Smart sector integration – from concept to model

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The European Smart Networks for Energy Transition platform has set out proposals for smart sector integration.

Wide scale electrification across the economy in sectors as diverse as transport, industry and agriculture is demanding that an integrated approach to the transition be developed across all of the energy value chains.

Such ‘smart sector integration’ as it is termed is still an emerging concept with wide consensus on the underlying objective but little agreement on its practical implementation.

There is no common definition, for example, and different terms are used interchangeably while also the same term is used for different processes.

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As a contribution to the topic, the European Technology and Innovation Platform Smart Networks for Energy (ETIP SNET) has developed a common approach with what it terms a set of consistent definitions and recommendations.

These draw on three main ‘rationales’, energy efficiency and decarbonisation, asset and network optimisation and system flexibility and reliability.

Renewables building blocks

The ETIP SNET paper states electric renewables as a major building block with energy efficiency and electrification the low hanging fruits to be exploited first and foremost.

The remaining energy demand, e.g. for heavy industry, air and sea transport, will be covered by low carbon liquid and gas fuels. Power-to-gas will support this, both to supply green ‘molecules’ and by adding flexibility and long term storage, complementary to electrochemical storage.

A taxonomy of true green molecules is needed, ETIP SNET indicates.

The document continues that an integrated approach requires a streamlined ‘System of Systems’ vision. Holistic architectures are needed to take the many-to-many interfaces and integrations into consideration. ICT and other enabling technologies could facilitate integration in a faster way while avoiding barriers such as interoperability, lack of seamless interfaces or fragmentation.

The evolving ecosystems will require close collaboration at all levels, starting from the creation of a repository of evolving use cases. Dedicated task forces across stakeholders’ communities should jointly tackle barriers and foster deployment of state-of-the-art innovative applications.

The ICT backbone and the enabling technologies as well as data related considerations are of high importance.

Recommendations

Recommendations for the consistent economic assessment of sector integration projects include a proper allocation of resources, particularly when public funding is involved, and requires a structured and schematic assessment of sector coupling projects. This can be achieved through the Use Case approach.

Recommendations for regulation include fostering cross-sector and cross-member level playing fields by removing unnecessary or double taxation on electricity and for example incentivising power-to-X solutions.

Stakeholder cooperation for platformisation, such as TSO-DSO-aggregator cooperation on flexibility and storage, should be encouraged and new products such as electrolytic hydrogen and renewable gases for the imminent electricity and gas sector coupling also should be boosted.