Innovation and competitiveness: two key words to describe our energy sector

The various players of the energy sector in Quebec maintain their contribution as innovators and their competitive edge in terms of renewable energy through the introduction of new technologies in their business processes. This is how they are taking part in the fourth industrial revolution while also ensuring the revitalization of local economic activity.

We are living in defining times marked by major changes, more particularly in the field of energy technologies. More and more business leaders are recognizing this and are investing in change.

As the entire world focuses on finding solutions to meet growing global demand for energy, while at the same time tackling the issue of climate change, the need to adopt renewable energy technologies has become pressing if we want to meet this demand in a sustainable and environment friendly manner.

In Canada, power companies are already working on putting into place the network of tomorrow. Their partners, such as ABB Group, have been active participants in initiatives since the beginning of the transition to:

  • Put into place new methods of power production and energy mix.
  • Ensure innovation in matters of digital technology and the use of big data.
  • Participate in the development and integration of electric vehicles.

Renewable energy: new methods of power production and energy mix

In the past two decades, we have witnessed a significant adoption of renewable energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and marine). These sources have quickly rivaled with traditional combustibles (petrol, gas, coal and nuclear), mainly due to technological advances, their commercial viability, and growing support for the environment.

It should be noted that Canada already has one of the most eco-friendly networks in the world with nearly three-quarters of its energy production coming from sources that emit no greenhouse gases. Given the technological breakthroughs and the reduction of costs associated with the deployment of alternative methods of energy production, the past 20 years have been characterized by a trend toward decentralized power production. This means that electric companies now add more than one energy production method to supply their network.

This orientation toward energy mix brings its share of challenges as it requires putting into place processes, tools and installations without interfering with the reliability of the service. In Quebec, we are building on an energy mix composed of hydroelectricity, wind power and hydrocarbons. Although hydroelectricity is the province's main source of energy, worthy of note are the initiatives deployed by Hydro-Québec to introduce wind power in its distribution network. Since 1998, Quebec's wind power production capacity has gone from 99 MW to 3,507 MW.

Energy revolution in progress: electric vehicles

Transit is also one of the most significant developments of the ongoing energy revolution. Not so long ago, it represented nearly one-quarter of greenhouse gases in the country. The electrification of vehicles is a means offering a promising potential for considerably reducing our emission, nationwide.

As a matter of fact, the Institut de recherche en économie contemporaine (IRÉC)[1] reports on the estimated economic benefits if Quebec follows in the footsteps of countries like France, Great Britain, Norway and the Netherlands by banning combustion vehicles.

Let's not forget that less than a decade ago, the very idea of a vehicle powered by clean energy was still a utopian concept. That being said, thanks to the work of people like Elon Musk, or even of companies such as ABB, we have come to realize that it is possible to develop this idea and democratize it. This is how we arrived, in 2018, at an explosion of the electric vehicles market worldwide.

However, although the adoption of electric vehicles is positive and continues to grow year after year, major modifications will need to be made to the existing infrastructures in order to meet the growing needs in energy that will ensue. Of course, the deployment of vehicle charging stations – the latter ever increasing in speed ‒ be they public of private, will be integral to the success of electric vehicles.

A giant step toward electric public transit

ABB Group is happy to be working closely with federal, provincial and municipal governments to implement this ecosystem in our country. This is in large part what drove us to establish, right here in Montréal, our Centre for Excellence in E-mobility, and to consolidate the collaboration between the local SMBs, researchers and manufacturers. A pilot project, conducted by FPInnovations, aimed at the implantation of automated electric shuttles is a concrete example of such a collaboration.

Within the scope of this project, FPInnovations joined forces with ABB, Ericsson Canada Inc. and Technoparc Montréal to design, produce and test a vehicle suited to Canadian winter conditions that could then be integrated into the public transit network in the metropolitan area of Montréal.

Fourth industrial revolution: digital technology and use of big data

There is no denying it, the power companies are subject to the same technological breakthroughs accessible to all sectors of activity, from retail business to the manufacturing sector.

Thanks to advances in digital technology and the use of big data, power companies actively participate in the energy transition and brilliantly meet the challenges associated with the fourth industrial revolution. The benefits of this technology, especially in the acquisition, storage, sharing and processing of data in real time, enable them to increase their operational efficiency and safety, reduce the costs associated with power transmission, and manage the demand in power.

Among the technologies being deployed are the following:

  • Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.
  • Production management systems.
  • Service outage management systems.

In this new reality, companies can optimize all of their processes, from energy production to power use, to the benefit of their customers. Indeed, the emergence of these technologies puts tools at their disposal that allow them to make a more judicious use of power, and better control of the costs relative to it.

Many Quebec companies are focusing on the technological innovations and changes required to revitalize the country’s power grids and participate in the inevitable energy transition. These investments contribute in the same breath in boosting the economy of the country and creating jobs to position itself in the heart of the fourth industrial revolution. We should all be proud to be part of this.

About ABB
World leader in energy technologies and automation, ABB enables its Quebec clientele to enter with force into to fourth industrial revolution. The local economic activity thus maintains its contribution as innovators and its competitive edge, especially in terms of renewable energy.

[1]IRÉC, Québec's contemporary economic research institute

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