E-harbours #1 Final conference: Blog from the second day of Let’s Go

Mayor Mrs GH Faber welcomes the audience to the final conference. Photo Dirk Brand

Mayor Mrs GH Faber welcomes the audience to the final conference. Photo Dirk Brand

Welcome to the second day of the e-harbours conference at the Inntel Hotel, Zaanstad.

Chairman Gerrit Buist, from the Center for Energy of the University of Amsterdam, gives the floor to the Mayor of Zaanstad,  Geke Faber. She welcomes the participants to one of the oldest industrial zones in the world. “The first windfarm was built here in the Zaanstreek, “she states, “in the 17th century. Renewable energy, produced and consumed locally. A Smart Grid, way ahead of its time.”

“e-harbours showed us, that energy can play an important role in local development.  What’s more, the project showed us , how much is possible already. To realise the potential, sometimes we have to leave the familiar path. We need not only a transition in energy, but also in governance.”

Jens Bartholmes, Photo Dirk BrandJens Bartholmes, specialist on Smart Cities at the Directorate General for Energy of the European Commission, explains the vision of the EC. How do we achieve local, integrated solutions that have added value for the whole Community? The innovative character of these themes asks for new ways of cooperating between organisations and departments, and also within the European Commission. An important result of this approach is the Strategic Implementation Plan for Smart Cities, published last October.

“What I like in e-harbours, is the cooperation between different cities. And the conclusion that it is not a question of technology anymore, but of social implementation. Sharing knowledge about what works, and what you should not replicate because it does not work. We think Open Data are very important, giving others access to data, even when you have collected them yourself.  And in the end, of course, it is all about business models. We are thinking a lot about that, helped by our own finance specialists. How we can create more innovative business models? They should come from bottom-up, not dictated by the European Commission or any other authority. “

“That’s why you will find, that in the new Horizon 2020 program, we do not just hand out  subsidies anymore, we want to give seed money. Take away part of the risk for innovative projects, so that it is easier to start them.”

“Also, we want to put more emphasis on the market roll-out of new solutions. We strongly support lighthouse projects, where cities in different circumstances work together, try out the same solutions in their own environment. This way we get results that are replicable, we know the pittfalls, we found out how to finance them.”

Final conf HansHans Schäfers from the Hamburg Centre for Demand Side Integration C4DSI talks about the German Energiewende, and the contribution Power to Heat could deliver to solve the problems of that transition. In the current situation, at some times Germany has an excess supply of (renewable) energy. “What can we do with that? We sell it to you!”

“It is clear, we do not need more base load in the electricity production, we need flexibility. The e-harbours team searched for flexible demand in the Hamburg harbour. We found quite a lot. But is is very difficult to get this flexibility mobilised, because of juridical and practical problems, and most of all because the business model is not there yet.

So what to do in the short run? We need ways to store surplus energy.  One solution much discussed at the moment is Power to Gas, producing Hydrogen gas with the excess electricity. But it is not profitable, mostly because the efficiency is much too low and the technique is expensive. That’s why we are working on Power to Heat solutions now, using excess power from renewable souces to produce heat, using very well known techniques.”

The Hamburg team of e-harbours produced an interesting simulation of the way a smart energy system works in practice. The simulation shows how the energy consumption of a cold store can be adapted to changes in renewable production. You can change the amount of energy produced by wind or PV-installations, and see how the cold store adapts to that. “It’s a great tool that explains in a simple way what really happens when we talk about smart consumers”, Philipp Wellbrock from the e-harbours team remarks.

Guy VekemansGuy Vekemans, Strategy Developer Smart Cities at the Belgium research organisation Vito. “The e-harbours project took place in the middle of a global energy transition. Sometimes that transition feels like a local storm, but it is a worldwide phenomenon. One of the remarkable elements is the renewed interest in fossil fuels, and the plunge of the energy prices, for example for natural gas.”

“Nowadays complete renewable generation of electricity is feasible. The energy system will change, and flexibility will become a key feature. So we need for example new techniques for demand side management, and energy storage. Key themes of e-harbours, but also of other European projects.” “The expert group that analysed the e-harbours results saw that the cases from the e-harbours showcases each were very different. We need an individual approach for smart demand side management in companies, on the other hand we would like to replicate them!”

