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What Does Innovation Look Like? Exploring the Future with Zubin Postwalla

January 18, 2019
"If disruption is the future of the energy industry, then innovation is the driver which enables us to steer positive change.
GE is no stranger to innovation. From the first incandescent light bulb through to the latest renewable energy technologies, this is a company built on driving innovation. It seems fitting then that Zubin Postwalla, Marketing Leader, China, East Asia Pacific, Grid Solutions, GE Power, was able to offer his insights as part of the keynote session on Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) Innovations and Smart Solutions at CEPSI.

The team at GE Reports had the pleasure of catching up with Zubin, offering us a fascinating insight into the future of innovation in the energy industry in Asia-Pacific, and around the globe.

Electrifying an innovation revolution

There’s no doubt that the energy ecosystem is changing, and that the international electricity supply industry must adapt to keep pace.

The way we generate and consume electricity is undergoing a global transformation. An industry once driven by central thermal generation is evolving to tackle the reality of a renewable revolution. Now the new emerging reality is the rise of distributed solid-state ecosystem, where generation will increasingly be located at the point of consumption. The emergence of interconnected electricity networks could be a powerful enabler in this future, an area of opportunity that Zubin is enthusiastic about highlighting.

With the International Energy Organization projecting that electricity will account for 40% of the rise in final energy consumption to 2040, and everything from the cars we drive to the machines that drive our factories evolving to be powered by electricity, how can innovation support the transformation of the power sector, and the grid infrastructure that forms its foundation?

The future of smart grid solutions

Grid solutions will form an essential foundation of innovation for meeting the needs of an evolving energy ecosystem. The combined benefits of smart analytics solutions will further empower this opportunity, providing grids that can react to changing demand, alongside responsive networks that shift to provide the electricity flow to meet these needs. This technology is already being developed today, with GE itself heavily involved in the emergence of powerful smart grid technology.

Disruption is innovation

Disruption isn’t just coming, it’s here in our industry today. It is a radical transformation of a sector which is evolving to meet an inevitable change in how we generate, distribute and consume electricity.

The World Economic Forum estimates that the net economic value of transformation to the electricity industry in the next decade from improved efficiency, reliability and resilience could be as high as US$3.3 trillion. So how do we unlock that value?

If there’s one lesson that’s clear from the transformations of the past, it’s that steering change to meet the three needs of the energy trilemma – affordability, reliability, sustainability – is a significant hurdle to overcome. What’s also true is that unintended consequences are likely to emerge, and a power system that’s truly sustainable must be able to adapt to those consequences.

It’s clear from the inspiration on show at this year’s CEPSI event that the future should not be viewed as something to fear. Instead we should see it as an exciting opportunity, albeit one informed by the lessons of the past. This is a chance to embrace new, digitally-empowered ways to work built on innovation, collaboration, and the vision to deliver something better.