Political backing crucial to Germany’s energy system of the future

6

This is the conclusion of a smart grid, distributed energy resources and demand response programme implemented to address the key concepts of Germany’s energy of the future.

The project DESIGNETZ involved some 46 organisations including utilities, technology companies, academia, government and consumer representatives, investors and renewable energy system developers.

Launched in 2017, the project was deployed in the regions of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland with the aim to prepare Germany for future energy business models.

According to a statement issued by German utility and member of the project, E.ON., the project has shown that: “The energy system of the future can only become reality if it is supported by a broad base within society: The energy transition must be enabled by politics and implemented together with companies and citizens.”

Intelligent expansion and modernisation of grid infrastructure and optimal exploitation of flexibility are key to a successful development of an energy of the future system that is based exclusively on renewable generation, the study has found.

Have you read?
Germany kickstarts DESIGNETZ energy of the future initiative
A net-zero carbon future by 2050 is still feasible says IRENA
Over 80% of energy capacity additions in 2020 were renewable – study

The decentralised system role of distribution grid operators is also a key aspect of the energy of the future in Germany, according to the study. By decentralising their operations and infrastructure, grid operators are able to reduce costs associated with grid expansion, introduce new business cases, and decarbonise operations whilst improving customer services.

However, the introduction of regulation promoting innovation and the development of new digital solutions is vital to ensure distribution grid operators are able to decentralise their operations.

The study has highlighted the need to promote the participation of various stakeholders including both the private and public sectors as well as international investors, to make grid-serving flexibility economically viable.

Furthermore, the study found that the energy transition in Germany is technically feasible, an intelligent grid is the basis of the energy of the future system and balancing energy generation with consumption in real time is vital for the energy transition.

Thomas König, responsible for E.ON’s network business, said: “With the successful completion of DESIGNETZ, we have created a blueprint for the energy system of tomorrow. DESIGNETZ has shown: The technical solutions for a sustainable decentralised energy system are in place. Now we need even stronger political tailwind. Future-proof regulation should, above all, stimulate investment and innovation in grid infrastructure and enable grid operators to exploit all flexibility options for grid stabilisation in the future.”

DESIGNETZ was deployed in various phases with the final stage comprising various distributed energy resources, including onsite solar generators and energy storage plants being integrated into a single platform.

Bidirectional communication between DERs and a central data processing platform System Cockpit was created. This enabled, for example, an energy storage system to communicate how much energy it could store or feed in to the grid, whilst the System Cockpit evaluated the flexibility offered, i.e., classified it in terms of possible weather changes, response times and technical faults.

DESIGNETZ proved with the System Cockpit that the provision of flexibility is unique and follows different processes and standards. When implementing a decentralised energy system, it is therefore important to integrate digital technology into the grids in order to be able to react flexibly to fluctuations in generation and consumption.

Andreas Feicht, state secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, adds:DESIGNETZ, as one of five projects in our SINTEG (Schaufenster Intelligente Energie) funding programme, provides important insights into the necessary conditions for a cost-optimal energy transition. We will incorporate these in the further development of the regulatory framework. In particular, the DESIGNETZ experts have demonstrated the importance of early and sufficient grid expansion, but also optimised grid operation – accompanied by intelligence, innovative spirit and flexibility.”