In the first session of the mid-term conference two e-harbours showcases presented their findings. The case for Smart Grids was eloquently put forward by Hans Schäfers of the Hamburg showcase. The rising share of renewable resources in the electricity generation makes Smart Grids indispensable. The electricity grid has to adapt to the fluctuating input delivered by wind turbines and solar systems. Balancing demand and generation gets ever more important.
Smart Grids are a viable solution. Guest speaker René Kamphuis (TNO, University of Eindhoven) presented results from a large scale project in Darmstadt (Germany). The Web2energy project clearly shows that a Smart Grid can balance an electricity system with a lot of input of renewables, on the scale of a region.
But who is going to invest in building Smart Grids? Many stakeholders still hesitate. Jef Verbeeck (Vito), presenting the Antwerp showcase, identified a number of barriers. For one, the market value of flexibility (both in production and consumption of electricity) is still quite low. That makes the business case or a Smart Grid less viable. And the stakeholders that collect the gains of a Smart Grid are not always the parties that build the system and carry the costs.
Guest speaker Jan Declercq from the Belgian technology company CG Global pinpointed the uncertainties caused by ever changing government policies in the electricity markets. His conclusion: it might take a number of years (perhaps five to ten) before Smart Grids will really take off. That means, he noted, we will have to begin building the foundations for that Smart Grids today.