Distributed energy generation it means an energy production that does not refer to a few large power plants, normally fueled with fossil fuels, but to a vast network of medium and small-sized plants that mostly use renewable energy. The topic is very topical in Italy as well as in all industrialized countries.
There distributed generation of energy, and in particular the small distributed generation, it is in fact a cornerstone of the new energy paradigm. The reason is simple: it is the only form of energy generation that allows the diversification of energy vectors and an effective exploitation of renewable energy resources which, due to their widespread presence in the area, can be advantageously used locally. At the same time, overcoming the intrinsic limit of renewables, namely that of not being able to be conveniently used in systems of a size comparable to that of systems powered by fossil energy.
Today the demand for electricity is shifting towards small distributed generation. Not only wind and photovoltaic, but also towards plants that allow the production of electricity using heat that would otherwise be unusable (the so-called thermal waste). For example cogeneration systems and ORC (Organic Rankine Cycle), especially those that allow the production of electricity starting from heat sources at medium and low temperatures.
According to the objectives of the National Energy Strategy (SEL), the number of new plants of distributed generation which will be connected to medium voltage and low voltage networks between now and 2020 is approximately 160,000 - 180,000 (of which 90% on LV and 10% on MV). This is against national targets which, on renewable energy sources, envisage the development of new plants to reach 40% of final consumption by 2020.
The technological link between the distributed generation and new business models in the electricity landscape are represented by Smart Grids. And it is precisely on the 'smart grids' that the economic and scientific efforts aimed at the creation of adequate infrastructures, the creation of interchange points and micro-transmission grids, as well as the development of simulation models useful for evaluation aimed at the design of systems distributed generation.
The development of the main investments in Smart Grid distribution networks in the next few years is potentially of extraordinary economic interest. With reference only to the construction of new primary substations (which transform electricity from high voltage to medium voltage) and secondary substations (from medium voltage to low voltage), the amount of investment in the electricity system between now and 2020 can be estimated at 10 billion euros. This is against the need to build up to 200 new primary substations and up to 50,000 new secondary substations.
An interview with Claudia Guenzi from ANIE on the prospects of Smart grids