Greentech: has the Great Energy Transition started?

The cleantech drivers of 2022

For Europe, balancing the supply and demand of electricity is a worrying issue. Especially when you consider new measures and regulations aimed at phasing out high-carbon fuels. Add to that the response to the pandemic's effects and Russia's war on Ukraine, and we're facing tough choices.

Reliance on fossil fuels has clearly taken its toll on environmental sustainability while demand fluctuation has made it hard to forecast usage. This requires a mix of energy systems that prioritise renewable energy.

COVID-19 and the Russian War resurfaced the energy issue

Elsevie Publishing Company's study on the impact of COVID-19 on energy grid dynamics in Europe showed how the measures used against the pandemic can be included in energy forecasting models to make more accurate forecasts in the future. The study showed a significant drop in energy demand in most of Europe.

Whereas this was a good sign for energy transition targets, the demand for fossil fuels was even higher after COVID-19. This proved insufficient to meet the Paris Agreement's target of keeping global warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels long term.

Some of Europe’s biggest economies

The energy crisis reached new heights when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, and because Europe relies on Russia for about one-third of its oil imports, the current surge in gas prices reflects this.

There are 5 main sets of Russian natural gas pipelines that supply energy throughout Europe: the TurkStream and the Blue Stream that run to Turkey; the pipelines running through Ukraine; the Yamal stream to Belarus and Poland; and the Nord Stream 1 under the Baltic Sea that supplies gas to Germany.

There were plans for a second set, the Nord Stream 2, that would have doubled the gas supplied through Germany. Even though the two sets were completed at the end of 2021, Germany eventually suspended its certification at the peak of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The executive director of the International Energy Agency, Dr. Fatih Birol, expressed a note of pessimism. He emphasized that “this is perhaps the first global energy crisis we are facing in the world. You remember in the 1970s, we had oil price shocks, '73, '74, '79, '80. It was mainly on oil, but today we are seeing the impacts on oil markets, natural gas markets, coal, and electricity prices. It is affecting the entire energy world.”

However, he also conceded that this could be a historical turning point that could spark more innovation in energy technologies, a similar outcome as the one back in 1970.

Innovation in the energy sector

It has become clear that Europe's key markets are overly reliant on Russian fossil fuels and alternative energy trends are thus becoming increasingly important.

1. Hydrogen as a better fuel source

The potential for hydrogen to replace fossil fuels is laid out in the European Commission's hydrogen strategy from 2020.

Hydrogen is also an energy carrier, just like heat, natural gas, coal or petroleum, and its production does not result in carbon emissions if done through electrolysis, the process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Power-to-X technology is a flexible method of converting the surplus energy produced by renewable sources like biomass and wind or solar power, to hydrogen which can be stored and transported more easily.

The implementation of a hydrogen infrastructure is still in its early stages, but technical advancements are focusing on replacing carbon-intensive production methods.

A use case for the hydrogen electrolysis technology is Everfuel’s flagship HySynergy project which is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2022 in Fredericia, Denmark. This Power-to-X facility aims to reduce the carbon footprint by offering green hydrogen supplies and balancing energy production.

2. Increasing offshore wind energy

Offshore wind energy is another good alternative to fossil fuels and has proven to be more efficient than onshore wind farms where wind resources are limited.

By doubling its commitment to wind energy, the Dutch government is already reducing its dependence on Russian imports.

Climate and Energy Minister Rob Jetten said the country wants to generate 21 GW of electricity from offshore wind by 2030. This will make offshore wind power the largest source of electricity in the Netherlands.

Five new offshore wind farm areas have been announced to achieve this goal as part of the North Sea Program: Nederwiek, Lagelander, Doordewind and the two previously designated areas in the northern part of IJmuiden Ver and the southern part of Hollandse Kust.

For expenditures involved in these projects, the Dutch government will use the Climate Fund also taking into account the fishing industry and protection of the North Sea ecosystem.

3. The growing importance of photovoltaic systems

Alongside wind energy, solar power is another traditional way of generating electricity and Germany has maintained its role as a major European solar market in 2021, also represented by Visual Capitalist’s infographic. New photovoltaic requirements have also been passed in two German states making it mandatory for newly built non-residential buildings to have photovoltaic systems installed.

An encouraging development comes from Hellenic Petroleum, a fossil fuel company from Greece, which is home to the biggest bifacial solar park in Europe.

The Kozani solar park, expected to power 75,000 homes annually, highlights Greece’s efforts to adjust its coal phaseout and reach the 56% greenhouse gas emissions target by 2030.

E.U. increased its solar panel production jumping from 4.9% of its total energy production in 2018 to 10% in 2021, Italy ranking as the second-biggest solar capacity after Germany, followed by the U.K., France and the Netherlands.

Solar power is now cheaper than fossil fuels, and as E.U.'s energy commissioner said, it represents a huge potential for E.U.’s lack of future energy control resurfaced by the Russian war as it will increase demand in the solar energy sector.

4. The Internet of Energy

Perhaps you've heard of the Internet of Things, which is a term used to describe how tiny devices and sensors exchange data with no human intervention once connected to a communication network. This technology is also being used in the energy sector to create sensors for various applications in order to increase efficiency.

Hive, which is owned by Centrica, a UK-based firm that manufactures smart home devices, is an example of this technology trend. It is made up of an ecosystem of sensors ranging from motion detectors to smart plugs that can be handled remotely via the Hive app on smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

5. Automated Energy Demand Forecasting

AI-powered technologies have attracted energy market participants who needed to automate their energy forecasting system making it easier to avert imbalances.

An example of this kind of solution is the one Qubiz developed for a business energy supplier. The solution is designed to assist the Balance Responsible Party (BRP) in the daily business of both long term and short-term energy trading.

A BRP is someone that has to keep the balance of one or multiple energy grids and who keeps a portfolio with all the necessary steps to balance the injections, offtakes, or trade with other BRPs.

Let’s say you are a BRP and suddenly your energy assets produced less power than expected resulting in an imbalance that must be paid to the transmission system operator. To avoid this kind of situation, you could turn your eye to forecasting algorithms that could handle loads of data such as consumer profiles, energy production and consumption prediction based on existing forecasting models, in order to make more accurate predictions.

Qubiz also automated the supplier invoicing process by aggregating data from hundreds of thousands of connections, annual usages and consumption profiles and combining that with contractual data and price propositions to generate a final average weighted price which is used for creating the final invoice to the supplier.

Conclusions

It is important for consumers to benefit from reliable energy flows regardless of political turmoil, healthcare system issues, supply chain disruptions and other man-made or naturally occurring challenges facing the world.

At Qubiz, we are proud to work with businesses that understand their contribution and importance in the big picture of the world we live in. We are happy to support their software development goals and ensure a high degree of quality and reliability.

If you also have the same views or more so, have a business or NGO in need of our expertise and skills, please get in contact as we’re excited to find the most effective and accessible solutions together.

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