Energy Matters: a summary of the conference

The e-harbours conference Energy Matters drew a large audience to the city center of Zaanstad, March 21/22 2013. The conference marked a new step in the development of the e-harbours program, shifting the attention from research on the advantages and possibilities of smart energy systems to practical application of those systems.

dbf-20130322-10746One reason to make this step is that the theoretical foundation for smart energy systems is getting more and more robust. The e-harbours research teams in Hamburg and Antwerp have showed convincingly what gains a smart energy system can bring, and which business models are available to realize those profits. The e-harbours program also made an overview of the obstacles that hamper development of smart energy systems in daily practice, analyzing juridical, organizational and economic problems. Now the question is: in what ways can we overcome the obstacles, and start realizing the benefits of smart energy systems? Download the full report here. Click here for the Energy Matters movie.

Flexibility as a commodity. Flexibility is a key word in the e-harbours program. To make the transition to renewable sources of energy successful, we must find ways to cope with the intermittent and variable nature of these sources. One way to do that is find flexibility on the demand side. When consumers of energy can shift their consumption to favorable time-slots, where a lot of power from wind and sun is available, it becomes much easier to balance the grid. Producers of energy (for example Combined Heat and Power plants) that can shift production to time-slots where less power is available from renewables help stabilizing the system, too.

Business. The e-harbours project has made convincingly clear, that many businesses and organizations are still not aware of the potential importance and economic value of flexibility. One reason is that the market value of flexibility is still modest. To all expectations, this market value will rise steeply in the coming years. Companies and organizations that can adapt in time will face much lower energy costs than their slower competitors.

Directors’ seat. But who will start investing in smart energy systems now? During the Energy Matters-conference (that was held in a film theater), the same metaphor popped up several times: who will take the directors seat and steer all partners in the desired direction? In many cases, the smart energy system will be a local answer to local problems and opportunities. The conference stressed the important role of municipalities and local port authorities: they know the local situation and businesses, they make the plans for (re)development of areas, and they can organize access to support from (inter)national bodies. Municipalities and port authorities are the stakeholders that get things going, they should take the directors seat.

“In Europe, we have been subsidizing renewable energy for some time now – and successfully so. The share of renewables in the energy consumption has risen strongly in most European countries, up to the point where the electricity grid has problems coping with the new energy sources. Now it’s time to shift attention to solutions that help balancing the grid: to demand side flexibility and smart energy systems. When we do not realize that shift, we cannot profit fully from our investments in renewables in the last decades.” Jef Verbeeck, Vito.

For an account of the two days of Energy Matters, read on:

The first day of Energy Matters

dbf-20130321-10294The two days of the conference were chaired by Dr. Jacqueline Cramer, former Minister of Public Planning and Environment of the Netherlands, and currently a Professor in sustainability issues at the University of Utrecht.

The Dutch government is working on a new approach in urban redevelopment. Presentation by Yvonne van Remmen, from the Directorate for Spatial Planning and Water Affairs of the Dutch Department of Infrastructure and Environment. Now that real estate development has come to a standstill, new engines have to be found to propel urban development. She names energy as one of the drivers of this development. Click on this link for her Powerpoint presentation.

dbf-20130321-10531Harbours have a lot of potential for urban redevelopment. They also have the space for renewable energy sources like wind turbines or biomass power plants. This is the theme of the presentation given by Philipp Wellbrock from the Hamburg University of Applied Science/C4DSI. He describes the chances for renewable energy in Europe’s second largest harbour in his presentation. Sustainable energy became a driving force for redevelopment of the Wilhelmsburg area in Hamburg. This presentation was originally to be held by Jan Gerbitz, IBA Hamburg but was cancelled due to air strike.

dbf-20130321-10559The market for electricity is changing fast, and numerous projects spring up to produce energy locally. What does that mean for the role of energy network operators in the energy transition, and in redevelopment of urban areas? Presentation by Pallas Agterberg, Managing Director Strategy of the large Dutch Energy Network operator Liander. She foresees new business models, in which suppliers and users of energy are connected directly, and form communities. One of the challenges for network operators then is to realize open access across different energy platforms.

dbf-20130321-10339How to organize energy management on the scale of a large city or a region? Barcelona provides innovative examples of cooperation between government and local industry. Two speakers from Barcelona highlight public-private cooperation on Energy Logistics. Manel Torrent, from the Municipality of Barcelona and Angel Andreu del Alamo, Barcelona Energy Agency/ Dalkia. The district heating/cooling network of the Municipality is the backbone of the renewable energy approach. Different sources of heat (like waste incineration) and cooling (like a LNG plant) are coupled to the network. The whole is financed by the Municipality and several big energy companies, like Dalkia. Mr. Andreu del Alamo remarked: you need a long term vision to invest in this type of projects, elephants must walk with elephants.

dbf-20130321-10349New roles and responsibilities of an energy harbour. The example of Amsterdam: Energy harbour is presented by Eduard de Visser, director Strategy and Innovation, Amsterdam Port Authority. The port wants to diminish the share of fossil fuels in total turnover, and increase the share of renewables. The infrastructure of the port is very well suited for handling biofuels and biomass. At the same time, the port wants to connect more to municipal energy systems, like the district heating system. And it wants to interconnect the different stand-alone systems in the port area to improve the sustainability of the whole.

