Digitalisation of the energy revolution

Germany’s energy revolution will see nuclear energy phased out by 2022 and coal by 2038 at the latest. This means that Germany’s domestic electricity supply will increasingly have to be secured from renewable energy sources.

Consequently, the sustainable conversion of the electricity network in the context of the energy revolution brings with it a number of challenges. Stefan Dohler, CEO of EWE AG, explains why the digitalisation of the energy revolution is the solution. Digitalisation, climate protection and energy revolution are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they complement each other and create the necessary synergies.

What does digitalisation of the energy revolution mean?

The digitalisation of the energy revolution means the gradual conversion of the electricity network and metering devices to smart systems in order to coordinate electricity generation and consumption and enable the best possible use of renewable energies.

Why is this necessary? To provide sufficient renewable energy for an industrialised country like Germany and all its companies and citizens, we need a large number of wind farms and solar power plants instead of a few huge nuclear or coal-fired power plants. Our CEO Stefan Dohler explains that “Around one hundred large power plants supplied the networks with energy over a long period of time. That will change in the future. There will be millions of power plants. They already exist today in the form of wind farms and solar power plants.”

Another innovation is that end consumers can become electricity producers themselves, for example, by installing their own photovoltaic system on their roof. Consumers become prosumers, a portmanteau of ‘consumer’ and ‘producer’. This means that consumers are taking an active role in the energy revolution and can feed electricity into the public network themselves. This results in the increasing decentralisation of the electricity network.

Energy revolution and digitalisation

One challenge facing renewable energies is that power generation is subject to fluctuations due to weather conditions. The implication of this is that at certain times more electricity is generated than the network needs, while at other times there is too little energy available. Moreover, the energy industry is becoming decentralised and in addition to the millions of small power plants that produce eco-power, some end consumers are prosumers.

PV-Anlage auf einem Hausdach mit einfallendem Sonnenlicht
Owners of a photovoltaic system are a typical example of a prosumer. The power generated can then either be used by the owner or fed into the network for other consumers.

This makes it difficult for network operators to maintain an overview and provide power exactly where it is needed. Since most consumers also have similar daily routines and therefore simultaneously have high electricity consumption at certain times of the day, it is imperative that bottlenecks in the power supply and an overload of the network are avoided. This is where the digitalisation of the energy revolution comes in and offers numerous solutions for a wide range of challenges.

At EWE AG, we have participated in a large number of research projects on digitalisation as part of the enera project, which is one of five projects in the German federal government’s SINTEG research programme (Smart Energy Showcases – Digital Agenda for the Energy Transition).

On the path to the digital energy sector

enera Logo

One of the projects involved the development of a smart, adaptive software module to predict where and how much energy will be generated and needed. We were able to demonstrate that such software, based on projections, data on decentralised feed-in such as wind energy and photovoltaics, as well as energy consumers and weather data, is capable of making meaningful forecasts and can be used in a variety of ways to reduce the load on the electricity network and coordinate energy flows.

In another project, a web application was developed that makes it possible to visualise the electricity consumption of individual properties, such as schools, hospitals or swimming pools, in real time at the municipal level. A chronological comparison and a comparison of different properties provide interesting insights into the electricity consumption and consumption patterns of the buildings based on data collected at 15-minute intervals. This enables municipalities to efficiently identify where there is potential for energy savings and where CO2 emissions can be reduced. With the appropriate metering systems, this software can also be applied to other resources such as water and gas, and can contribute to helping people engage in resource-conserving behaviour.

Similarly, data visualisation also offers benefits for prosumers and end users. Using a feed-in visualisation app, prosumers can view and compare their current and historical generation output as well as the energy consumption of their household. This yields valuable recommendations for action on how energy can be saved and the energy that is produced by the household can be used more efficiently. In addition to a general reduction in energy consumption, the feed-in visualisation app also helps prosumers to save costs.

Digitalisation of the energy revolution and EWE

EWE AG has already gained a great deal of experience in the field of smart technologies and digitalisation in a large number of such research projects. Of course, the projects above represent only a small selection of the possibilities that the digitalisation of the energy revolution will offer in the future.

Renewable energies already account for 95 per cent of EWE’s electricity, and our goal is to be completely climate-neutral by 2035. Learn more about our slogan here: WirHierJetzt 2035.

If Germany is also to achieve its energy goals and succeed in feeding ever greater amounts of energy from renewable sources into the electricity network, more progress must be made in the expansion of wind farms and solar power plants. As CEO Stefan Dohler explains, there is a connection between this and the attitude of the population: “If you want to have a climate-neutral world, you also have to accept the infrastructure required to achieve it.” Germany will have to import a large share of eco-power from other countries to realise the energy transition. Rather than an obstacle, Dohler believes that “It is technically possible and I think it is also affordable.”

To make the energy revolution possible, network operators must also invest in digitalisation and convert the electricity networks. At EWE, we know that the key to digitalisation is strong partnerships and knowledge sharing in the energy industry, artificial intelligence and data management, and that “The days when certain utility companies could do everything themselves are over. Today, we want to form good partnerships with companies like Bosch,” says Stefan Dohler.

Research projects for the energy revolution

Research and a pioneering spirit must also be part of the energy revolution. Hydrogen is an important building block for the storage and long-term use of renewable energies. According to our CEO, “Hydrogen is the only way of balancing the entire energy supply system with long-term storage options based on clean gas.” This is why EWE has launched the HyCAVmobil research project in Rüdersdorf near Berlin, where it is testing an underground cavern system for storing hydrogen for the energy industry. In Huntorf, Lower Saxony, we are also testing how a hydrogen economy with a vehicle fleet can function and we are investing around EUR 90 million in the “Hyways for Future” project".