Tomorrow’s world and beyond
Tomorrow’s world and beyond
What can we expect of the electrical world of 2030? Daniel Hager, Hager Group CEO, shares his thoughts on what the future holds.
3,100 days, or around 100 months – that’s all the time we have left from where we are in the middle of 2021 until the start of the next decade. Depending on your perspective, 100 months may be a long time or little more than the day after tomorrow. And let us not forget what Bill Gates once said about our perception of the pace of change: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” This was the experience of the Microsoft founder, whose innovations have changed our world for good in many ways. Bill Gates’s conclusion: “Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”
So, what should we expect of the electrical world of 2030? And what are we, Hager Group, doing to prepare for this future, today? How will we be helping to shape this world, and what does all this mean for our partners, our employees and our customers?
Let us now take a look at some of the developments that will lead us into the year 2030.
No one can say exactly what our world will look like in 2030, after all, we are only just starting to build it.
As I write this, the greatly anticipated, yet equally long-delayed, growth in the electric vehicle market is clearly starting to happen. In China and the United States, as well as in many European countries, new registrations of electric vehicles are going through the roof. However, the downside to this momentum is that a constant rise in e-vehicle registrations is pushing our electric network capacities and the, as yet, insufficiently developed charging infrastructure to their limits. It is for this reason that Hager Group is currently working on the development, amongst other things, of rapidly deployable electric charging solutions for parking spaces at commercial and industrial buildings.
We cannot overstate the importance of this because, in 2030, we will of course all continue to value private transport. “E-cars are a good solution for rural areas in particular,” explains Prof. Claudia Kemfert, Professor of Energy Management at the Leuphania University of Lüneburg. “Urban space is crammed and fiercely contested, but in the countryside, there’s plenty of room for parking and charging.”
This is another reason why almost all notable car manufacturers are placing their bets on electromobility. Over the next ten years, the 29 largest vehicle manufacturers worldwide are planning to invest more than €300 billion in the development and production of alternative powertrains – a tremendous sum that looks set to accelerate the transition once again. Strategic consulting specialists KPMG have identified three disruptive trends that are sure to accelerate the transformation of private transport globally: in addition to electric vehicles (EVs) and alternative powertrains, we will see Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) via mobility providers such as Uber and DriveNow. “Independently, each would significantly change the ecosystem,” say the experts, “but together they represent an unprecedented change.”
According to a recent study by Boston Consulting Group, 2030 could be the year in which, for the first time in the history of the automobile, more electrically powered vehicles are sold worldwide than those with combustion engines. This would mark an historic turning point – the combustion engine being overtaken at full speed by its electric and potentially climate-neutral successor.
The significance of this change extends far beyond the vehicle itself. By 2030, a central pillar of our energy supply will be the integration of electric vehicles into a smart grid. Depending on the weather or time of day, e-vehicle batteries would store solar or wind-generated energy and return it to the grid to balance spikes in electricity demand or temporary production shortages. With the ten million electric vehicles on German roads that the Federal Government is aiming for by 2030, the German power grid would potentially have an additional ten million storage units at its disposal. This system, also referred to as ‘vehicle to grid’ (V2G), provides a buffer function that is crucial in compensating for the production fluctuations that are inevitable with increasing power coming from wind, water and sun. To enable this, however, electric vehicles and charging points have to support bidirectional charging, i.e. the flexible charging and discharging of vehicle energy storage systems – a technology that we at Hager Group are currently working on with our partner Audi.
Not only is it vehicle powertrains and charging points that will need upgrading by 2030, but also the buildings which they dock on to, and their respective power networks. In recent years, a huge bottleneck has been building up in respect to the modernisation of electrical infrastructure. In Germany, for example, a study by ZVEI, Germany’s electrical and digital association, found that half of the buildings erected in the 1960s have not seen any electrical modernisation work since their construction. And things don’t look much better in the rest of Europe. Worldwide, buildings and construction activity generate a massive 40 percent of carbon emissions. It’s hard to believe, but true, that while we are working on our digital future, many of our electrical networks are still stuck in the post second world war era.
It’s hard to believe, but true, while we are working on our digital future, many of our electrical networks are still stuck in the post-second world war era.
Given the multiple increase in electrical loads per household in recent decades, many of these ageing circuits and distribution boards will have already reached their limits today. The situation therefore looks even bleaker for the future. For an energy-efficient home with a roof-mounted PV system, an energy storage system in the basement and an electric vehicle in the garage, electrical installations from yesteryear are of as much use as a local airstrip is for a jumbo jet. When former electricity customers increasingly turn into prosumers, producing electricity with their roof-mounted PV systems and delivering it to their electric vehicles in the garage, energy storage system in the basement, their electrical installations must be able to cope with significantly higher loads than they do at present. The wiring and equipment installed in millions of properties are simply not up to the task. Future-proof home technology is also needed for ambient assisted living solutions, which enable a population that is increasingly elderly and in need of care. to live a safe and independent life at home.
