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The Global Energy Prize annually honors outstanding achievements in energy research and technology from around the world that are helping address the world’s various and pressing energy challenges.

Xinghuo Yu: Smart grid will become part of the new energy system

How will artificial intelligence change the energy industry? Details are in a chat between Dr Sergey Brilev, Head of the Global Energy Association, and Dr Xinghuo Yu from Australia, who is nominated  ”for outstanding and demonstrated contribution in new ways of energy application in cyber-physical environments.”

Sergey Brilev: Well,  good afternoon to all of the subscribers of the Global Energy Association,  although today I have to confess to that I don't know, what to say properly,  is it a good afternoon or a good morning.  Now, it's good morning in Russia, where I am, and our distinguished guest Xinghuo Yu  is in Australia, which is many many hours away,  it goes up, so  good afternoon to you.

Xinghuo Yu:  Seven hours ahead of Moscow.

Sergey Brilev: Good.  Right.  So, let me first of all kill everyone around with a short description of what you're being…  or why you've been shortlisted.  So, people, who are not Phd’s in physics and mathematics may find it difficult, but we'll paraphrase and explain everything to you. So, Dr Xinghuo Yu has developed a highly regarded expertise in cyber physical energy systems and a new conceptual framework, which will be very important for the world's energy future. Сyber physical systems are systems of collaborating, and here’s the part, which a lot of people will fail to comprehend, cyber physical systems CPS are systems of collaborating computational entities, which have intensive connection with the surrounding physical world and its ongoing processes, providing and using at the same time data accessing and data processing services available on the internet. Well, I imagine, that we've lost half of our viewership now, but let's come back to normal life now. Is it about the Internet of Things?

Xinghuo Yu: Yes, it is a special Internet of Things, you know, I always say, that the Internet brings so many things to our change of life, but also bring a revolutionary change to the industry processes, that's a very typical example, but this Internet of Things are very different from any others. I always use the example of this acrobat troop in the circuits. You have a few bicycles and you have people hands or 20 people on it and circling around the stage.  So, that's actually our system.  If using that example, you can see, how challenge the power system is to maintain, that the thing is connected, things responded, because you require this kind of a dynamic, balancing to be able to move around. So, I think, I would say, that this is perhaps the most difficult Internet of Things you ever deal with, but of course the reward will be enormous if you do it.

Sergey Brilev:  When we are talking about a circus and the bicycle being driven, whom do you envisage? A clown on the bicycle or a well-disciplined bear?

Xinghuo Yu: Let me put it this way, at the present time, if we use the all the power system, in scenario, the bicycle would be the generator, you know , the coal power, nuclear…  and then they have enough to be synchronised, means they rotate in the same time, because that's the only time you deliver the real power , and you have all these users on top of it. Client, I would say, you can consider client as a stimulator, right, stimulating of the behavior of the participants, or it could be a distracter, so it depends on how do you see it. But, it would be certainly a very useful in this kind of environment.
Sergey Brilev:  The reason why I made this comparison is because smart grid technologies give us opportunities, but they also give us challenges. It is a great blessing, but it's dragging along a problem of security.  So, a clown, and I stress the words, which may be mad or may have very bad intentions, may try to organise a cyber-attack on the grids. What could be done, what should be done? What's to be done to prevent things like that?

Xinghuo Yu:  Well, if we use this acrobat troop, you realize, how important, how hard to protect the system. So. I always say, that you never have a perfect system, you just have to be ahead of those people, trying to attack, because those people attacking, are not just the ordinary people there has to be very highly statistic skill the person of a deliberately trying to sabotage all your system. So, there's actually usually two type of things: one is we usually know, that just like all computer, the typical virus and you set up software alert if something come along and then just shut it down. Another which is a new we've been doing some more work is that just like humans you look at behavior to become  suspicious.  So, you you watch it over time and then your alert system that, that  particular behavior should be stopped. So, there's a lot of walking those area, but you will never get an absolute solution, but you just have to be always ahead of your enemies in your development.

