.
  7. Big plans to save the planet depend on nanoscopic materials 20 Nov 2019: Scientists present a comprehensive analysis of two decades of energy storage research involving nanomaterials. The authors lay out a roadmap for how this technology can enable the world's urgent shift toward better energy storage devices and sustainability.
  8. Go with the flow: Scientists design new grid batteries for renewable ... 6 Nov 2019: Scientists have designed an affordable 'flow battery' membrane that could accelerate renewable energy for the electrical grid.
  9. To rid electric grid of carbon, shore up green energy support 27 Oct 2019: Engineers, along with an economist, have created an energy model that helps to remove carbon-generated power from the US electric grid -- replacing it with a greener, financially feasible wind, solar and hydro energy system.
  10. Are we underestimating the benefits of investing in renewable energy? 15 Oct 2019: Scientists have estimated the emissions intensity of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants from a major electricity distributor and highlighted key consequences - essential information for policymakers shaping decisions to reduce electricity system emissions.
  11. New electrolyte stops rapid performance decline of next-generation lithium batteries 9 Oct 2019: Researchers have designed and tested a new electrolyte composition that could greatly accelerate the adoption of the next generation of lithium-ion batteries.
  12. Using high energy density material in electrode design enhances lithium sulfur batteries 29 Sep 2019: To develop higher capacity batteries, researchers have looked to lithium sulfur batteries because of sulfur's high theoretical capacity and energy density...To ... improve lithium sulfur battery performance, the researchers created a sandwich-structured electrode using a novel material that traps polysulfides and increases the reaction kinetics.
  13. How buildings can cut 80 percent of their carbon emissions by 2050 14 Aug 2019: Slashing building CO2 emissions 80% by 2050 would ... contribute significantly to combatting climate change. A new model developed by researchers at two U.S. national laboratories suggests that reaching this target will require the installation of highly energy-efficient building technologies, new operational approaches, and electrification of building systems that consume fossil fuels directly, alongside increases in the share of electricity generated from renewable energy sources.
  14. Researchers use blockchain to drive electric-vehicle infrastructure 13 Aug 2019: ...researchers found that there is a lack of trust among charging service providers, property owners and owners of electric vehicles (EVs). With an open blockchain platform, all parties will have access to the data and can see if it has been tampered with.
  15. High-performance flow batteries offer path to grid-level renewable energy storage 24 Jul 2019: A low-cost, high-performance battery chemistry could one day lead to scalable grid-level storage for wind and solar energy that could help electrical utilities reduce their dependency on fossil fuels.
  16. Hackproofing smart meters 5 Jun 2019: Smart electricity meters are useful because they allow energy utilities to efficiently track energy use and allocate energy production. But because they're connected to a grid, they can also serve as back doors for malicious hackers... Cybersecurity researchers have developed an automated program aimed at foiling smart meter hacking and boosting security in the smart grid.
  17. New approach optimizes use of future wave electricity generators during disaster 3 Jun 2019: When hurricanes strike, electricity loss ranks as one of the top concerns. New work looks to develop a strategy for how floating devices that harness the energy of ocean waves might be able to provide this much needed aid.
  18. Helping cities make power grids safer, more reliable: More data is required to better predict and understand how solar energy can be integrated into the power grid 27 May 2019: Solar power researchers have traditionally used the power measurements from single residential solar photovoltaic systems to estimate the power generated within a city...Data from systems across a city is desperately needed to fully understand how this energy source can be integrated into the power grid. Engineers have provided a freely available quality-controlled and tuned dataset from 1,287 residential installations across Australia.
  19. New York state winters could pose solar farm 'ramping' snag for power grid 27 May 2019: By adding utility-scale solar farms throughout New York state, summer electricity demand from conventional sources could be reduced by up to 9.6 percent in some places...With low energy demand around midday in the winter, combined with solar-electricity production, New York's power system could face volatile swings of "ramping" -- which is how power system operators describe quick increases or decreases in demand.
