Energy Gets Smart

The German government recently passed three laws which will invigorate the renewable energy market. But some areas of R&D still need state support to make the energy transition a reality. Here we profile two keystone funding initiatives: SINTEG and Kopernikus.

February, 2017

Enter the smart grid: SINTEG

In February 2015 The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) launched the competitive funding program “Smart Energy Showcases – Digital Agenda for the Energy Transition” (SINTEG). As a central part of the Federal Government’s “Innovative Digitization of German Business” package, SINTEG will focus on smart grids and the intelligent networking of energies.

The ultimate goal is to develop and demonstrate in regional pilot schemes transferable solutions for a climate-friendly, secure and efficient energy future, optimizing intermittent power generation from wind and solar energy. Over 200 companies, working within consortia, submitted proposals. The five successful showcases address the central challenges of future energy supply, including the integration of renewables, flexibility, supply security, system stability, energy efficiency and the establishment of new market structures.

A model “power to gas” project by Windgas Hamburg: superfluous wind power is stored by electrolysis and later fed into the natural gas network. The electrolysis process is fuelled by the E.ON Uniper gas plant.

© Paul Langrock/Zenit/laif

SINTEG will invest around €600m in digitization of the sector, of which the BMWi have committed up to €230 million (over the first four years) and the companies themselves have pledged €370 million. The five showcases will serve as a blueprint for broad implementation:

C/sells – a large-scale showcase in Germany’s solar arch: this solar energy showcase will span the southern states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Hessen and aims to optimize generation and consumption at a regional level. Participants will be organised into groups (“cells”) which might consist of individual generators or distribution grids. Each cell generates energy for itself before supplying others within the region (supply and demand will be balanced).

Designnetz – a modular approach to the energy transition: spanning the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, the Design Network represents a mix of rural areas, big cities and industrial areas. It will showcase flexible solutions that optimize energy supply (harnessing decentralized solar and wind), distribution and can be adjusted to market demand.

Enera – the next big step in the Energy Transition: The goal of “enera,” located in the northwest of Lower Saxony, is to solve one of the thorniest challenges of the energy transition: changing from a centralized to a decentralized system, from static to dynamic. A more flexible grid will be engineered by upgrading the technology used by generators, consumers and storage units and empowering providers.

NEW 4.0 – the energy transition in north Germany: this project, which brings together Hamburg and the state of Schleswig-Holstein, aims to supply 70 per cent of the region’s energy demand from renewables by 2025. The management of surplus power is at its core, e.g. exporting excess electricity produced during windy periods.

WindNODE – showcase for smart energy from north-east Germany: encompassing five eastern German states including Berlin, WindNODE aims to integrate renewables generation, the grid and consumers through digital networking. It will develop innovative products and services that complement the traditional business of volume selling and introduce new consumer standards.

Key objectives of the SINTEG showcases

  • Demonstrate safe and efficient grid operations with a high proportion of renewables.
  • Find solutions for increased flexibility within the network and market.
  • Effective integration between all players within the smart network.
  • More efficient use of the existing grid structure and reduction of the need for grid expansion.

Fostering an energy renaissance: Kopernikus
Initiated by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the aim of Kopernikus is to research and develop renewable energy solutions and paradigm-shifting systems that can be applied on an industrial scale. The four projects to transform the supply of energy bring together expertise from more than 90 organizations across the science, business and civil sectors that have previously collaborated in the Research Forum for Energy Transition. Federal funding is required because these research projects are complex and high-risk. The BMBF will provide €120m for Phase 1 funding, with a further €280m available by 2025. The program will run for 10 years, with an R&D phase followed by industrial trials.

ENSURE – new networks: in select urban and rural regions, projects are being set up to test the interplay of intelligent decentralized supply networks to ensure energy security and data protection.

P2X – Power-to-X: this project aims to boost the use of energy surpluses generated by renewables by more than 90 per cent. The technical solutions for redistribution and storage focus on heat (“power-to-gas”), mobility (“power-to-liquid”) and industrial chemical storage.

SynErgie – industrial processes: energy-intensive industrial processes present a ¬challenge for the energy transition. This proj¬ect will re-orientate select industries to the more volatile feed-in of renewable energies. Germany aims to become a lead provider of adaptive power technologies by 2030.

ENavi – system integration: the transformation of energy supply has an impact on many interconnected systems, including technological, political and social structures as well as corporate and consumer behaviour. This project will explore the interplay of electricity, heat and mobility to supply the industrial and household sector.

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