Iberdrola has committed to digitalizing more than 80% of its transmission and distribution networks by 2025 as part of its energy transition plan and in an effort to aid in the decarbonization of the economy. Grids are the foundation of the new energy model and the path forward for the shift to a green economy because they make it possible to integrate more renewable energy sources, sustainable transportation and electric vehicles, smart cities, and self-consumption. In order to expand its operations abroad, the corporation will devote €27 billion to its network business by 2025. In specifically, 5% of the total, or €1.35 billion, will be allocated to Spain. In his closing remarks at the first iteration of Innovation Week, held this week at the Global Smart Grids Innovation Hub, the company’s global hub for smart grids, located in Bilbao, Mario Ruz-Tagle, CEO of Iberdrola Spain, said: “The role of electricity grids in connecting and integrating distributed renewable generation, mobility, and air conditioning into the system is strategic if we want to achieve the electrification of the economy.”
The meeting was attended by Elena León, Director of the Networks Business of the Iberdrola Group, and Arantxa Tapia, Minister of Economic Promotion and Infrastructures of the Basque Government, with the theme “Building Together the Grid of the Future” and the goal of sharing the most cutting-edge innovation projects in the field of smart grids. All the participants in the effort to change the power system, from universities and institutions to businesses and young professionals, were present at the occasion. On the path to transforming grids into a smarter, more dependable, and secure infrastructure that enables more affordable and responsible use, investment in R&D&I is crucial. The only way to proceed down this route is through innovation and technology, using data and artificial intelligence as a lever to create value, according to Ruz-Tagle. The CEO of Iberdrola also emphasized Spain’s pioneering position in the upcoming grids. He emphasized that “we are positioned as the engine of the shift, to generate employment and facilitate this required take-off.”
In order to further the digitization of power systems, Iberdrola has recently invested more than €100 million annually in innovation projects. Over the next five years, this investment in Spain will increase by up to 25%, with the Bilbao Hub serving as one of its hubs of activity. Collaboration and alignment amongst all parties involved, including the administrations, are also required for the achievement of this goal. The CEO of Iberdrola stated, “To make the grids of the future a reality, we need frameworks to attract the necessary investment with realistic and flexible processes, and to establish open innovation collaboration models that attract talent. A generation of experts with the greatest abilities will be needed during the energy transition to meet the challenges of the future. More than 100 students from various universities and young adults who have recently entered the workforce had the chance to participate in a collaborative meeting where they discussed how to use the data provided by the grid’s digitalization to provide customers with better service in order to advance their preparation.
The most advanced grid management technology was also on display during Innovation Week, including the use of drones for substation remote monitoring and the installation of bird protection devices on overhead power lines, as well as the use of virtual reality for the remote supervision of electrical infrastructures like substations. This kind of construction attempts to minimize dangers for workers in the field and improve grid upkeep. The gathering included representatives from the businesses working with the Iberdrola Group’s global smart grid center, which in its first year of operation has managed to bring together more than 80 national and international businesses and organizations to develop solutions for grid digitalization, renewable energy integration, the deployment of electric vehicles, big data, efficacy, and energy storage systems.
More than 120 R&D&I projects have already been discovered in this technological area, and 220 individuals are already engaged in them. Iberdrola has established working groups with the many partners, in which the technical specialists of the company, along with the businesses most active in R&D&I, analyze business needs to prioritize the lines of work in the new technologies accessible. As a result, the Global Smart Grids Innovation Hub has developed into a center for development and cooperation related to decarbonization and the critical function of smart grids in the energy transition. In order to achieve this, it integrates its technological capabilities with those of suppliers of goods and services, academic institutions, and start-up businesses from around the world, taking into account the design of the power grid of the future. Electric grids are a crucial component of the integration of new renewable power and the implementation of innovative distributed solutions and services, and they will be a vital pillar of the Iberdrola group’s growth in the upcoming years. By 2025, the company hopes to have a global regulated asset base of €56 billion, a 44% increase from the €39 billion forecast for this year.