Decarbonization in the energy sector

Dec 4, 2023

The decarbonization megatrend is causing evolutionary changes in the energy sector. Energy sources and the rate of used energy supplies are changing rapidly. We observe that existing power plants are modifying their combustion processes accordingly. Some energy companies are closing inefficient fossil fuel power plants and opening new plants based on cleaner energy sources. Alternatively, they invest directly in renewables.

Welcome to part three of our series on decarbonization where we focus on the energy industry.

Fossil power plants will continue to provide the power generation capacities.
Fossil power plants will continue to provide the power generation capacities.
World Energy Outlook 2022, page 279 ( )

What is powering the world? The share of coal and natural gas is still around 60% in 2022, and it will decrease to 40% in 2030. Nowadays, coal-to-gas projects (LNG-to-power) are in place. With this transition, 45% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions can be reduced. On the other hand, 90% CO2 reduction is possible with carbon capture technologies, and zero CO2 emission is possible with 100% H2 combustion. Applying H2 blending up to 30% - 60% in gas turbines is becoming more popular.

But even when you burn 100% hydrogen (H2), the net zero CO2 emissions can be reached. But NOx emissions will increase. In this case, modifying combustion processes and additional DeNOx/SCR systems investments in gas-fired power plants seem to be unavoidable. Because of the changing combustion conditions and reduced emission limit values for NOx. However in any condition, NOx need to be monitored continuously. (World Energy Outlook 2022, page 279 (

Another market trend is green ammonia co-firing plants. In this case, again, reducing CO2 emissions generate another dangerous greenhouse gas, N2O. In parallel, emission limit values are being reduced with each regulation update. Carbon emission trading and green deals are in place. These kinds of new processes and regulation changes require much more precise and reliable gas concentration measurements.

Perhaps the easiest way to get rid of these restrictions and new process investments is to favor renewable energy. This also fits the company's green energy policies. These companies are focusing on measurement technology for plants and processes based on renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydro power plants. In 2022, global wind and solar generation increased by 19%. Gas generation increased by 1.1% and coal generation decreased by 0.2% (Global Electricity Review 2023:

Ihsan Ceylan,Global Industry Manager Thermal Power Production & Renewables, SICK AG

"SICK has always aspired to develop technologies to benefit people and the environment. When SICK invented the first dust analyzer in the early '60s, at that time almost nobody was considering environmental or climate protection. With the same motivation, today SICK uses sensor technologies to produce solutions for renewable and cleaner industries."

Ihsan Ceylan, Global Industry Manager Thermal Power Production & Renewables, SICK AG

Sensor solutions for energy supply by gas-fired plants

Compared to coal-fired plants, energy supply from gas-fired plants with low pollutant emissions and greater flexibility is playing an increasingly important role. The PowerCEMS100 emission measurement system is equipped with the necessary measurement technology and is used for emission monitoring in these plants.

Gas Analyzers
High-performance, future-proof CEMS for emission measurement
Selective catalytic reduction further reduces NOx emissions in order to comply with the permissible emission limits.

In some countries, the limit values for NOx emissions are so low that even power plants that utilize relatively clean fuels like natural gas and hydrogen need to implement additional processes. This includes selective catalytic reduction, which can further reduce the NOx emissions to ensure the permissible emission limits are followed. In this case it is also necessary to monitor the DeNOx systems to guarantee their proper performance.

Sensor solutions for energy supply by photovoltaic and concentrated solar power plants

Giant solar power plants located along the Earth’s sunbelt can supply whole regions with environmentally friendly energy throughout the day. These plants with tens of thousands of reflectors often stand in desert areas with harsh climatic conditions. That makes it all the more important to ensure that the plants are operating properly and at optimal efficiency. The TMS/TMM22 inclination sensors from SICK measure without contact the inclination or rotational movement of the reflectors to ensure they track the sun at all times. Their electronics are designed for harsh, outdoor applications, thereby making them virtually fail-safe. The data transmission to the customer’s server or cloud is taken care of by a suitably developed gateway system.

