Connectivity and the digital future of energy
In the last decade, there is no doubt that most sectors have experienced some form of change, with the recent rapid adoption of new ideas and initiatives set to permanently alter the way industries operate.
However, suggests that “few sectors experience the change from quite as many angles as energy, where political pressure, consumer demands and environmental obligations are combining in a series of industry-level transformation imperatives that demand action.”
In SSE Enterprise Telecoms’ latest white paper: , the company identifies three core challenges that the industry is currently facing: the move to RIIO-2; the transition from DNO to DSO; and smart grid adoption.
The move to RIIO-2
“Due for implementation in 2021, RIIO-2 is the new energy sector price control, intended to encourage competition and ensure fair pricing for consumers,” comments .“It’s also intended to put the consumer at the heart of all decision-making that happens within the energy sector, as well as reducing costs, boosting safety and accelerating the low-carbon economy.”
While RIIO-2 will deliver many benefits to the sector, introducing it into the industry will inevitably bring challenges, including the need for a clear digitalisation strategy to support data needs, ensuring data visibility and providing better customer experience. “Succeeding when RIIO-2 becomes the standard, will inevitably rest on infrastructure modernisation,” adds .
The transition from DNO to DSO
While the desire to move to more efficient and environmentally friendly operations is not new to the sector, the challenges to drive this comes from the need to change their operating models. Switching from Distributed Network Operators (DNOs) to Distributed Systems Operators (DSOs) highly depends on improved digitised functions and data to monitor grid performance, supply consumption and efficiency.
Smart grid adoption
Energy companies are at the centre of a smart boom. There’s a dramatic increase in the number of smart devices going into UK homes, cities and workplaces. With all these devices requiring constant connection and power, it is believed that electricity will account for a quarter of all energy demands by .
SSE Enterprise Telecoms explains that “with the DSO model being underpinned by smart grids, this technology will be an essential integration technology to decrease supply costs, reduce outages and increase synergy.”
While there are many benefits of smart grids, SSE Enterprise Telecoms highlights that for the UK, “much of the network infrastructure in place today is not sufficiently prepared for what the government and consumers will demand tomorrow.”
Developing a digital agenda
Although the industry is facing multiple challenges, namely to become consumer-centric, sustainable and efficient, the connecting thread is digitalisation. “By prioritising digitalisation and modernisation, energy companies can hit the markers set for them by their various stakeholders, and grasp the opportunity provided by an evolving, exciting marketplace,” says
While big steps have been made in the energy sector around digitalisation, SSE Enterprise Telecoms suggests there are three focus points for leaders to priorities when developing a digital agenda to mitigate these challenges.
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.