Where are We on Our Path to a Sustainable Energy Future?

New Roadmaps and Standards to Improve Energy Efficiency and Scale Up Renewable Energy Integrations


The amount of battery charge left in your device, vehicle, or sensor means the difference between accomplishing your task on schedule or being delayed. Everything from not getting stranded on the road in your electric vehicle to sending out an urgent email on your laptop before boarding your flight depends on electrical charge. And when it’s time to recharge, the process needs to be as easy and portable as possible.

How Wide Bandgap Semiconductor Power Devices Can Improve Energy Efficiency

Over the past five years, the wide bandgap power device has emerged, which increases power efficiency and reduces energy loss, with a possible 50 percent improvement. The technology is used in a wide range of products, including transportation, lighting, and chargers, to provide electrical power. Because the wide bandgap power device is less complex with its high voltage performance, the lower number of power conversion stages makes it easier to integrate into products. Other benefits include increased switching frequency, which improves power density and lower acoustic noise. However, adoption has been slowed by the higher cost of production. 

While one benefit of the new technology is convenience, such as having a laptop charger the size of an iPhone charger, the wide bandgap power semiconductor also has the potential to help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The longer charge life means that drivers of electric vehicles can go further without recharging, such as driving 200 miles instead of 150, which significantly improves the owner experience and will encourage more people to purchase these vehicles instead of those that are gas powered. Additionally, the availability of the wide bandgap power semiconductor technology means that companies will continue to develop more devices and modes of transportation that rely on electricity instead of gas, which means a more reliable energy supply.

Semiconductor companies produce wide bandgap power semiconductors to be integrated into products created by third parties such as electrical vehicle, lighting, and device manufacturers. If each semiconductor used different designs and frameworks, creating products that use this technology would be more challenging and have a slower adoption. 

To help enable smoother, wider-scale integration and adoption of wide bandgap technology, the IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS) Standards Committee published the International Technology Roadmap on Wide Bandgap Semiconductors (ITRW) to accelerate the R&D process for this new technology to reach its full potential with short-term performance indicators and benchmarks. 

The road map identifies key trends, design challenges, and potential applications as well as a preview of future applications of wide bandgap technology. It summarizes the markets that could benefit most from the adoption of WBG technology, including ones for photovoltaic converters, hybrid and pure electric automotive drivetrains, and data centers.

How Virtual Synchronous Machine (VSM) Helps Increase Renewable Energy Adoption

Dedicated to driving technical standardization for production and distribution in the power industry, The PELS Standards Committee is also focusing on creating standards that help increase the adoption of Virtual Synchronous Machine (VSM), which improves the use and adoption of alternative energy sources. 

As power systems move from centralized generation to distributed generation, renewable energy sources, along with storage systems and electric vehicles, are connected to the power systems through power electronic converters. Because the power grid was not designed for this type and volume of use, especially the speed of the power electronics converter, it has become less stable. Often when a new solar or wind farm is connected to the grid, both the new source and others that use the grid for electricity immediately experience issues, meaning the alternative energy source must be taken offline to resolve the problem. Because of the issues of reliability, many people are concerned about moving to alternative power sources. 

However, VSM allows sources to behave like conventional synchronous machines, which improves reliability, stability, and security. The grid sees renewable sources the same as generators, which creates the reliability needed to increase adoption to eventually achieve zero emissions. 

Because many different manufacturers will produce converters, it’s critical that the technology seamlessly works with other devices. The IEEE P2988™ Recommended Practice for Use and Functions of Virtual Synchronous Machines is a standards project that defines how to create the converters to integrate with the current grid and future smart energy grids. Because the standard aims to harmonize integration, industry experts expect it to improve large-scale adoption of distributed energy resources and decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. 

Get Engaged to Foster Integration of Sustainable Energy Sources 

The PELS Standards Committee invites academics and industry professionals with expertise in the energy industry to join the IEEE P2988™ Working Group  and future standards development efforts. In particular, the Standards Committee is currently looking for researchers and engineers to provide private sector experience and industry expertise. 

By bringing a global industry perspective to the group, the Standards Committee aims to develop standards  to foster technologies that will enable increased use of alternative energy sources and the efficiency of our power grid. As standards development is open to anyone, you don’t need to be an IEEE member to participate.  

In addition to the ITRW Roadmap and the IEEE P2988™ Standard, the PELS Standards Committee is currently working on an IEEE International Technology Roadmap of Power Electronics for Distributed Energy Resources (ITRD) to provide a reliable roadmap serving academia, industry, national labs, and research organizations. 

As countries continue to promote and move towards carbon neutrality, the technology needs to catch up to the awareness to meet the needs. The roadmap will focus on enabling integration of more renewables and energy storage systems to the electric grid and reducing carbon emission from traditional energy sources. Because this shift will allow more integration of the wind energy, solar energy and energy storage devices, this roadmap will help change the future of the power system. 

Any stakeholder from industry, such as manufacturers, technology providers, consultants, utilities, national labs and research institutions, academia/students and professional associations, are welcome to get engaged.

Learn more about the IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS) Standards Committee and join us in creating the energy and electronics foundation needed to build sustainable technology for both today and future generations.

Author: Xu She, Secretary, IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS) Standards Committee

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