Andrej Orel from EBV explains the role semiconductors play in the energy transition and how EBV as a distributor helps companies develop solutions for this exciting market.
The shift towards sustainable energy will have a significant impact on the value chains in the energy industry and will cause the market for green products and sustainable services to boom. As Europe’s leading semiconductor distributor, EBV helps its customers to successfully develop solutions for this exciting market with new ideas and trends. About ten years remain to transform all segments of the economy and cut emissions by half. “One of the biggest challenges mankind has ever faced,” says Andrej Orel, Segment Manager City & Infrastructure at EBV.
What know-how does EBV have as a distributor in the sustainable energy field?
Andrej Orel: With our vertical market segment structure, we are able to scan market trends and needs and find matching solutions with the best available technologies. Traditionally, we have been involved with power electronics in wind turbines and photovoltaic inverters. Over the past 30 years, we have worked closely with our metering customers to help them transition to the new smart grid infrastructure. These are the foundations of the coming energy transition, which will be able to meet the challenges of growing demand for e-mobility, battery storage and other energy ecosystems.
Does EBV itself use sustainable energy sources?
A.O.: In fact, we use sustainable energies in various areas: for example, our buildings are heated by district heating supplied by the combined heat and power plant at the technology park. For cooling, we have activated groundwater, and the required circulation pump – like all our buildings in Germany – is powered by 100 per cent green electricity. Our vehicle fleet – more than 120 vehicles – also consists mainly of hybrid vehicles, and the first fully electric cars have already been ordered. We are already operating 26 electric charging stations with 35 charging points at our Poing site. A further 20 stations are planned for our sales offices.
What role does semiconductor technology play in sustainable energy?
A.O.: The share of semiconductors within the sustainable energy sector is growing year by year. The main role is actually connecting different energy ecosystems in order to increase efficiency and longevity. The price of semiconductor technology is supporting this trend in the long run. In the last ten years, for example, the price of solar has fallen by 80 to 90 per cent, while the price of wind farms has fallen between 55 and 60 per cent. Besides that, fastgrowing innovations in the field of IoT technologies are gaining momentum and accelerating growth in certain areas of the energy transition, such as connectivity and security.
Is the transition to sustainable energy †sources conceivable without digitalisation?
A.O.: Digitisation goes hand in hand with the evolution of a sustainable energy supply. In addition, government initiatives for the energy transition will accelerate growth and encourage new companies to embark on ambitious projects. Right now, we are seeing various IT companies moving more and more into new projects for carbon capture and hydrogen technologies.
Who are your potential customers in this field?
A.O.: The energy transition is an attractive growth market for many of our customers. Starting with our traditional smart grid customers to new entrants in the sector of EV charging stations as an example. Government initiatives, regulations and various incentives in Europe, which is leading the energy transition, will influence future decision makers and generate new projects and innovations, including AI. We at EBV are ready to play our part in achieving CO2-neutral targets in this transition phase, for any scenario and even for “non-traditional” customer approaches.
In what areas of the energy landscape do you see particular potential for EBV?
A.O.: The potential is enormous. Let’s look at the energy sector broadly: We’re dealing with an ecosystem with numerous chargers that can transport electricity in both directions. We have on-site storage and electricity from the grid. So we need to interface with electricity meters and other smart grid devices. In addition to upgrading the energy infrastructure, we also need to look at the local area of homes, battery storage systems for homes, future vehicles that support V2G (vehicle to the grid) and are used as grid buffers for excess renewable energy. Future grid-balanced edge computing nodes and cloud-based infrastructure will make the grid much more predictable, and there will be plenty of room for attractive financial incentives. We just need to find a way to connect all these ecosystems so they work as one.
Power plant operators and oil companies are now trying to gain a foothold in the sustainable energy sector. How can you help those companies to switch to the applicable energy sources?
A.O.: Once, the business model of oil and gas companies was in fuel supply. But today, major oil companies are making acquisitions in the traditional electricity sector, which includes production, distribution and supply, to develop renewable energy sources. The focus is on the “customer touch point” in the value chain, particularly in the development of infrastructure for electric mobility. EBV’s experience is in technology and solution-oriented sales with quick adaptation to new trends and project requirements. This is our DNA.
How important is energy efficiency in this context, and what can the semiconductor industry contribute?
A.O.: Efficiency means differentiation. In the energy sector, it is even more valuable because it can be interpreted from different angles. An example from the perspective of semiconductor technology: wide-bandgap technology in the energy sector enables operation at higher temperatures and higher frequencies. This means faster switching speeds and lower losses, leading to higher efficiency. Another topic is the global IoT, because the efficiency of the energy ecosystem is closely linked to the security of data transmission. Real-time monitoring is essential for an effective grid balancing in the future, while at the same time user data must be protected to ensure a satisfying user experience. This is where semiconductors will play a key role now and in the future.
Sustainable energy and reductions in CO2 emissions go hand in hand. What is EBV doing as a company to reduce its carbon footprint?
A.O.: EBV has a long history of caring for the environment. In 2008, we set up the ECOmiseIT™ project and have implemented dozens of tangible activities and green investments since then. In 2009 EBV was honored by the ‘Bundesdeutscher Arbeitskreis für Umweltbewusstes Management’ (B.A.U.M.) e.V. as one of the most environmentally friendly offices in Germany. Aspects such as paper consumption or the energy requirements of IT equipment were key assessment criteria – areas in which EBV already took comprehensive measures. This year, we’re announcing a new initiative designed to raise awareness among our staff and partners about the protection of bees. Further actions will follow over the course of the next few months.
EBV currently promotes itself with the claim “Passion for Technology”. We are continuously looking for creative ways to use technologies in an environmentally friendly way and always invite our partners to accompany and support us on this journey.
What is your view of the future? What can each of us do to make the energy landscape more sustainable?
A.O.: Energy plays an important role in our daily lives. We therefore need to make sustainable energy affordable for everyone. If the technology is green from the point of view of production and use – or at least greener than the previous one – then we will succeed in mastering this challenge, which I described at the beginning as the greatest challenge humanity has faced so far.