We are rethinking the concept of energy – in order to limit climate change, the emissions produced by generating electricity and heat need to be drastically reduced without endangering the reliability of supply or allowing energy prices to skyrocket. EWE already began to address these challenges back in 2006, working together with leading scientists to find a way to overcome them. The result was the Bullensee Assumptions, which gave rise to three closely intertwined core principles: expand the use of renewable energies, generate and use energy more efficiently and reduce energy consumption.
In order to achieve these goals, fundamental changes will have to be made to the energy supply; instead of a few large power plants, we are seeing an increasing number of smaller, decentralised plants – from the biogas plant at the farm to the fuel cell in the cellar – feeding energy into the network. And while conventional power plants are able to provide an even supply of electricity and heat 24 hours a day, wind and solar energy yields vary massively.
This means that many different generation facilities at different locations need to be coordinated so that there is always enough electricity on the grid, with as little fossil fuels as possible being consumed in the process. And wherever possible, electricity should be used when there is plenty of wind and sun, and intelligently conserved when their yield drops. Ultimately we also need to consider how we can effectively store surplus energy so that it can be used when it is needed.
To fulfill all of these tasks, the grids need to learn to “think”. We need to know at all times how much electricity is being fed in where and how much is needed, and then we need to be able to react very quickly to changes. At the same time, the connected components, from generators to consumers, need to learn when it is the best time for supplying or consuming energy.
Smart grids need high-speed internet as “neural pathways” and a modern IT infrastructure as a “brain”. We are already upgrading our networks with appropriate IT and communications technology and are offering solutions ranging from power generation to consumer products that help save energy.
All the same, there is still plenty of research and testing to be done in order to link the grids of the future. With partners from different industries and research branches, EWE is developing and testing solutions that will be powering tomorrow.