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Torsten Ritzmann

enera

In Aurich, Wittmund and Friesland, the amount of electricity currently produced from renewable energies sometimes exceeds consumption by as much as double. While this might sound like a success story, what it actually means in practice is that there is sometimes a surplus amount available, and on cloudy, windless days, additional electricity produced from fossil fuels needs to be purchased. The aim of the enera project is to explore how this energy supply system can be managed in a smarter way.

Over 30 partners have joined a consortium led by EWE AG, seeking to demonstrate that the energy revolution works in the model regions of Aurich, Wittmund and Friesland. And that a modern and comfortable life is possible even as we use fewer and fewer fossil fuels to generate energy. The findings obtained here will then be applied to the rest of Germany. The German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology has been convinced of the merits of this approach, providing the project with EUR 50 million from the “Smart Energy” showcase (SINTEG) fund. Another four showcase regions in Germany have received funding. The enera project was launched on 1 January 2017 for a duration of four years.

It focuses on three core topics to successfully integrate renewable energies into a comprehensive, functional system.

Network, markets and data

Network

Energy volumes are balanced out in the electricity network. Electricity consumption must be coordinated with generation at all times and with to-the-second precision. This was a challenge even when there was a manageable number of large, hydrocarbon-fired power plants supplying the network with electricity on a continual basis. The situation has since changed beyond recognition: Many decentralised plants, such as wind turbines, combined heat and power plants or solar power plants, feed their energy into the network, mostly depending on what the weather is like. On the other hand, there are the electricity consumers who are used to getting their energy at the press of a button. In order to Eautomatic management mechanisms and precise sensory systems that are able to promptly identify and remedy critical situations in the network. Network operators are also increasingly turning to unconventional methods. For instance, flexible consumers such as cold stores are switched on or off depending on the situation so as to quickly use surplus energy or to relieve the pressure on the network.

enera aims to examine how energy flows can be managed better in the system as a whole.

Markets

The vision behind the energy revolution is to remove the borders between consumers and generators of electricity. Anyone who operates a solar generation unit on their roof can also provide electricity to their neighbours on particularly sunny days. Anyone who is able to absorb large volumes of energy at short notice during windy spells, for instance to cool down a cold store, is doing a service to the overall system by consuming energy. Someone who connects their e-vehicle to a charging station is providing part of a large energy storage facility.

These are all ways of improving flexibility on the electricity market.

Data

In order to be able to manage an energy supply system, the most important thing needed is knowledge. Knowledge about what is happening right now and knowledge about what will happen next. Accurate status reports and reliable forecasts are based on data. And there are plenty in the world of energy: consumption values, weather reports, calendars, network measurement values. Smart meters for the customer and new sensors at key gateways in the electricity network will provide even more data in the future. enera aims to explore and try out ways in which knowledge can be extracted here and ultimately be used to help both the customer and the wider energy revolution make progress.

The result is new, data-based business models developed partially by the company itself, partially together with the involvement of start-ups. enera offers such budding companies both expertise and infrastructure to create shared solutions for the energy revolution.