Electronics essential for sustainable energy model

The energy sector relies on electronics for a smooth transition to efficiency and sustainability

By Claire Marchand

The demand for energy is growing fast, for electricity even faster. To meet the needs of over 9 billion people by 2050, energy production will have to double while at the same time greenhouse gas emissions will have to be drastically reduced. This can only be achieved through a transition from a carbon-based economy towards a sustainable and efficient energy model that is accessible to all on the planet.

smart meter and thermostat Smart meters allow consumers to monitor their energy consumption

A clean definition

In 2004, REEEP, the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership, proposed a definition of sustainable energy as “the provision of energy such that it meets the needs of the future without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable energy has two key components: renewable energy and energy efficiency.” 

Technologies are key

The move towards sustainability in energy generation, transmission and consumption can only happen through an array of technological advances that promote renewable energies – wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, marine (wave and tidal) – and energy efficiency. 

Smart systems, using two-way communication technology and computer processing, are making their way into electricity networks, from power plants to homes and businesses. Smart and sustainable energy has many benefits for utilities and consumers alike: day-to-day generation, distribution and consumption monitoring, cost reduction, electricity storage and much more. 

Smart gets smarter everyday

Today’s world is as smart as it is thanks to the extensive use of electronic components of all types. Smart energy environments rely heavily on information and communication technology (ICT) for transmitting and processing signals and data smoothly and providing communication between devices or systems. They also depend on power electronics for the conversion of electrical power. 

The role of power electronics

Power electronics is the phrase used to define the application of solid-state electronics for the efficient control and conversion of electrical power. Power electronics comes into play whenever there is a need to modify voltage, current or frequency. In modern systems the conversion is performed using semiconductor switching devices such as diodes, thyristors and transistors. 

Power electronics is used in a wide range of applications in industry, transportation, utilities, power supply for electronic equipment, commercial and residential appliances. For instance, many consumer electronic devices, such as cell phones, personal computers and battery chargers, contain an AC/DC converter, probably the most popular converter of all. In industry a common application is the variable speed drive (VSD), which controls induction motors. The power range of VSDs goes from a few hundred watts to tens of megawatts. 

Power electronics also plays a major role in low-voltage direct current (LVDC) projects such as micro grids used for electricity distribution in rural or remote areas. Direct current in the electrical network combined with power electronics reduce power cuts and enable the intelligent use of the electrical network. This is of particular importance for developing country where access to electricity is still limited or non-existent. 

Trust throughout the supply chain

Manufacturers and suppliers of electronic components and manufacturers of electronic devices and systems have to ensure that their products are of the highest quality and performance. For their part, utilities that install smart meters or retailers who sell devices and equipment need to make sure that those are safe and reliable – and the consumers who acquire them will also want to know this. 

For all, trust is essential. One way to build that trust is through testing and certification. IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, is a major player and a leader in this field, working relentlessly to develop Schemes that cover not just electronic components but also associated materials, assemblies and processes. 

IECQ – a building block

As a worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components, assemblies and associated materials and processes, IECQ provides a certification system that enables manufacturers and suppliers to provide independent verification that the claimed specifications (including IEC International Standards) have been met. This gives end manufacturers the reassurance of knowing that suppliers holding IECQ certification do not need stringent second party assessment or monitoring. 

The plethora of electronic components and processes covered by IECQ are used in all kinds of technologies, from the smallest device to the most complex piece of equipment. IECQ’s contribution to a safer and more reliable world can only increase with the development of new technologies and state-of-the-art electronic devices. 

Large scope

IECQ offers several Schemes for specific industry sectors or that address issues that raise concerns: 

The IECQ Schemes help facilitate trade, reduce industry costs and eliminate duplication of assessments because certificates are recognized globally in the member countries. This means that once a device, a piece of equipment  or an installation has been tested by a recognized certification body, the certificate is valid everywhere, making it highly valuable. It also provides those components, processes and materials that have been certified with the potential to access international markets. 

To learn more about IECQ and its Schemes, please visit: www.iecq.org

Gallery
smart meter and thermostat Smart meters allow consumers to monitor their energy consumption
building thermography Thermography helps detec energy losses in buildings (Photo: Mazza Inspection Group)
smart devices used by teens Many devices that are widely used today run on low-voltage direct current (LVDC)