Europe must increase the share of renewable sources in the energy system, at a fast pace. The power grids will have to accommodate sources like wind turbines, solar power plants, co-generation facilities, that are more diverse, more geographically dispersed, and less controllable. It becomes more complicated to keep the electricity grid stable.
The European power grids have been devised as centralised systems, centred around a few production units that can be regulated by the grid operator. For a centralised system, it is a major change that thousands of businesses and households start delivering intermittent electricity to the grid. The old one-way system develops into a two-way system. The existing grid can cope with flexible sources only to a certain degree, and in some places the grid even now (while the share of renewables is still low) gets stretched to the limits.
So, we must find energy efficient and flexible solutions that help to manage the grid, creating room for the uptake of ‘green’ sources like wind or solar power. Those solutions go under the common name of smart energy systems or (less precise) ‘Smart Grids’.
What is a Smart Energy System?
We define a smart energy system as an energy network that is able to adapt to the introduction of renewable energy sources. The network maintains its balance by using innovative techniques like demand side management.
Harbour areas, nodal points in the international logistic and economic network, are perfect places to analyse the chances of smart energy systems. The energy use in the harbour regions is immense, but energy efficiency remains too low, and the share of renewable energy is still disappointing. Both from an economic viewpoint (the energy costs are too high) and from an environmental perspective (the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is excessive) there is urgent need for improvement.
That sums up why eight partners from five countries around the North Sea decided to develop the e-harbours project. In this report, we show how we discovered great chances for energy savings and reduction of energy costs at many facilities in our harbour regions, how we identified sources of flexibility, and investigated how they could be exploited in profitable business cases. But we will also show how difficult it proved to get smart energy solutions introduced.