By Executive Vice President and President of Global Renewables Bernerd Da Santos
The energy sector is undergoing a transformative shift, from fossil fuel-based models toward increasing renewable alternatives. But generating power from the sun, wind and water isn’t enough — we must deliver it to the customers who demand clean, affordable, and reliable energy. AES is a leading innovator in this effort, digitizing the grid and utilizing big data, as well as harnessing it to increase capacity and reliability, adding Battery Energy Storage (BESS), and redefining the infrastructure needed for the widespread deployment of renewable energy.
This is why AES has invested heavily in several key renewables-based technologies that will play a crucial role in ensuring energy security while addressing the preeminent challenge of climate change. AES works together with its partners, suppliers, and customers to provide tailor-made renewable energy structured solutions. These solutions range from deploying standalone energy storage and boosting grid flexibility, to combining different technologies to provide round-the-clock carbon-free energy, developing mega-scale green hydrogen projects, and enhancing grid forecasting and modeling capabilities.
24/7 carbon-free energy
A milestone in AES’s commitment to innovation and developing the adequate infrastructure needed for the deployment of renewables is the creation of our 24/7 carbon-free energy offering. Pioneered in 2021 with a world-leading agreement alongside Google, this offering pushes the boundaries of innovation by delivering 24/7 carbon-free energy to companies, allowing them to procure 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. AES achieves this by matching clean energy demand with supply on an hourly basis using a diverse mix of energy resources within our ever-expanding portfolio, coupled with innovative technologies that boost efficiencies across the board. AES is partnering with leading technology companies to support them in achieving net-zero carbon emissions and reaching their clean energy goals with 24/7 carbon-free energy.
The world’s decarbonization goals require us to navigate the energy transition at a pace we have not historically taken in the energy system. In the US, for example, we need to connect 6 times the renewable assets annually by 2035 than we do today, and to do this we will need 3 times the transmission capacity currently online.
An increasingly digital grid
Dynamic, accurate data and models that we trust will help us accelerate the deployment of technology necessary for managing and operating an increasingly digital grid today, and more reliably plan for the grid of tomorrow.
AES has been collaborating with Tapestry, a project at X, the moonshot factory (formerly known as Google X) to build a single digital window into the full network, both transmission and distribution, that enables users to see, simulate, and share scenarios.
The partnership utilizes AI, machine learning, and advanced data integration to support the virtualization of the grid – a key enabler for a rapidly electrifying power infrastructure that is dynamic, optimized, and most importantly – secure and reliable.
A diverse and resilient supply chain
AES is further utilizing new technologies to build a diverse and resilient supply chain to reduce risk and keep grid modernization and the clean energy transition on track. Meeting our decarbonization objectives requires a substantial and accelerated increase in solar, wind, and storage capacity – components of which should be made here in the United States. Since the passage of the IRA, we’ve seen an enormous injection of private investment in expanding US manufacturing capabilities, a sea change which will ensure the US solar and storage industry has a secure, reliable, job-creating pipeline of equipment as it grows to be a fundamental part of America’s energy supply. As we scale our manufacturing capacity, it is imperative that we continue to address environmental and social justice concerns associated with mining and manufacturing, and diversify current geographic concentrations of materials sourcing and manufacturing for solar, wind, and the all-important energy storage.
Utility-scale energy storage
Utility-scale energy storage is the bridge between a clean energy future and a reliable, resilient, power grid. Grid-scale energy storage can be deployed rapidly and reduce overall costs while providing a buffer to support grid stability, minimizing power outages, and providing the flexibility to store clean energy for periods of high demand and when the grid is stressed.
This is why AES is increasing investment in utility-scale battery energy storage, pairing storage with more of our solar projects and developing stand-alone storage projects that provide critical flexibility and grid services to support reliability.
As we continue to advance our renewable capabilities, the opportunities for decarbonization only grow in potential scope, allowing us to invest in the development of green hydrogen. We must leverage our renewable capabilities to address the emissions that direct electrification alone cannot green, and reduce emissions within difficult-to-decarbonize sectors like transportation, agriculture and steel manufacturing. The rapid scaling of renewable energy increases the commercial viability of global green hydrogen production to do just that — an opportunity we’re taking seriously.
Together with Air Products, we have invested in the first mega-scale green hydrogen production facility in the US, a project in Texas capable of producing over 200 metric tons of clean hydrogen per day. In addition, in South America we are developing large green hydrogen-based ammonia projects, and investigating the viability of scaling and exporting these green products globally. And most recently, AES and our partners were selected by the DOE for two major Hydrogen Hub awards to support the development of advanced green hydrogen infrastructure.
These are just a few of the ways AES is leading and innovating to support the infrastructure development needed to achieve the goals of accelerating our clean energy future while maintaining a reliable, flexible, and affordable power grid. This is an all-together industry effort that will demand focus and commitment from all of us to achieve a secure and sustainable energy future.