Financing sustainability. Frits Otte, from the Centre of Energy, University of Amsterdam concentrates on the role of government in fostering sustainable energy. How do we get more parties involved in the development of renewables? When we know what the long-term value of smart energy systems is, why do we keep on asking for short-term profitability?
Three fast pitches on public-private partnerships: Peter van Asperen, from Haute Equipe talks about public and private money in the field of (renewable) energy. Christiaan van Nispen, Trefoil gives a short presentation on financing Clean Tech. John Post, from the Dutch initiative TKI SWITCH2SmartGrids shares his thoughts on the requirements to get smart energy systems implemented: ‘we need heroes’, projects that spread the word. And: ‘celebrate your successes’.

The second day of Energy Matters

dbf-20130322-10648The second day of the conference started with a presentation by Per-Arne Nilsson, head of city development and climate, City of Malmö. He describes how the carbon neutral strategy of the City of Malmo became the driving force for Malmo’s economic revival in the last two decades. The city is now embarking upon a new venture: developing the Northern Harbour. This part of the city will become the core of the local energy system (centered around a district heating network). The development is carried forward in public-private partnerships, with strong guidance by the Municipality.
What were the success factors in this case? Per-Arne names: a strong sense of urgency to redevelop the city. Local businesses are interested in investing in the process. The leading energy company E.on is willing to invest heavily. The process also has a champion in the figure of the Mayor, in office now for more than twenty years.

dbf-20130322-10680Bert Heerbaart, from Dutch Network operator Liander talks about Transforming the Electricity-grid into an intelligent grid. Liander is investing heavily in making its network smart. A Smart Grid pilot in the south of Amsterdam has given rise to an amazing number of local innovative initiatives, both by companies and by inhabitants. He gives the example of a vehicle-to-grid experiment by a combination of companies.
What is needed to make this approach feasible in the future? Customers, especially households will have to get committed and willing to change behavior. Liander is still pondering what the business cases will be for smart energy systems.

Arnoud Rodenburg, Mayor of Dutch Municipality of Midden-Delfland gives a short introduction on the Dutch Covenant of Mayors, a branch of the international initiative started by the municipality of Barcelona. Members have to develop a sustainable energy action plan.

Antwerp: The quest for flexibility. Geert Schrooten, from the Antwerp Port Authority and Annelies Delnooz, researcher at VITO describe how wind, flexibility and strategic development do fit together in a smart plan. Link to their presentation
The Port of Antwerp is planning the introduction of a large number of wind turbines (up to 120 MW! ) and a large biomass power plant in the harbour area. Antwerp is a big chemical port, the chemical and refinery sectors use more than 70% of the energy in the harbour area. Smart Grids can help to stabilize the local grid and make the introduction of renewables possible.
dbf-20130322-10762The flexibility available in the area where the wind turbines will be located can be used to compensate for the variability in energy produced by the wind turbines. It can also be sold on the energy market. In the e-harbours programme, different business cases for flexibility have been investigated. Making the tariffs more flexible (different tariffs for different time-slots, more subtle than the current division between day-tariff and night-tariff), would help greatly to make flexibility profitable.

Power Sessions

During the second day of the conference, Power Sessions were organized to address specific topics. We present an account of two of these Power Sessions.

Power Session A Redevelopment of industrial areas and local energy production.
This session was moderated by Gert-Joost Peek of the Delft University of Technology.

Martine de Vaan is connected to the Dutch State Property Development company (RVOB), working on sustainable area development. The company is involved in projects all over the Netherlands. In the projects, energy is always a crucial issue. Martine gives a presentation about the Valkenburg area in the west of Holland. A public-private cooperation wants to redevelop an old airport into a sustainable, energy-neutral housing zone. Zaanstad is planning to follow the same path with an old industrial zone, called the Hembrug terrain.

Peter Ulle tells a fascinating story about a peninsula in the Zaan river. The Hemmes is now a derelict zone, about 6 hectares on a very beautiful spot in town. Historically, the peninsula boasted ten wooden windmills. A group of concerned citizens has made a plan to rebuild six windmills on the spot, and use them for electricity production. The rest of the island can be developed into a sustainable housing area.
Tjaart Vos, of the Dutch Department of Infrastructure and Environment, and the initiative 3 Delta, gives a presentation on chances for redevelopment of a derelict factory complex in the North of Zaanstad, Brokking. Again, sustainable energy plays a major role in the plan.

Power Session C Energy grids in transition: chances for local co-operation.
This Power Session was moderated by Ruben Brandwagt, of the Dutch Network Provider Alliander.
Hans Schneider, Liander talks about Local grid challenges. The Netherlands has one of the most reliable electric grids in the world, only Singapore is more reliable. But we will have to work hard to keep it reliable. Natural gas production in NL is declining. Oil and natural gas will run out. Many renewable sources are affordable but difficult to exploit. Energy efficiency always pays out. Solar is available in abundance and getting more and more affordable. Production and consumption should be combined locally, we loose a lot of energy in the transmission. But then production and consumption must be balanced locally. The energy grid is getting more complex, as producers and consumers blend into prosumers. Liander foresees a future in which every home becomes a micro grid, and the home owner is in full control of his own energy supply.

After this inspiring presentation, working groups were formed that investigated the practice of local grid balancing. The participants drew energy profiles of their companies for a typical day, month and year. Then each group choose three companies that could match each other and offer synergies in their energy usage. The last task was to identify what is needed to achieve an optimal local energy system, where different actors can benefit from each others energy usage and residual products.
The working groups identified some low hanging fruits! Especially companies that can combine their energy demands quite easily as long as their TSO (electricity supplier) agrees. But it was soon discovered that the business cases were not sound enough to get the cooperation started. As one of the participants remarked: “we have to belief in the fact that it is very sound to start this cooperation. But we will also need a good director to get it going! “

Pictures made by Dirk Brand,



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