The concomitant replacement of traditional lighting by LEDS in buildings combined with the one of thermal vehicles by electric or hybrid vehicles induces at the scale of the building and the city 2 major changes: the arrival of direct current (48V DC) and the Digital. This is the starting point of the 3rd industrial revolution.
About 120 years ago, our “great-grandparents” lived a real revolution with the electrification of buildings and cities for the supply of the incandescent bulb to replace the candle and the gas burner and on the other hand the arrival of the individual thermal car. This would revolutionize individual mobility and help redesign buildings, cities and territories. One of the consequences of this revolution has been the centralization of all services, starting with energy, with a large part being the construction of thermal and then nuclear power plants and, to a lesser extent, hydroelectric plants, and even now wind turbines or photovoltaic ones for energy coverage of a territory. To accompany this production and centralized electrical distribution, was decided in the late 1880s to switch on the alternative current, much to the chagrin of Thomas Edison, for the electrification of New York, for reasons of transport of high voltage current . In the process, all the electrical equipment, until then in direct current passed in alternative current.
Today we are experiencing a similar revolution with the replacement of all sources of lighting by LEDs and the gradual withdrawal of the thermal vehicle in favor of the hybrid or very soon all-electric.
If the concomitance of this evolution can appear as the result of chance, it is not without consequences for our environment. There are indeed several elements of convergence which combined, must be at the origin of the 3rd industrial revolution.
It is first of all the DC (DC) 48V. Indeed the LED lighting works mainly in DC 48V. Its Alternative Current power supply requires the addition of transformers, expensive, energy-consuming and with limited lifespan. All professionals agree on a replacement of all light sources in the world within next 7 years (average life of current sources). In addition, the batteries of electric vehicles also store and deliver direct current. The 48V can be the reference of the electric vehicle too and Valéo has moreover recently designed an all-electric vehicle in 48V.
This is of course decentralized energy production and storage. Indeed, current power plants will not be able to keep up with the call for consumption linked to the rise of electric mobility. It is therefore necessary to produce and store locally and this energy is natively in direct current.
While more than 75% of electrical sources (lighting, computers, audio video, a large part of household appliances, ventilation systems, heating, etc ..) function natively in Direct Current and systematically require a power supply to support the current alternative it is more than justified to wonder about the persistence of such an excessively expensive system for the environment even as we go towards a production and local storage of DC energy.
Why convert Direct Current (DC) from storage or production unit RNE (Renewable New Energies) into Alternative Current (AC) to transform it back into Direct Current. Energy loss on the way is estimated at 25%. Added to this is the cost of the additional components needed for AC / DC transformation and the increased risk of failure (power supplies are often the weak link in electronic systems). It just gets crazy. It is even more insane in parts of the world where there is not yet centralized production or distribution of electricity, starting with parts of Africa or even India (about 14% of the world’s population) have no access to electricity (source World Bank)
On the other hand, as we move towards an all-electric world, all this cannot work without digital and AI (Artificial Intelligence). Indeed, it will be necessary to manage consumption peaks and arbitrate by adapting the production and storage for consumption. This obviously concerns the supply of buildings but also vehicles whose batteries themselves become a remote storage unit. We are moving towards intelligent grid management (smart grids) and this requires interconnection from all sources, starting with buildings and their equipment and vehicles.
Indeed, it is necessary to take advantage of the change of the lighting in the buildings to bring concomitantly the infrastructure in Direct Current and Digital. A new type of driver, PoE (Power over Ethernet) allows it. International standardization of this type of driver will be effective from September 2018 to reach an international standard to transmit on the same driver both data and power up to almost 100 Watts. This should allow powering not only the lighting but a large part of the connected equipment to start with the computer and all connected objects via a universal connection the USB type C.
This is a unique opportunity to bring together energy efficiency in buildings, digital and DC. All of this investment can be largely spent on renovation through energy efficiency.
The major consequence of this change is the introduction into the building of the inverter in addition to RNE (Renewable New Energies) production systems and storage in situ or deported nearby (scale neighborhood or the residence depending on the size of buildings and their energy needs). The inverter becomes somewhere, the “engine” of the building. It ensures the distribution of a stable current in 48V whatever its type of power supply.
We must now think of the building in Direct Current.
It’s just obvious. Everything is converging and it is time to take the opposite decision to the one that saw the reflex between Tesla and Edison 130 years ago for the benefit of the alternative current. The long-term challenge is 25% energy savings (between the energy conversion savings, the savings made to cool the spaces subject to heat releases and the economy on transportation), between 10 and 20% savings on the cost of basic equipment by the absence of power supply, at least 25% savings on the cost of the electrical installation (less wiring, simplification and less equipment) not to mention the increased durability of more than 25% of equipment. Everything converges for a lot more durability.
The corollary to this change is the transfer of a large number of current DC equipment. This should not be a problem in itself since most naturally work continuously. In parallel it is necessary to adapt the standards and electrical installation rules. Again, there should be no obstacles, as 48V DC current transmission and distribution at the local level is much simpler.
It is a formidable stake, at a planetary scale. Many will oppose because of lobbies in favor of alternative current (such a mutation leading to the gradual abandonment of equipment or components specific to alternative current) or the enormous task to be performed to change the electrical installations or equipment.
This awareness must be global, at all levels, politics to support this change and the removal of possible regulatory or normative blockages, industrials in order to put on the market as quickly as possible an offer of equipment and systems directly meeting the criteria of the direct current and finally citizens / users to appropriate this change in the shortest possible time.
It is important for each of these actors to understand that this is a unique opportunity to seize now. All these transitions, digital, energy and electrical are related. This is the real starting point of the 3rd industrial revolution. Bring these 3 transitions together and simultaneously deploy infrastructure and equipment to produce and store energy locally, to transport digital and DC power in buildings and the city using PoE (Power over Ethernet), to set up equipment and systems to reduce the energy consumption of buildings, starting with the LEDS that will draw PoE and finally transfer the thermal car fleet to multi modal electric mobility.
In this transition, France and at least Europe must be in pole position and this is also the goal of the DC World show by federating a real ecosystem around DC combined with Digital.
Emmanuel FRANCOIS –