Energy future with enera

The enera project conducted research in a model region for four years to determine whether the energy revolution could work on a small scale. The findings indicate a resounding “yes” if all market participants work together and place their trust in digitalisation. The next step is to determine how the findings can be applied to the energy revolution across Germany.

enera – how it all started

In 2017, more than 30 partners joined a consortium led by EWE AG, seeking to demonstrate what a future-proof energy supply system might look like in the north-western trial region of Aurich, Wittmund and Friesland, which is dominated by wind power.

The amount of electricity produced from renewable energies in the region 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 occasionally a surplus and that additional electricity produced from fossil fuels needs to be purchased on cloudy, windless days. The enera project studied many different approaches to how this energy supply system can be managed more intelligently, thus gaining insight.

The project impressed the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. enera is one of five projects financed by the SINTEG funding programme (Smart Energy Showcases - Digital Agenda for the Energy Transition). The enera project drew to a close at the end of 2020 and the findings have now been published.

Offers that benefit customers and help further the energy revolution

EWE is using the knowledge it gained from the project to advance the digitalisation of the energy revolution. In the wake of enera, concrete offers have already been launched on the market that primarily focus on customer benefits while also helping to further the energy revolution:

  • Gridlux uses artificial intelligence to identify areas where the fibre optic network can be successfully expanded on a commercial basis. This promotes broadband coverage across Germany, thus providing the basis for digitalisation of the energy revolution.
  • photono transforms the data flood into a competitive advantage and can predict where companies will find customers with a strong interest in their products. This helps to further expand the use of climate-friendly photovoltaic systems, for example.
  • LiMBO assists municipalities with digital energy management. An overview of events on individual properties allows savings potential to be exploited.
The network, markets and data – three core topics for the digital energy revolution

enera has looked at three core topics to ensure successful integration of renewable energies into a functioning overall system:


Energy quantities are balanced out in the electricity network. Electricity consumption must be coordinated with electricity generation at all times and be precise to the second. This already presented a challenge when there was a manageable number of large, fossil fuel-powered plants supplying the network with electricity on a continual basis.

The situation has now fundamentally changed: many decentralised facilities such as wind turbines, combined heat and power plants, or solar power plants feed their energy into the network with output largely dependent on weather conditions. Facing them are the electricity consumers who are used to accessing their power at the press of a button.

To maintain a balance between the two systems, networks are increasingly depending on automatic management mechanisms and precise sensory systems that are able to identify and remedy critical situations in the network in real time. Network operators are also increasingly turning to unconventional methods. For instance, flexible electrical loads such as cold stores are switched on or off depending on the situation so as to quickly absorb surplus energy or relieve pressure on the network.

enera examined how energy flows can be managed more effectively in the system as a whole. For this purpose, the project focused on equipping the trial region with smart grid resources such as variable local network transformers, and providing improved consumption forecasts.

The enera app and SAM, a communication module, enabled people in the trial region to connect to the “network of the future”. Fitted to the meter, SAM is a device that reads consumption data and communicates it to the enera app. The app provides a convenient overview of energy consumption – live or over time.

More than 700 electronic meters featuring the smart SAM module were installed. Thirteen municipalities in the trial region also took part in the enera project and tested consumption monitoring for municipal facilities. For instance, electricity consumption was recorded in schools and administration buildings in real time and analysed using a web application. This helps public authorities to reduce energy consumption. The community of Zetel was the first to be named an Energy Revolution Municipality.


A prerequisite for the success of the energy revolution is increased flexibility on the electricity market. Anyone who operates a solar generation unit on their roof can provide electricity to their neighbours on very 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 in advance – is doing a service to the overall system by consuming energy.

This is a special type of sharing economy in the energy sector — an economy that is based on market participants sharing resources with one another. In this case, they share their data and their capacity to consume or produce electricity on a flexible basis.

enera managed to set up and test a new platform for trading flexible electricity capacities with the European energy exchange EPEX SPOT. Instead of switching off wind turbines during excess production, network operators were able to find local purchasers for excess electricity. enera has shown that the major Paris-based exchange can also mediate between producers and consumers in a small network area around a transformer station in East Frisia, enabling even more electricity from renewable energies to flow into the network.

All market participants entered into exchange with one other and were able to efficiently supply and demand flexibility from renewable energies, storage facilities and electric consumption plants. The fact that this exchange works across all voltage levels from both a technical and procedural perspective is a key outcome of the enera project.


The primary element required to manage an energy supply system is knowledge. Knowledge of what is happening right now and knowledge of what will happen next.

Precise status reports and reliable forecasts are based on data. And the world of energy offers plenty of data: consumption indicators, weather reports, calendars, network measurement readings. Smart meters for customers and new sensory systems at key interfaces in the electricity network will provide even more data in the future.

enera used data science methods such as machine learning to demonstrate digitalisation of the conventional energy supply value chain.

enera also developed new digital business models from the outset and worked with a number of start-ups, among other things, to implement them. EWE is now using this experience to develop additional digital solutions.

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