Mark van Stiphout
Mark van Stiphout is currently Deputy Head of Unit in DG Energy in the unit responsible for research and innovation, including Horizon 2020 and the Strategic Energy Technology Plan. Until November 1, 2014 he was a member of the Cabinet of the Commissioner for Energy, Günther H. Oettinger, who he advised on nuclear energy and energy research, as well as on smart grids, retail markets and relations with Russia. Previously, he was assistant to the Director-General for Energy and consultant on renewable energy projects at Ecofys, with a focus on generating energy from biomass, and a market analyst at Cogas Energie.
Why does it matter?
The EU is transforming its energy system into a more sustainable, renewables-based system, away from large-scale fossil fuel-based energy production. To honour the Paris agreement and our 2030 targets, at least 27% of our energy (that’s close to 50% of electricity
) will have to come from renewables by 2030.
A big share of this variable renewable generation will be connected to the distribution grid. Electricity will also be used increasingly in sectors such as transport, heating and cooling. This calls for more flexibility in the energy system and changes in the way we build and operate our electricity networks. It calls for innovative solutions to make our market fit for renewables and distributed energy production, and conversely, to make these resources fit for the market. Digitalisation can unlock these innovative solutions, which should not only help to transform our energy system, but should also benefit consumers.
The legislative proposals for the energy market adopted by the Commission on 30 November 2016 (the Clean Energy Package) reward consumers who offer flexibility, on the wholesale market and for grid management. This will enable more efficient and effective network management and optimisation, leading to increased demand response and the ability to integrate increasing shares of renewables.
Supporting research and innovation in the public and private domain, at both national and EU level, is key to digitalising the market. One might expect that to happen of its own accord, but business priorities do not always match those of society, and we are in a hurry: the fight against climate change is a race against the clock.
'Supporting research and innovation in the public and private domain, at both national and EU level, is key to digitalising the market.'
The technologies are available
Projects we have financed in the past show what the future may look like, and how digitalisation can help to transform the energy system:
- The flexibility of energy consumption is much higher when it is automated: on the island of Bornholm in Denmark, it was shown that when half of the consumers in the test were given automated demand response, and the other half had to react in person to a price signal, 87% of the total volume of demand response came from the automated consumers;
- we can make better use of the renewables connected to the grid by using ICT and remote control. By using smart inverters next to the solar panels on consumers’ roofs in Limburg, Belgium, the network operator was able to increase the hosting capacity of renewables by 50%, at only 10% of the cost of 'traditional' investments in hardware.
From a technology perspective, the solutions are known: but how do we ensure that these technologies transform the way in which the energy system is operated, bringing benefits to consumers? Can we use Horizon 2020 funds to create an innovative ecosystem where new technologies and services can find a market? Can Horizon 2020 help to change the way the energy system works and support the implementation of the Clean Energy Package? We believe so, and in our work programme for 2018 and 2019 we will support the following projects to speed up the digitalisation of the energy system, in synergy with other Energy Union and Digital Single Market policies:
Setting up markets and digital platforms where network operators can buy services from connected consumers which help them to manage the network
Key to the energy system of the future is the creation of markets where flexibility can be traded in a reliable way: Transmission and Distribution System Operators (TSOs and DSOs), suppliers and aggregators need to cooperate to set up platforms in a coordinated way. Digital technologies are the cornerstone for these markets: small volumes of energy or flexibility from many different consumers can only be aggregated and controlled profitably when they are automated. The Commission has reserved a substantial budget to support projects setting up markets and platforms to procure energy services through a combination of local markets (in particular for congestion management) and wholesale & balancing markets, that can serve as a reference model for the EU.
For consumers to monetise their flexibility, and for businesses to turn this into novel consumer services that lead to a more comfortable, convenient and healthy living environment at lower energy costs, communication needs to be easy. The Internet of Things (IoT) enables a seamless integration of home appliances with related home comfort and building automation services, matching user needs with the management of distributed energy across the grid, exploiting the benefits of demand response. Horizon 2020 is supporting a large-scale pilot to develop interoperability and seamless data sharing. The pilot will look at plug-and-play energy management solutions within the home, taking into account the legacy of existing smart home and building solutions, mapping their approach to common architecture models and implementing relevant standards such as SAREF
. It will promote the use of these interoperable solutions as widely as possible, across many different types of appliances, including white goods, heating, cooling and ventilation, home & building automation energy management, smart metering and control, batteries, photovoltaic panels and charging for electric vehicles.
A more interactive, flexible energy system, that relies on the growing use of digital devices and more advanced communications and interconnected systems, is also increasingly exposed to external threats, such as worms, viruses, hackers and data privacy breaches. Without appropriate cyber-defence measures, systems access can be violated (e.g. with malware spreading through the system) and can cause power outages, damages and cascading effects to interconnected systems and energy services. With increased digitalisation there is therefore a concomitant need to develop new security approaches to detect and prevent threats with severe impacts, and to shield the electric system against cyber attacks. Horizon 2020 supports the development of these new approaches.
As digitalisation advances, so too must the communication infrastructure, which needs to be reliable and fit for the demands of the energy system of the future. As the EU promotes the next generation of network technologies, and 5G in particular, it is important that energy system considerations are also taken into account. Horizon 2020 support for the development of 5G therefore also promotes the testing of technologies for specific sectors including energy.
The energy system consists of many actors with different roles and responsibilities. Seamless data exchange and interoperability are not just important within a smart home, but also between the consumer, supplier, aggregator or service provider, and network operators. It is not yet known what business models will emerge and who else will take an interest in energy data. What is clear, however, is that tomorrow’s energy grids will consist of heterogeneous interconnected systems, of an increasing number of small-scale and dispersed energy generation and consumption devices, generating huge amounts of data. Under these demanding conditions, the electricity sector in particular needs big data tools and architectures for optimised energy system management. Supporting the ability of all energy system actors to manage, analyse and exchange large quantities of data is therefore a Horizon 2020 priority.
The issues listed above address key areas where digital and energy technologies and markets meet, but there is much more to say about digitalisation. High Performance Computing, for example, can contribute to improved monitoring and prediction of the energy system; power electronics are crucial for improving the efficiency of the energy system, in particular the transport and conversion of electricity; and let us not forget blockchain: a technology that can change the way we buy and sell energy and energy services. The Commission is monitoring developments in this area closely, and organises regular workshops and seminars with experts to explore how these digital technologies can help the Energy Union’s objectives, and what can be done to promote them at EU level. Please contact us if you are interested in such discussions or if you have suggestions for issues we should explore.
'Working together is key: a digital energy system that depends on the easy, secure and seamless exchange of data is nothing without EU-wide support.'
Cooperation with Member States and industry to maximise impact: the SET Plan
Horizon 2020 cannot solve the challenges of digitalisation on its own. It is only by facilitating cooperation, by promoting interoperability and replicability, and by triggering the creativity of businesses and innovators that we will maximise its impact. The SET Plan is crucial in this respect: many of the targets and Implementation Plans
that the industries, research organisations, Member States and the European Commission have jointly defined address digitalisation, from offshore wind to batteries. The Implementation Plans (focusing on consumers and smart grids and systems)
are particularly crucial for maximising the impact of our support for digitalisation. The group of Member States, research and industry actors working on the implementation plan for smart solutions for consumers has, for example, agreed to set up a special group looking at reference architectures for generic digital platforms current and future, and at specific requirements for the energy sector.
Working together is key: a digital energy system that depends on the easy, secure and seamless exchange of data is nothing without EU-wide support.