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The future of decentralized electricity distribution networks
Sioshansi F., ELSEVIER, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2023. 526 pp. Type: Book (0443155917)
Date Reviewed: May 20 2024

The most important achievement of the first Industrial Revolution was the possibility of finding a quite simple solution to guaranteeing that humans can be independent of natural sources of energy such as the sun, water, and wind. Before the invention of the steam engine people and their development were strongly dependent on these “natural engines,” but now that we can transform heat to useful forms of energy that allow us work all the time, we have so far met three Industrial Revolutions and are in front of the fourth one. Human achievement has caused great developments in many areas of life. But we also see that, sooner or later, easy access to huge amounts of energy from fossil sources will be a huge problem: such sources can be exhausted, and their transformation leads to serious impacts on the environment. Moreover, it is normal that we want to develop new technologies that are environment-friendly and highly efficient, and that use energy that comes from natural, renewable sources.

From physical and economical points of view, electrical energy is one of the most easily transformed to other kinds of energy; it is easily and quite efficiently passed over long distances and is the basis of our current life. For many years, there was a common model assuming that its large-scale production is done by different big power plants: coal, hydro, and nuclear--considered here as centralized systems. Then this energy is passed through power lines to final destinations. But recent technological achievements caused a quite important change in this paradigm: today, one can be both energy consumer and energy producer, leading to distributed energy sources. This significant revolution has brought about new challenges and problems that require new economic models. The future of decentralized electricity distribution networks is an attempt to discuss some of the issues related to these challenges.

The book’s 20 chapters, each by different author(s), are organized into four parts. Each chapter is supported by a detailed literature review and, when necessary, long-term historical datasets. Many visualizations of data, tables, figures, photos, calculations, and real-world case studies are included. This convinces the reader that the authors’ analysis, conclusions, and thoughts are based on reliable sources.

Part 1 (four chapters) examines how observed technological advances, especially rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, are changing our views on how electricity can be generated, stored, consumed, aggregated, managed, and optimized. Part 2 (four chapters) shows the new options available to consumers for becoming prosumers, prosumagers, flexumers, and nonsumers, together with new models for microgrids, energy communities, peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading, and virtual power plants. Part 3 (seven chapters) focuses on the migration of consumers from passive to active participants in the energy market. This significantly disrupts the traditional relationships between known notions of generators, transmission, distribution companies, and retailers, which leads to the final important question: What does this mean for the future of electricity prices? Part 4 includes case studies and examples of new emerging services and business models that meet the divergent needs of different types of consumers.

The general impression of the book content is really positive, and it’s clear the authors put a lot of effort into not only presenting their thoughts but also supporting them via many figures, graphs, tables, and statistical datasets. Most of the literature references are from the last ten years; they show the current state of the art and provide many important facts and numbers related to observed energy transformation. This is seen in the cases of developed countries such as the US, the United Kingdom (UK), and Australia--also the biggest energy producers and consumers. Moreover, if we refer to the development of telecommunication networks, the similarities in both systems and telephone networks have much to suggest about the conflicts and opportunities associated with increased customer-side options in electricity.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the current state of the art of distributed energy systems; who is looking for reliable sources of data, information, and practical knowledge; and who is focused on different case studies and wants to broaden their knowledge in this field.

Reviewer:  Dominik Strzalka Review #: CR147767
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