“One of the other key results of e-harbours: it really showed the power of bottom up initiatives, for example in the Zaanstad showcase. In the end, the project is not about technology, it is about organising. When you can place a technological problem in a wider perspective, you get completely different angles, and new value chains can come in sight.  Look at the canal cruise boats in Amsterdam. You can electrify them, and try to connect the electric boats to a local grid. But you can also frame an electric canal cruiser as green tourism, which opens up new possibilities.”

“The project has identified several legal barriers that hinder smart energy systems. The experts did not agree. They said: consider the legal framework as an opportunity to make new arrangements with other stakeholders!”

Jan Schreuder, Photo Dirk BrandJan Schreuder, project manager of e-harbours, discusses the findings and perspectives of the project: Local Governments, small harbours and e-mobility. “When we started the project,”he states, “the Municipality of Zaanstad was quite unaware of its energy position. Now we found out a lot more, but in fact, the Point of Arrival we just produced feels more like a Point of Departure.”

“Zaanstad provides examples of all the elements that formed the e-harbours project, on each of the ‘pillars’ of the project: renewable energy, flexibility, electric mobility and grid stability . How did we smarten up? Small harbours like Scalloway provided examples for Zaanstad. At the same time, we got inspired by the high-level studies in Hamburg and Antwerp. And we learned: we do not need technicians, we need a psychologist! Organisation is more important than technology. Try to involve your stakeholders, in your own Municipality, or in a larger region like a harbour area. Local cooperation is king! ”

PerArne_Charlotte_1500Harbour governance, Malmö – a harbour city in transition, an inspirational session. Per-Arne Nilsson – Head of city development and climate, City of Malmö discusses the development of the town, that historically always felt part of the North Sea region.

“Malmö used to be an industrial city untill the seventies. Then the industrial decline commenced, and people began to move out. The city started a revitalisation program under the leadership of a mayor, that stayed in office for a very long time, and proved a stabile factor. Large investments in infrastructure (connections to Copenhagen) and in education marked the beginning of the upturn.

The harbour areas are central to the transformation of the city. Now, those areas provide  in fact more jobs than in the industrial era. Local development has been focussed on sustainability and renewables from the start.”

Charlotte Hauksson – Head of environmental management at the professional services  firm WSP Sverige AB. “Most cities set target and goals,” she says, “that is easy. But how do you get the stakeholders involved? They will provide the majority of the investments. In the case of Malmö, the stakeholders really trust the municipality, and that triggers investment.”

“To make buildings carbon-neutral, you need action from parties like developers, architects, builders. You can give a subsidy of millions of euros, and that will still be only a tiny piece of total investment. Among the success factors, the first is strong leadership, that can break boundaries and work towards new solutions. Another important factor: there must be a strategy to connect with key stakeholders. And you must be able to mobilise external funds. ”

Philipp Wellbrock. Photo Dirk BrandThe Big Fish. Break-out session on flexibility found in big industrial companies and institutions. Philipp Wellbrock from the Hamburg team of e-harbours talks about the key question: what makes a Smart Grid profitable? The first business case is straightforward: reduce load peaks, a technique available to almost all energy consumers. The same goes for shifting loads to off-peak hours. More complicated is offering reserve capacity.

The business cases found in the Hamburg harbour remain not profitable enough to stimulate large-scale application. One factor is that electricity prices for large consumers have come down, reducing cost pressure. The price spreads between peak and off-peak have got smaller. Also, big consumers can evade the taxes and levies on the base energy price to a large extent. Conclusion: up till now flexibility is not really rewarded.

Philipp: “When we started to look into the real time power consumption of companies, we found quite large variations. In one container terminal, we discovered spikes in the uptake from 18 MW to about 5 MW within 28 seconds. The company does not pay for this variability in uptake, while that creates huge problems for the local grid.

To make more flexibility available to the grid, the business cases must improve. For example by changing counter-productive subsidy schemes. Or force investors in new renewable facilities to make flexibility available also…. And we need to get the good business cases implemented, even when investment in energy efficiency offers an easier to realize potential. So: create standard flexibility products and open the markets. Another idea is to make decentralized production that helps stabilize the grid exempt from taxes and levies.” Philipps conclusion: “Smart Energy solutions need to be profitable, and easy to implement. The regulatory framework should support that.”