Sergey Brilev: Fingers crossed. Let’s talk about renewables. Well, let me first of all remind some of our listeners, subscribers about the photo of a famous or rather infamous photo of a diesel generator in the middle of an Australian desert, which is being used to charge electric cars. So, we invented electric cars in order to save the planet from the pollution, but instead of that, in order to charge them you actually put a diesel generator in the middle of the desert. Well, that was a infamous photo, but it brings us it,  takes us to the question of the main problem of renewables and that is, of course, the problem of demand and decline of power, during the day. So, you can switch on a diesel generator and charge your car, but you can't switch off the sun, especially in countries like Australia. Is Australia going to adopt massive scale renewable integration, which may have a significant impact on frequency stability, because of the intermittent nature of renewable sources?

Xinghuo Yu:   Well, Australian government on both sides of politics has been taking a cautious approach, partly because you have to make sure, that the system not collapsing, until you found a solution to deal with the intermittency of the renewable energies. Well, over the last two years I look at some data. Actually there's a dramatic increase of adoption of a solar panel... But the challenge is, how do you ensure, that the whole smart grid have the capability to deal with those kind of intermittent,  drop or increase, so that's actually is very much challenge. I like the idea of the example you take, this is one of the things, that's why we written with some of my collaborator, we wrote another article, we believe, that smart grid is a bit too narrow in the way, that if you look at the energy you probably has to look at the source, that are still underground, the core, the oil,  the uranium.  And then you look at the process from that translate it into electricity form, or hydrogen form, or whatever form and then from there to the user. So, I believe, we believe, that in the future, I think, Smart Grid will be a component, but in the future, Smart Grid will not be the only form, there are many other forms, many other energy sources. I will actually classify, there is actually, sort of a three type of energy. That is the primary energy, I mean, that is very raw material.  There’s secondary energy, which is usually is the electric form, electricity or hydro and there's the use of energies. I think, we have to take a holistic approach and look at the energy and I think that’s the future.

Sergey Brilev:  What about the past and the presence for countries like Russia and Australia, in particular, the coal?

Xinghuo Yu:    Well , we have currently in Australia this kind of a short-term, immediate goal to ensure, that you have the best supply of energy, because you got this company, the factory required that.  So, we just have to wait until the technology mature enough and you then you can do the switch.  And, there's two ways,  one is you just make a cleaner you know the core profile.  But, of course,  they're always pollution, but then you may have to look at the nuclear power, that's very controversial in Australia, even so we are have the reachest deposit of uranium.  So, I think, for the planet over many years generations eventually, we have to move out of those kind of coal power to reduce the pollution, but in the intermedium term, we still have to use it just to ensure, that we have a strong economy to grow, because people want to live a better life.

Sergey Brilev: Well,  this is not your speciality, of course, but I've been talking to some of the coal producers recently,  and they tell me, that the forecast is such that Colombia, which is a major coal-producer will soon cease being a major coal-producer just because of the deposits, which have been explored actively and it's Russia in Australia, which will dominate the market.  So, it's an interesting political, well,  let's put it this way,  philosophical question,  will the government's refrain from helping their exporters to absorb this market, which will be empty, following the disappearance of Colombia, or will the renewable-oriented tendency predominate? Any thoughts on that?

Xinghuo Yu: Well,  if you look at Europe, like Germany uses a lot of renewables, but they also rely on nuclear energy from France just in case if  there is intermittent energy,  so I think until we have this kind of secured renewable energy source, you probably still have to rely on it.  But, I hope, it won't take many years to reach that stage.

Sergey Brilev: Well, we'll see.  I'm still concerned about the coal miners, but that’s another question, coming back to the previous question, can Smart grids administer the system in such a way, that even with unreliable renewable energy sources you can still guarantee the stability of frequency and the stability of supply?

