Europe’s complex network of electricity transmission cables, power transformers, substations, and other pieces of the puzzle that deliver electricity to our homes and businesses were conceived, and built, many years ago. While electricity grids are a feat of engineering, their one-way design – that sees power produced and delivered to consumers with little ability for consumers to interact – is becoming outmoded. Consumers want more say over how they consume electricity, more control over their electricity bills and they also want to participate by producing energy themselves through technology like solar panels.
Meanwhile, Europe’s climate and energy targets mean our energy use must become more efficient, we must integrate more renewable energy sources and we must be ready for future developments like the rise of electric cars.
Smart technologies empower consumers
These demands require our electricity systems to change and become a two-way interaction with consumers playing an active part through smart technologies. The change is beginning and leading EU projects like WiseGRID are demonstrating how the grid can transform.
Winners of last year’s EU Sustainable Energy Awards in both the Business and Citizens Award categories, WiseGRID is a project funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme that is developing technical solutions to improve electricity grids and bring them into contemporary times.
With its digital technologies, the project is building a new type of interactive bridge between electricity producers and consumers. Products developed by WiseGRID include platforms for monitoring and managing infrastructure, and services for marketing unused generation capacity. Across four test sites in Belgium, Greece, Italy and Spain, demonstrations are taking place involving 1,700 consumers using batteries, heat pumps, solar, wind and hydro power as well as electric vehicles.
The project has developed smartphone and tablet apps to help people understand electricity prices and usage, allowing them to see an overview of their electricity consumption and information like the production of renewable energy from solar panels installed in their neighbourhood. The idea is to encourage people to consume electricity when local solar energy production is high, for example by using washing machines and charging electrical items during solar peaks. Excess solar power not immediately consumed could be used to recharge electric vehicles in the area.
WiseGRID is creating 1,800 jobs and could save over 20 million megawatt hours of energy and 14 million tonnes of carbon emissions, helping the EU to achieve its long-term climate and energy goals.
“The grid of the future is a decentralised smart and open energy system with millions of active energy citizens providing clean, CO2-free energy and system services at its core,” said Sara Tachelet, WiseGRID’s Communications Officer. Projects like WiseGRID are crucial in today’s changing energy system according to Tachelet, as “they demonstrate sustainable incentive schemes and business models based on different technologies like smart metering, smart home appliances, batteries and electric vehicles that benefit both the grid and the consumers.” And for the project, the recognition it received in the 2018 EU Sustainable Energy Awards has helped drive its work forward by creating “an extra sense of responsibility in providing technological solutions enabling something so important as the energy transition,” added Tachelet.
Large-scale electrification of energy
In its 2050 long-term strategy, the European Commission is calling for a climate-neutral, modern and competitive Europe. The 2050 energy strategy aims for the large-scale electrification of Europe’s energy system alongside the mass use of Europe-produced renewable energy, maximisation of energy efficiency and the wide-scale roll-out of electric vehicles. Meanwhile, the Commission’s 2050 Energy Roadmap points out that much of the EU’s energy infrastructure is around 30-40 years old and needs replacing – making it the right time for a switch to renewables.
Now is the time for a European approach – with innovative, smart, sustainable energy technologies like those developed by WiseGRID at its heart. Our energy system is changing and the opportunities for fresh approaches and smart digitalisation are exciting.
EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) is the much-anticipated, annual event drawing energy sector stakeholders together to debate the future of Europe’s energy system. During EUSEW a three-day long policy conference attracts energy specialists and practitioners and jump starts thought-provoking debate at a wide variety of sessions, including:
Joint programming platforms driving clean energy innovation
Decentralised energy systems: models for a modern EU economy
Grids and communities: value and new services for the energy transition
How will digitalisation transform the energy system?
PROSUMERS: challenges and opportunities in the energy transition
Empowering energy consumers – Innovative approaches from European projects
Transitioning towards 100% renewables and providing system flexibility
This year, more than 90 sessions will take place over 3 days in 3 venues making EU Sustainable Energy Week more exciting than ever! Want to join in? Register for the policy conference and you can share your ideas with like-minded individuals.