In desert areas, large dust clouds pose great challenges to plant operators. The solar modules and parabolic mirrors need to be constantly cleaned. A multiScan100 3D LiDAR sensor mounted on the cleaning vehicle measures the distance between the cleaning unit and the parabolic mirror. A UM30 ultrasonic sensor is responsible for the fine positioning of the brushes.
Inertial sensors
The rugged all-rounder for inclination measurement
LiDAR sensors
Compact 3D LiDAR sensor with high detection reliability under harsh ambient conditions
Ultrasonic distance sensors
The universal application solver
 Niels Syassen, Member of the Executive Board at SICK AG

“Using technology for good: Committed to meeting the challenge of integrated sustainability in the company.”

Niels Syassen, Member of the Executive Board at SICK AG

Sensor solutions for wind power plants for optimal power generation

Monitoring the hydraulic systems for efficient adjustment of the rotor blades to the wind speed and during maintenance work

The magnetostrictive linear encoder DAX®.

To increase the efficiency of wind power plants, a hydraulic system adjusts the angle of the rotor blades of each plant to the wind speed. During this adjustment, DAX® magnetostrictive linear encoders monitor the piston position of the cylinders in the hydraulic system. When the wind speed changes, the system readjusts the rotor blades accordingly.

DAX®, the magnetostrictive linear encoder.

For maintenance work, the rotor blades are mechanically locked by a hydraulic system. DAX® magnetostrictive linear encoders determine the absolute position of the piston rods in the hydraulic cylinders and thereby protect the plant and the maintenance personnel.

Linear encoders
Flexible linear encoder for countless industrial applications

Vibration, shock, and temperature monitoring

Gear wear, broken pins and the like trigger different types of vibrations and anomalies. The Multi Physics Box Condition Monitoring sensor monitors any deviations from the original set values of a wind power plant over time.

When the Multi Physics Box is connected to a cloud-based remote control and data monitoring system, the operator of the plant is notified immediately about the specific problem. Mechanical services can then be scheduled, if required. Examples of these kind of challenges include broken pins, or the need to assess the long-term wear of gears.

Condition Monitoring sensors
Condition Monitoring sensors for vibration, shock, and temperature monitoring
Multi Physics Box
The Multi Physics Box monitors any deviations from the original set values of a wind power plant over time.
The Multi Physics Box monitors any deviations from the original set values of a wind power plant over time.
The Multi Physics Box monitors any deviations from the original set values of a wind power plant over time.
The Multi Physics Box monitors any deviations from the original set values of a wind power plant over time.

Hydrogen consumption with the “power-to-gas” technology

Up to 2% hydrogen has been added to the natural gas network in some regions of the world.

Green energy from wind and solar is essential for the energy transition but also introduces a few problems: Its generation is weather-dependent, and therefore not precisely calculable. Suitable storage facilities for the excess power from solar and wind plants do not yet exist. The power-to-gas technology offers a solution to this: Excess green energy is used to produce hydrogen that is stored, transported and can be combusted as a natural gas/hydrogen mixture via the existing natural gas network. The addition of hydrogen, however, significantly changes the properties of the natural gas. Up to 2% hydrogen has been added to the natural gas network in some regions of the world. Tests by SICK have shown that the gas flow meters still function just as stably and reliably as for pure natural gas with mixtures containing up to 10% hydrogen. SICK is also already prepared for higher hydrogen admixtures of up to 30 percent with the ultrasonic sensor it developed back in 2021. These devices also provide an integrated indication of the hydrogen content or gas quality.


These are just some examples, for more applications and solutions please have a look at out website.


Read the other parts of our series on decarbonization

Low-carbon combustion and production processes

Read more in part one of our series on decarbonization

Decarbonization: gas analysis and flow measurement for transfer and process applications

Read more in part two of our series on decarbonization