The current sharp rise in fuel prices marks a record in the delivery of electric vehicles from 1.2% percent between January and May last year to 5.2% in the current year. Every electric vehicle consumes up to 5 times electricity compared to normal household consumption and Israel's outdated electricity grid, which is already over 100% consumption, is expected to crash and lead to quite a few power outages. It is estimated that by 2030, consumption is expected to grow to 106 billion kWh, an increase of about 3.5% per year. This will create a major problem in the electricity grid which is not presently able to transfer such amounts of energy, so it is necessary to find an effective solution to prevent the grid from collapsing.
The solutions currently offered involve the infrastructure itself, for example, by burying power lines or expanding the electricity infrastructure and adapting it to the renewable electricity energy market. However, such solutions are complex, will take years to invoke and will cost tens of billions of shekels. These complex processes lead to prolonging planning procedures and confrontations with stakeholders, local authorities, localities, infrastructure companies and environmental organizations. As a result, temporary mediation projects must be implemented until a permanent solution is established, in order to maintain a regular power supply. However, these temporary solutions are not necessarily economical or environmentally friendly as they act as a patch that will require a new solution again after ten or twenty years given the exponential rate of consumption growth. Therefore, a more flexible and faster solution is needed that does not depend on the outdated electrical infrastructure.
A viable solution can be taken from the cellular market. Originally, we were not consuming the large volumes of information we are today, so there wasn't a need for wide streaming. So, the cellular companies offered a monthly internet package to customers, who had to use it wisely so they wouldn't run out of their monthly allotted internet. However, as consumption went up, companies added a simple solution in the form of a home router that serves as an endless source of internet surfing.
A similar solution can also be adopted in the electricity market, by placing a small power grid (Micro Grid) that will be fed from micro-turbines. The chain will serve high-rise apartments, hotels, office buildings and even parking lots for electric vehicles. Such micro-turbines will operate in combination with renewable energies such as wind turbines and solar cells. The turbine will operate by hydrogen coming from green energy sources adjacent to the turbine or by using natural gas. In addition, the turbine produces a lot of heat which will be used to heat or cool the buildings in its vicinity. So not only does this address rising consumption, it is a network that is immune to cyber-attacks and environmental impacts like fires and storms that normally destroy main grid lines. So, even if all the tenants buy electric cars, the local network will provide a better solution. Micro-grids produce energy independence so are less affected by bureaucratic processes, regulators, or international wars and pressures affecting electricity generation infrastructures.
Hydrogen costs are high compared to the alternatives, but just as the price of solar panels was high a decade ago, it decreased with the development of technology and increase in production. The same is expected to happen for hydrogen– the price of hydrogen is expected to fall from $6 per kilogram of hydrogen to $1. In addition, the rate of decline in hydrogen prices will be faster than that of solar panels, since it is already being subsidized by Western governments, which is also accelerating the use of technologies for hydrogen development and the entry of new development and production companies. This means that the price of green hydrogen will be equal to the price of gray hydrogen that harms the environment and will even be cheaper than the price of natural gas or other polluting fuels in the near future.
The combination of renewable energies in the Israeli electricity system, along with other trends such as an increase in electric vehicles, requires a re-examination of the electricity paradigms that exist today. The solution to the electricity problem will be to combine a variety of technologies alongside the national electricity grid– technologies that will enable an immediate and long-term solution to the electricity grid problem with flexibility for future growth and resilience. In a dense and small country like Israel, there is no time to wait. This innovation must be adopted right now.
Written by Gil Aginsky, Hydrogen Division Director at Turbogen