GEUF: NEOM outlines digital solution for 100 per cent renewable energy city
Dr Jens Madrian, Executive Director of NEOM Energy at NEOM, discussed the role that artificial intelligence and data capture will play a key part in delivering stable power supply from a 100 per cent renewable energy powered city
Speaking on the opening day of the Global Energy Utilities Forum (GEUF) on 7 March, Dr Jens Madrian, Executive Director of NEOM Energy at NEOM, discussed how Saudi Arabia’s $500bn futuristic development will achieve its goal of a 100 per cent renewable city.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to build an innovative carbon free energy system from scratch,” said Madrian.
The four pillars of NEOM’s strategy include a 100 percent renewable, carbon free energy system at the lowest cost with a secured supply, leading integrated customer experience, clean energy-intensive industries, and an energy innovation ecosystem. With numerous challenges facing such an ambitious plan, digital innovation is fundamental if NEOM is to deliver its vision.
The system is more solar heavy than it is wind, requiring its team to ensure it is able to stabilise the system on a fundamental basis, sufficiently acknowledging its challenges. “We’re making long term estimates of our domestic demands by 2030 and 2045 and what type of renewables mix we need to build and where, and what type of timing we’re having,” Madrian said. “This drives project development activities on wind, solar and grids, which we are already pushing forward and having invested several billions in grid infrastructure to keep the lights on.”
In terms of market design, he spoke of the need to take a view from a financier point of view, and whether they would be happy to invest, as well as the lack of regulatory clarity. Setting up for industrial customers a market design which sends the right pricing, to adjust their load and production processes, is also vital. “One of the key features of the entire market design is an integrated digital energy platform and respective operating systems,” he explained. “Part of the design is that it deals with all regulatory matters.”
However, some challenges are currently inevitable in such a system, including generation and markets, transmission and balancing, distribution and retail, and regulation. In that regard, technology and digital innovations have a crucial role to play in building NEOM’s 100 percent renewable, carbon free energy system at the lowest cost. “We accept the physical constraints around it as necessary,” Madrian said. “We put the energy system right in the centre.”
One key technology NEOM will use is Artificial Intelligence (AI) as it solves optimisation problems, by managing and optimising renewable and distributed energy resources in real-time and at scale. This allows the system to react quickly to imbalances caused by the intermittent nature of renewable energy.
“NEOM’s energy operating system will be embedded within an AI-led digital energy platform,” he said. “Let’s react quickly by anticipating and predicting some of the shortfalls in the system by a few seconds, that will be another material step in risk prevention from an entire 100 percent renewable system.”
As a result, innovations are crucial for NEOM, as well as ambitious partners to reach its goals. “We are not able to do it on our own, it is crystal clear,” he concluded. “Turning our vision of a 100 percent renewable system doesn’t remain a dream but we can turn it into a reality, and we can do that together.”
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