  20. 100% renewables doesn't equal zero-carbon energy, and the difference is growing 22 May 2019: While 160 companies around the world have committed to use '100% renewable energy,' that does not mean '100% carbon-free energy.' The difference will grow as power grids become less reliant on fossil power, according to a new study. Entities committed to fighting climate change can and should measure the environmental benefits of their renewable strategies accurately, the authors write.
  21. Underwater power generation: Energy from seawater12 May 2019: Underwater vehicles, diving robots, and detectors require their own energy supply to operate for long periods independent of ships. A new, inexpensive system for the direct electrochemical extraction of energy from seawater offers the advantage of also being able to handle short spikes in power demand, while maintaining longer term steady power. To do so, the system can autonomously switch between two modes of operation.
  22. A step for a promising new battery to store clean energy12 May 2019: Researchers have built a more efficient, more reliable potassium-oxygen battery, a step toward a potential solution for energy storage on the nation's power grid and longer-lasting batteries in cell phones and laptops.
  23. Peer-to-peer 'free trade' in excess energy29 Apr 2019: People who generate their own power through solar panels and wind turbines may soon be able to decide where to distribute their excess energy, rather than back to the national grid.
  24. New discovery makes fast-charging, better performing lithium-ion possible: Materials could boost battery performance in consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and more15 Apr 2019: Creating a lithium-ion battery that can charge in a matter of minutes but still operate at a high capacity is possible. This development has the potential to improve battery performance for consumer electronics, solar grid storage, and electric vehicles.
  25. Energy stealthily hitches ride in global trade20 Mar 2019: Fulfilling the world's growing energy needs summons images of oil pipelines, electric wires and truckloads of coal. But research shows a lot of energy moves nearly incognito, embedded in the products, and leaves its environmental footprint home.
  26. Good news! Europe's electric grid will still work even as the world crumbles5 Mar 2019: Temperatures may climb and seas may rise, but the lights (and, undoubtedly, the air conditioning) will still be on in nations with high capacities for wind and solar energy. New research suggests that these electricity systems should work almost equally well in both historical and future European climates despite changing weather patterns.
  27. Signals from distant lightning could help secure electric substations25 Feb 2019: Side channel signals and bolts of lightning from distant storms could one day help prevent hackers from sabotaging electric power substations and other critical infrastructure, a new study suggests.
  28. Flags that generate energy from wind and sun10 Feb 2019: Scientists have created flags that can generate electrical energy using wind and solare power...The newly developed energy harvesting flags are capable of powering remote sensors and small-scale portable electronics which can be used for environmental sensing such as to monitor pollution, sound levels and heat for example.
  29. Hybrid electricity system would reduce rates, improve service30 Jan 2019: A new distribution system would reduce electricity prices by more than five per cent while also improving service reliability...Researchers found efficiencies by designing a system that delivers both kinds of current to customers instead of the AC-only distribution systems now in use throughout the world.
  30. Switching to a home battery won't help save the world from climate: At least until utilities charge less for energy coming from renewable power sources10 Dec 2018: Home energy storage systems might save you money, but under current policies, they would also often increase carbon emissions.
  31. 'Sun in a box' would store renewable energy for the grid: Design for system that provides solar- or wind-generated power on demand should be cheaper than other leading options4 Dec 2018: Engineers have come up with a conceptual design for a system to store renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, and deliver that energy back into an electric grid on demand. The system may be designed to power a small city not just when the sun is up or the wind is high, but around the clock.
  32. Device could provide refrigeration for off-grid locations27 Nov 2018: A new system can provide passive cooling without the need for power, and could be used to preserve food or vaccines in hot, off-grid locations.
  33. A faster, cheaper path to fusion energy: New, powerful magnets key to building the world's first energy-producing fusion experiment4 Nov 2018: Scientists are working to dramatically speed up the development of fusion energy ...The arrival of a breakthrough technology -- high-temperature superconductors, which can be used to build magnets that produce stronger magnetic fields than previously possible -- could help them achieve this goal. Researchers plan to use this technology to build magnets at the scale required for fusion.
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