Four years have passed since the national R&D programme "Smart Energy Showcases – Digital Agenda for the Energy Transition (SINTEG)" was launched by the German Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy. SINTEG comprises five large model regions known as showcases, in which model solutions for the energy supply and consumption of the future are developed and demonstrated.
One of the showcases is called “North German Energy Transition 4.0 (NEW 4.0)”. It comprises the harbour city-state of Hamburg and the coastal state of Schleswig-Holstein. Its main objective is to develop innovative solutions for a digitalized and low-carbon energy system in northern Germany. By that NEW 4.0 wants to prove the technological viability of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein being able to fully supply themselves with renewable power by 2035.
In light of such a big endeavor, the project initiators were keen to build up a smart energy network between both entities and all relevant actors, from private utilities to public entities and local scientific research bodies. Hence, in association with 60 partners from Hamburg and the Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein, over the past 4 years exciting field tests and successful research work have been carried out.
The project started in 2017 and is about to be completed. Most activities are finalized by now. Thus, best time to recap and present some of the learnings in a comprehensive and illustrative finding’s brochure.
From within the model region, NEW 4.0 aimed to solve existing challenges concerning the low-carbon energy transition. In northern Germany, the most pressing one is the “feed-in management”. In consequence, NEW 4.0 was keen to demonstrate through a two-tiered approach how to overcome the feed-in management predicament in Northern Germany.
First, the project intended to improve the ability to export electricity to other regions, by testing new solutions to improve the energy network in a smart way. This implied the development of new energy storage technologies and intelligent data communication.
Second, NEW 4.0 pursued to increase the local self-utilization rate of renewable energies. The bottom line here was, to use green electricity whenever and wherever it was generated. This has been realized by converting excess renewable electricity into other forms of energy - like heat or movement - through different Power-to-X technologies.
In addition, NEW 4.0 tested new market designs and business models. It also analyzed the political and legal energy framework to recommend more suitable ones. The overall aim here was to create new market opportunities for companies and to secure their long-term competitiveness.
All in all, the 60 partners of NEW 4.0 executed around 100 projects, including the construction and commissioning of 20 technology demonstrators. These projects offer flexibilization, load shifts and storage with an approximate potential of 200 MW.
The final brochure presents a selection of the great number of individual projects tugged under the NEW 4.0 umbrella. Moreover, it presents some of the main conclusions many project partners agree upon.
The 7 common learnings are:
First, that from a technology perspective, a wholesome energy system’s transformation is feasible. If certain conditions are met, NEW 4.0 demonstrates that a reliable power supply free of fossil fuels is feasible for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein by 2035. The project has also proven that renewable energies are able to provide essential system services to main the grid stable such as balancing energy or reactive power provision, which today are still provided by fossil fuel power plants. Hence, NEW 4.0 offers solutions of how to operate wind and solar power systems reliably at all times and regardless the weather conditions.
Second, that the energy heavy industry can play an important role by identifying possibilities to design their supply chain in a more flexible manner. Within the scope of NEW 4.0 market-driven instruments which enable an intelligent, fast and system-oriented coordination of flexibilities, have been further developed.
Third, that swift market-based mechanisms allow the efficient coordination of flexibilities. The interaction between large industrial loads, storage facilities, hydrogen and heat generators as well as thousands of small electricity producers and consumers requires coordination.
Four, that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a key enabler for a total system’s integration. The enormous coordination needed to transcend from a load-based to a generation-based electricity system cannot be managed without the manifold solutions offered by the information and communication technologies.
Five, that NEW 4.0 facilitates climate protection in two ways: On the one hand, since the project focussed on exploiting flexibilities, it thereby enabled a greater integration of wind and solar power into the grid and avoided a further decrease of their electricity output. Thus, fossil fuel power generation could increasingly be displaced. On the other hand, by developing and testing new technologies in the field of electricity conversion, energy storage, and reconversion pathways, the decarbonisation of the mobility and heating sector was targeted, too.
Six, that an advanced training campaign is necessary for a successful energy transformation. A study made by NEW 4.0 on the model region’s labour market and qualification conditions has shown that a shortage of skilled workers threatens to become a bottleneck for the North German energy transition. Therefore, NEW 4.0 has launched an extensive training and education programme. However, in the future more of an effort is needed here.
And seven, that NEW 4.0 was backed by a high degree of social acceptance regarding the goal of transitioning to a sustainable energy system in the north of Germany. In light of the enormous efforts needed to transform our energy system and its impacts on the economy and society, public support is of essence. According to the NEW 4.0 studies, the constructive attitude of the North German population is extremely high and needs to be nourished further.
A full report will be released soon
The NEW 4.0 final brochure is a short and illustrative version of the official full report which will include all projects and a detailed description in German. It is not published yet. More reason to take a closer look at the brochure.