So, before we can modernise our transport networks and cities, we must start with the home. Our path to the electrical world of 2030 is sure to lead to classical meter boxes, distribution systems and digital home networks. There’s a lot of work ahead, both for our installer and wholesale partners, and for us as a building technology manufacturer. One of the most important tasks will be to redefine our roles, our way of working, and our identity.
We can often dare to set our sights significantly higher than we might at first believe.
The increasingly electrified world that will unfold in the years up to 2030 will bring major changes for us, for electricians and to the solutions we develop together for our customers. I am thinking, among other things, of new service models, of highly streamlined interoperability between the various specialist teams of engineers involved in construction, and of the new competitors emerging in our industry.
The more digitalised our products and solutions become, the more regularly they will require software updates and maintenance. For smart homes, we will need specialists available around the clock to readjust complex building controls online in response to breakdowns or damage. In the future, therefore, new service, rental or leasing models will develop to promote the straightforward use of building technology.
The shortage of skilled workers, which is already impacting contractors today, is likely to cut even deeper in the future, especially as demand grows. At Hager Group, we are working to support our partner contractors, for example with plug-and-play solutions that facilitate more straightforward installation, connectivity, and remote maintenance.
To enable the seamless connectivity of various digital technologies in intelligent buildings, digital communications protocols are needed that are supported by all the trades involved. And speaking of trades, by 2030, they will grow ever more closely aligned and reinforce one another, and also compete with each other. A heat pump, for example, can be installed equally by an electrical engineer, a heating engineer, or a solar PV installation engineer. Let us not forget that building technology is also an interesting business for national energy suppliers and Silicon Valley technology firms. We will therefore be called upon to reinvent and consolidate our roles, and sometimes to defend our position.
I would, however, like us all to look ahead to 2030 with confidence, because we have shown in the past what enormous achievements we are capable of. In the area of building technology, for example. According to analysis by the think tank Agora Energiewende, greenhouse gas emissions by Germany’s building stock fell by a massive 44 percent between 1990 and 2018. This came as a result of measures such as building renovations and the use of heat pumps, and despite a 39 percent increase in living space over the same period. Smarter, more efficient buildings will not reduce comfort or quality of life; quite the opposite. In the future, we will be able to live better, more comfortably and at the same time more sustainability. And we can often dare to set our sights significantly higher than we might at first believe.
When I first started out at a small renewable energy company early in the millennium, wind, solar power and water represented just six percent of the German electricity mix. At the time, there was a broad consensus in politics and business that a renewables share of over 30 percent was completely utopian. Today, only 20 years later and thanks to significant social endeavours and a groundbreaking law, they make up over 45 percent, with no end to their growth in sight. Worldwide, renewables account for over 36 percent of generation capacity, with 2019 and 2020 having seen higher growth than ever before. Visionaries such as solar investor and Stanford lecturer Tony Seba (“Clean Revolution 2030”) predict that green energies, which are continuously becoming cheaper in comparison to fossil fuels, will comprehensively change our business models, our way of living, and our lives in the years to come.
We believe sustainable business models that conserve resources and the environment will be disproportionately successful in the future; this makes us all the more interested in the impact our actions have on the environment. We are proud to contribute to a post-carbon society by promoting circular economy concepts and tracking the full life cycle of our products. In the future, we want to live up to this commitment more strongly than ever before.
I remain very optimistic when I look ahead to the coming decade. I am looking forward to taking on these challenges together with our dedicated employees, our fantastic electrical engineering & wholesale partners, as well as science and society, and also to shaping our electric future together. With Hager Group’s Project 2030, we have formulated a clear strategy and set in motion numerous initiatives with which we are laying the right foundations in important future-oriented areas.
100 months to 2030 – that’s little more than the day after tomorrow.
To bring us forward on this path and grow our leadership position, we need the brightest minds, the most experienced practitioners and the most motivated colleagues in arms on our teams. Hager Group’s doors are therefore wide open to anyone wishing to help shape our future and contribute to a truly sustainable growth story.
The future is what we make it. No one can say exactly what our world will look like in 2030, after all, we are only just starting to build it. I am confident that, when we look back on this time in around 3,100 days, we will say: awesome, we’ve come a really long way!