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Large-scale electrification, decarbonisation and creativity in R&D: this is how the future of the electricity sector is built

From forecasting the production of renewable-based energy to optimising the generation, distribution and consumption of said energy: there are many applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the energy sector. But this is only one of the paths towards the future of this sector, and one of the topics discussed during the event "The Shape of Energy to Come", organised by INESC TEC.

20th June 2024

A full room to explore the future of electrification and energy systems; the FEUP auditorium brought together more than 200 national and international experts to exchange ideas and learn about the work that INESC TEC is carrying out towards a sustainable future that meets the priorities of the European Commission. How? Thanks to a holistic view of the decarbonisation of the power grid and creative thinking in research as a competitive advantage in solving complex problems in this sector. João Claro, Chairman of the Board of Directors at INESC TEC summarised the success of the event, which "clearly showed INESC TEC commitment to science and innovation, bridging the gap between a better understanding of the power grid through research, and its practical applications".

Keynote speaker Mladen Kezunovic, full professor at Texas A&M University and IEEE Fellow, opened the event by discussing the risks of future large-scale electrification. A topic on which INESC TEC has a lot to say - especially when it comes to find solutions that ensure the power grid's high levels of reliability and resilience, which can only be achieved through comprehensive approaches. "One of the main axes of INESC TEC's work has been the development of solutions to assess the security of supply, namely concerning the increasing production of renewable energy", explained Ricardo Bessa, organiser of the event.

In the first panel, moderated by Bernardo Silva (INESC TEC), Clara Gouveia, João Peças Lopes, José Villar and Zenaida Mourão - also INESC TEC researchers – shared their views on topics like the resilience of the power grid, smart grids and energy demand management. They also discussed the use of digital twins or the need to develop new computational tools to assess and control stability; advances in smart grid technologies; the role of electricity markets and citizens in addressing future energy challenges. The goal? To combine skills and create differentiating (and industrial-ready!) solutions for the power grid of the future, at national and European level.

The second panel explored the role of creative thinking in research with Francisco Fernandes, Carla Gonçalves, Carlos Silva and Abdelrahman Elhawash - also researchers at INESC TEC; the discussion, led by Ricardo Bessa, focused on real-time operation of energy systems or incentive systems for green electric mobility. Many of these solutions stem from the combination of different fields of knowledge, some of which are traditionally more distant from science and technology.

The question remained: in a world where knowledge tasks are increasingly automated, does INESC TEC have privileged conditions to develop unique and competitive solutions? João Claro replied, reflecting on how "our contribution to the reliable and resilient power grid of the future, our ability to develop holistic and scalable decarbonisation solutions across Europe, and our focus on promoting and fostering creativity in research are, in fact, shaping the future of energy”.

You can watch the full video of the event here.

The researchers mentioned in this news piece are associated with INESC TEC and UP-FEUP.