Blog from e-harbours final conference

Robert Linnekamp. Photo Dirk Brand

Robert Linnekamp. Photo Dirk Brand

This is our live blog recordings from the Let’s GoLeadership in Energy TranSition and GOvernance

Welcome in one of the most remarkable new buildings in the city center of Zaanstad, the Inntel Hotel. The conference starts with a word of introduction by Robert Linnekamp, Alderman for the Municipality of Zaanstad,  and Chairman of the Dutch Climate Association. “I am very proud that we the final conference of e-harbours is held here, in the center of our city, in an environment that I hope will inspire you.”  He asks: “Can harbour cities, great energy guzzlers as they are, take the lead in the ‘Energie Wende’ we need in Europe?  On one hand, developments go very fast. Five years ago, when Zaanstad started with a fleet of electric cars, that was a very innovative project.  Now it is quite common to drive electric. On the other hand, change is slow. The project clearly shows, that not all stakeholders in society feel the urgency to change the way they deal with energy.”

Chairman of the day is Hans Schneider, of the Dutch energy network company Alliander. He gives the word to Ger Baron of the Amsterdam Economic Board. Topic of his contribution is ‘Large scale implementation of Smart Grids in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.’ Follow his presentation here.

Ger Baron. Photo Dirk BrandGer Baron states: “Not so long ago, when you wanted to talk about energy, you had to deal with some 15 partners. That were all the important players in the European energy world. Nowadays, when we want to talk about Smart Energy Systems, the situation is completely different. We now talk with hundreds of players, all kinds of companies, a cloud of initiatives in very different areas. ” In the city of Amsterdam, there are now 40 local energy initiatives, from small projects on solar energy to large plans to build wind turbines on the sea. More and more, large energy companies like Nuon and Essent are getting involved in that sort of local initiatives.

You learn the most when you start acting, Baron says. “Together with the network company, we have upgraded the network in a neighbourhood of Amsterdam. Does that give direct benefits to the households? No, but it provides the infrastructure on which future products will be based. It takes time to build them, but they start to get realised now. Someone must take the initiative.” On the other hand, more cooperation would help to realise the ambitions of a region like Amsterdam faster.

But how do we come to the leadership the conference asks for, the chairman says. Ger Baron: “Because of the distributed character of the new energy network, the leadership also will be much more local and distributed. Initiatives spring up, and force the system to change. The initiative has to come from bottom up.”

The conference splits up in three break-out sessions.

Session 1 on the Amsterdam Energy Atlas, by Bob Mantel of the Municipality of Amsterdam. The Atlas gives an overview of all energy usage, and of the energy production available in the region. The information is presented in such a way, that no privacy- sensitive data are disseminated. The atlas makes it possible to devise scenarios for an optimal alignment of demand and supply of energy sources. European initiatives (like the Transform program) are underway to make this approach transferable to other regions.

Session 2, on Flexible Industrial End Users, starts with a presentation by Klaas Hommes of Dutch (and German) TSO Tennet. “We need a strong and stable network, also to cater for the wind turbines and solar parks,” Klaas says, “enormous changes are going on at the production side. The energy mix is changing very fast.”

Final conf mingle_day1_1500National grids are getting more and more connected. Luckily, cooperation between countries is also progressing, even though it is hindered sometimes by legal problems. Also, getting permits for building networks can be a very lengthy process. But progress in this field is crucial, since the market is developing from a day-ahead market to a real time market. Energy flows between and in countries change much quicker nowadays. And in the meantime, the consumer starts to become a producer of energy too.

Klaas Hommes: “We see problems arise in countries around us. Balancing the grid gets more and more complicated in countries like Belgium and Germany. The more sun and wind power you integrate, the less capacity you have in hands to act, when an emergency arises. More and more conventional production facilities are laid off, since there is an over capacity in the market. ” What is the solution? Tennet thinks it should get the ‘program responsability’ to organise the balance in its system, and make contracts for emergency situations.

The next presentation is by Jef Verbeeck, researcher at Vito, Belgium. Topic: The search for flexible demand in the Antwerp harbour. The presentation by Jef gives an overview of the results of the e-harbours showcase, zooming in on the Amoras example, a huge facility for sludge processing in the harbour. At the time the research started, the port authorities were just planning the construction of a large array of wind turbines in the region. In the case of Amoras, simulations showed that about half of the energy uptake could be supplied by a wind turbine, but a lot of excess wind power has to be delivered to the grid. When the company builds a smart energy system, the amount of wind energy that has to be delivered to the grid can be halved (from 40% to 20% of the production). That makes the TSO happy!

But how can companies make money with their flexibility? New roles are arising in the energy sector, since so called ‘aggregators’ bring together small energy consumers, and sell their flexibility to network operators. This brings new business cases within reach, but the impact is still limited. In Belgium, integrating wind energy in a private network (of a energy consuming company) can bring an energy cost reduction of around 15%.  Offering reserve capacity also is an interesting option – but only when you are a very big energy consumer (and don’t need the services of an aggregator). Jef Verbeeck adds: “But in five years time, I think the price of flexibility will multiply, and then we get very different scenario’s.”