Lyne McGowannWe now move from Hamburg to Liverpool. Lyne McGowann, from Liverpool University, talks about the North Sea STAR project: Spreading Transnational Results. The project analyses the results of different programs in the field of energy and green economy. The results show what the strenghts are of different regions on energy and sustainability, and helps them develop more effective regional policies. Can these projects, considering their scale and timeframe, really help reach the ambitious goals of European energy policy?

Three elements STAR identified to measure succes: 1. What concrete results do projects produce? 2. do they develop new technologies? 3. do they influence policy makers and stakeholders?

As main barriers that prevent success, STAR identified: policy conflicts between national and regional interests, and the lack of communication between projects and partners. Enhancing succes, among other factors: a clear focus from the start, with some flexibility (and a back-up plan), and developing a sense of ownership in project results among stakeholders.

Carsten Westerholt and Robert Linnekamp. Photo Dirk BrandCarsten Westerholt from the secretariat of the North Sea Region Programme, the funding partner of e-harbours, tells about the future development of his Programme. Around the North Sea, we find 6 member states (and Norway), counting 60 mln inhabitants. “We try to link European policy to the regions,” Carsten says, “This is Europe in action.” The programma supported 71 projects, (on average with 13 partners) now all nearing completion.

Three priorities have been chosen for the new stage of the programme 2014-2020 : Thinking Growth, Renewable North Sea Region, and Green Mobility. Also, the secretariat wants more focus on pilots, tests and demonstrations, more or less the way e-harbours has done it. First call for the new program will be end of 2014, beginning of 2015.

Nico Van DoorenNico van Dooren, Director Energy and Industry at the Port of Rotterdam gives a presentation to show the historical growth and the future plans of the greatest harbour in Europe. “We are part of a problem, “Nico says, “so we think we have to be part of the solution. But we have to be careful how we develop. Rotterdam is not the largest harbour in the world anymore. Does that matter? Do we want to focus on volume, or on value? We devised a long term strategy, based on efficiency, sustainability, and cooperation with parties like companies and universities. In practice, this means investing both in resource efficiency in existing industries, and in new sustainable industries. Using the power of the cluster of existing industries (‘brownfields’) and the opportunities that new greenfields offer.

The goals are far reaching: we want a reduction of energy use in the harbour of 20 PJ by 2020, mainly by developing an integral infrastrure for heat, steam, CO2 and electricity. The drivers for each of these forms of energy are quite different. With steam for example, it is lowering redundancy and cost-saving. The problem is, you want to prevent constructing lock ins, that could force you to keep facilities open (like old fossile power plants) because they have become cornerstones of the system. ”

Alderman Robert Linnekamp of the Municipality of Zaanstad presents the Point of Arrival document of e-harbours to Carsten Westerholt, representative of the Interreg IV programme that subsidized he project.  “We count on Europe to act local”, he says.  Westerholt stresses the quite unique importance of the cooperation within between large and small harbours. He hopes the findings of e-harbours will find their way into the European policy cycle.

Jan RotmansHow can we accelate the Energy transition? That is the topic of the final lecture of this conference, by Prof. Jan Rotmans of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. “After 25 years of research on the topic, I still do not know exactly what transition is,” he remarks. “But I am convinced transformational change is going on at the moment, we are in a change of era’s. Three changes are going on simultaneousley: the fabric of our society is changing. the structure of our wasteful economy is changing. And 12 disruptive technologies are changing our future. Only three in five organisations will survive these changes, is your organisation among them? Only when it is among the most adaptive organisations.”

“The  essence is, transition means a power shift. The existing powers will defend their position untill the last day. But new powers will take over, better equipped, going into a new direction.”

“The stone era did not end, because there was a shortage of stone. But because better ideas sprang up.” Can we accelerate the transition? “Seek incentives for radical innovations, even when there will be no broad support for that change.  Transition aims at a longer term, change in the long run.”

“What would I recommend the e-harbours project? Remember: transition is not knowledge-driven. It is driven by power shifts and geo-political changes. When a harbour does not want to transform into a more sustainable port, plugging in smart grids does not work. We need to focus on the process to get change underway. It’s all about the process, stupid!”

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