From energy transition to a sustainable energy industry
Climate change is no dystopia but it has already begun. If we fail to act with resolve now, catastrophic consequences threaten the environment, society and the economy.
New possibilities by research and innovation
It is already clear today: Setting up, for example, wind energy plants or photovoltaics systems is not sufficient by itself. Although they already produced almost half the electricity required in all of Germany at 46 percent in 2020, their biggest drawback is and remains the seasonal availability. The problem therefore is not the output but the available amount of energy. If, for example, the sun shines often during the summer, a lot of electricity can be produced. In the winter, when the days get shorter and more electricity is needed, the PV systems, however, deliver less electricity. In consequence, with a rising percentage of renewable energy, strong price fluctuations occur with negative extreme prices in the summer and positive extreme prices in the winter. To get this balanced, the seasonal differences in quantities must consequently be stored as best as possible.
Batteries are only suitable to a limited extent for this, as they discharge relatively quickly. Their use is therefore recommendable foremost when short-term bottlenecks are to be bridged or production peaks must be absorbed. Suitable instead for the long-term energy storage are pumped storage power stations, the numbers of which would have to be increased, however. When you consider this point at the European level, new possibilities are presented with regard to the locations that come into questions for this. Another possibility to store energy is molten salt reactors. In this method, salt is heated with excess energy to the point that it liquefies. These melts are stored in tanks and, if needed, refilled into another, cooler tank via a steam generator. The steam crated in the process drives a turbine – in the same manner as in conventional coal power plants. This example shows that research and the resulting innovations with a focus on storage technologies is an important part of the energy transition.
We are in the middle of the energy industry transformation
It is likewise indispensable to adjust infrastructures to the new conditions. While power plants used to be built in the past in geographic proximity to particularly large energy buyers, sometimes hundreds of kilometres separate them today. The best known example is electricity from offshore plants in the Northern Sea, which is needed in the south of Germany. But not only the transmission paths have changed but the entire process of the energy supply. Along with the liberalisation of the electricity market, its complexity also increased. The number of new producers climbed as did the sources of electricity for feed-in. This set off a transition from a demand-driven to a supply-oriented power grid. This in turn requires from all market actors to contemplate electricity consumption in more depth. After all, while industrial companies so far used to set the production quantity of the power plants based on its needs, today the quantity generated by renewable energies must be distributed and used sensibly. This is true not only in Germany but also in our neighbouring countries. It is essential to advance the cross-border transport capacities further. If this does not happen, the available electricity is not fed into the grid in the best case scenario, while electricity must be imported from other countries in the worst case (for example, electricity from nuclear power plants in France or from coal power plants in Poland). This is how the positive effect of regenerative sources of energy gets cancelled out entirely.
„Industry is becoming part of the solution in the energy transition by continuously providing flexibilities.“
Christian Hövelhaus | CEO & Founder ESFORIN
Smart algorithms help save CO2
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