Davy Geysen from Vito takes over, talking about a surprise source of flexibility: deep frozen containers or reefers. In a harbour like Antwerp, reefers could provide a flexible load of 25 to 37,5 MW. But can we mobilise this flex?  One interesting idea is to use it onboard of the container vessel, to reduce emissions in the harbour area. One snag: we need a communication channel with the reefer (bi-directional system). Also, we need negotiations between the different stakeholders in the reefer business and the owners of the cargo that is transported.

Annelies Delnooz of Vito gives a presentation on the barriers that can prevent the use of flexibility in daily practice. The current regulatory framework does not always help. Not always, the party that profits from selling the flexibility is the same that has to bear the extra costs (see the example of Amoras). Sometimes economic factors make it difficult to sell flexibility, like energy contracts that give no reward to shifting consumption to off-peak hours. Nevertheless, Annelies states that the market is moving, and the chances to offer flexibility are growing.

In a reaction to the Vito research, Klaas Hommes from Tennet says, he loves the work of Vito, but the market has to give a value to the flexibility they discovered. “Now, the value can mainly be found in selling flexibility to the programme responsible parties, Tennet does up till now not have that responsability.”

Is there a clear business case for flexibility yet? Jef Verbeeck: “We have found four cases where flexibility could be made profitable. But in practice, these four companies still have not decided to invest in the business case. Because the return on investment is still limited. And because there are a lot of institutional barriers that slow down the decision process. ”

Like reefers, electric cars could (when combined in a pool) deliver a lot of flexibility to the grid. Roland Steinmetz of EV Consult presents his thoughts on the possibilities of electric transport. The capacity/price ratio of batteries improves slowly but certainly, with about 10% a year. That helps. Using an electric car now costs about 25% of the fuel costs of conventional cars.

To make flexibility available, managed charging is what we want, but how do we organise that? Public transport vehicles, like buses are a good option to start. When we come into the consumer domain, its more complicated: when managed charging has a negative influence on the driving experience, then the car companies will not be enthousiast. Technically, a lot of parties will have to communicate, using all kinds of protocols – but that can be organised. The business case is still underdeveloped in countries like the Netherlands, with a small share of renewables in the energy mix.

A third breakout session presented a serious game, made for the Dutch network company Alliander. The participants got the assignment to build a heat network, that uses excess heat of different companies. In this game you can simulate what gains can be achieved when stakeholders cooperate. The beautiful aspect of this game is that everybody wins, and the carbon dioxide emissions are reduced. The participants say afterwards that the game gives a good insight in the interests of different partners, and helps analyzing the ways to reach better solutions.

Towards an Open and Smart Energy Network in Zaanstad. Aldermen Robert Linnekamp and Henry Staal of the Municipality of Zaanstad discuss the background of their new energy project, centered around city heating. The presentation (in Dutch) gives an overview of the 25 companies and institutions that align to build an open network structure to transport heat. Apart from excess heat, excess electricity (for example from wind turbines) can also be put into the network. the puzzle is not complete yet, a potential heat demand for 8.000 houses has been identified, while a heat supply for 5.000 houses is offered by the participants. With the participating companies, business cases are studied. End of january, the first proposal has been made to a ‘launching customer’.

Rolof Potters of Alliander presents some outcomes of the Serious Game, played in the third breakout session. Strong point of the simulation: you play the game in a real world, for example in your own city. You can point towards your own house, and state that it has to be included in the city heating network. The game could speed up the negotiating process in the real world.

Representatives from packaging company Goglio, energy contractor Dalkia and the Municipality of Zaanstad discuss the development of the open energy network. Berend Claus of Goglio tells the air purification process of his company produces a huge amount of excess heat. He thinks this is an excellent chance to find a useful destination for this excess heat, in a profitable way – even though profit is not the main driver in this case. Alderman Jeroen Olthof of Zaanstad remarks that the Municipality plays very different roles in this process, from facilitator of the process to end-user of the heat, and perhaps in the end even financial supporter of the project.

Paul de Rache of the Antwerp Harbour Area remarks, that the business case of the Open Energy Network will prove quite complicated, especially where heat storage and backup capacity will be needed. But, he adds, in the end it is the most cost-effective solution to reduce carbon emissions. Great city heating networks always spring from a strong desire of the local government to get it realised, a shared vision that brings a lot of stakeholders together. A policy that does not provide security to the partners, that changes too often, will hamper the development.

Matchmaking at the conference

Matchmaking at the conference

Kathrin Braun of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO gives a presentation on the new European programma Horizon 2020 for research and innovation (slides mostly in Dutch). Where former programs were oriented more on universities and research organisations, this program spans a wider field. It is not only about technology, but also on bringing people together and get innovations on the market. Social challenges will be leading, less strictly prescribed than in earlier programs. In all countries of the EU offices like the Dutch RVO are available that can advise you how to participate in the different calls that are open now.

Now the floor is reserved for Matchmaking and Networking : find business partners, and / or institutions to coöperate with, perhaps even work towards a Horizon 2020 project.

 Read more on the full final conference here

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