Xinghuo Yu:  It can, yes.  What I mean, one of my key sort of research activities is look at this artificial intelligence technologies and look at those kind of intelligent species, for example, birds. Birds do not have much intelligence, but if you look at birds flying, simple intelligence. They can fly in particular patterns, so we actually trying to use those, to inspire,  to create this kind of intelligent entity, so they can talk to each other, just like the human societies, animal colony,  they actually they move along according to a few rules.  I think it can be done, I mean, if you look at the AI development, look at the understanding of how spaces evolve, interact, and then eventually we have that kind of system. But probably, won't call it the Smart Grid, because Smart Grid concept is still very much on the infrastructure, deliver the high voltage…

Sergey Brilev: Artificial Intellect, rather

Xinghuo Yu: Yeah, different form of energy sources.  I have seen in the US, they have some of the prototype system.  Basically it's kind of a dc network and you can easily plug in, plug out, or  you  could become supplier or user at your wish, but the system has to have intelligence to respond to this random being out, so there's going to be a very challenging technological task development in the future.

Sergey Brilev: I was listening to you. I shouldn't be saying that, but you and I are from countries, where Marxism and Leninism is something, that we're learning in our childhood, not any longer in Russia,  but the phrase, which comes to my mind is a quote from Lenin, who in 1922 said, that the socialism is a combination of soviet power and social electrification.  But, I shut my mouth.

Xinghuo Yu: Yeah, that's what I heard about. That's why the Chairman Мao was following that.  He pushed so hard of the modernization of China.

Sergey Brilev:  That's actually, yeah.  He had similar slogans on the wall.

Xinghuo Yu: He used that. Yeah, but he also added another one, that communist is a beef and the bread, because that's actually at that time it's a very shocking.

Sergey Brilev: As eventually we share some of the reflections, but let's not sink inside, because otherwise we'll have an endless conversation to begin with.  Yeah, now very lastly, not lastly, I have one more question from myself, but here's a question from someone in our association, who helps me with with this chats. Hello, Sophia Morgan.  And here's a question from her, and I can quote: “What draws attention in your work on preventing another threat is fires, you have proved that even 20 year old wooden poles, who developed high fiber porosity conductive to fires. This significant finding has prevented and will continue to prevent potential bushfires, which result in huge losses in lives, for example in latest events in Australia.” Any thoughts on that?

Xinghuo Yu: Well, that's what was the surprising research, we have done, because Australia as you know, that's the huge vast bushland and you have this kind of old timber, wooden 05s and the  industry practice after 30 years they replace it. But, what we found is even 20 years you start to get a problem. Actually, one of the 2009 Victoria bushfire, which killed over 100 people, was because of the this kind of a wooden crossfire and the fall on the bush and then cause fire. So, I think, that was a very encouraging, because eventually industry realized, that they just changed their practice, change their policy, which I think,  it's a good to hear.  Our results actually can make some impact, but of course that in future they are talking about, new different pole, like the concrete, and all other  chemical material type of thing, which is probably …but those are something quite expensive.

Sergey Brilev: Well, interesting. Yeah, I had never thought about that before that conversation. Of course, we wish luck to all of the people, who've been shortlisted for the Prize this year. Let me once again explain to our subscribers, that on the 7th of September the International Award Committee will meet and decide the fate of 15 people, who have been shortlisted out of the record number of nominations this year, 20 countries about 200 nominations, if memory serves me well now.  Our International Community is an independent body, that cannot be influenced by the management of the Association, it's up to them, but let's imagine, that we are present at the International Awards Community meeting, how would you recommend yourself?

Xinghuo Yu:  Well, it's up to the Committee, but, certainly I think we have done some quite unique thing to improve the use of energy in the world. I hope, that I'll be the successful.

Sergey Brilev: Okay, thank you Dr Yu. What's the Chinese for thank you?

Xinghuo Yu:  Xièxiè

Sergey Brilev: I was going to say “Nicaragua”. Thank you doctor and let's keep in touch.

Xinghuo Yu: Thank you very much.

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