Decentralized energy at POWER-GEN Europe

The programme for this year’s POWER-GEN Europe event in Milan reveals the penetration of decentralized energy into the heart of the power sector.

Technology on display at last year’s event in Amsterdam

Credit: POWER-GEN Europe

The growth of decentralized generation represents ‘one of the central challenges the power industry faces,’ says Nigel Blackaby, POWER-GEN Europe’s conference director. In response, the organizers ‘have backed the Advisory Board’s desire to develop more distributed generation content in both the conference and more widely within the event – hence the expansion of the Decentralized Energy Pavilion’.

‘The conference programme and Advisory Board increasingly recognize the role that distributed generation is playing in the industry, and the conference sessions widely reflect the need to discuss the issues arising from this and the projects that are underway or in place,’ he says.

The programme reflects the penetration of decentralized energy into the heart of the power sector, with relevant content appearing in ‘a range of sections, not just the one called Decentralized Energy,’ Blackaby says.

‘Energy storage, for example, is going to be a vital partner technology to volatile distributed renewables.’ Indeed, this year’s event features four separate sessions devoted to energy storage policies and technologies, with a series of debates and panel discussions supported by the European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE).

Blackaby points to a number of themes of interest to decentralized generators, including but not limited to: a presentation from Navigant Consulting on the Renewables track, which will describe the new energy sector paradigm ‘where information technology merges with distributed generation technology, smart meters and smart grids’. The Energy Integration track will feature a session on the implications of the integration of heat and electricity (‘Heat, the Game-Changer’) and on virtual power plants, increasingly popular in Europe as a means of leveraging the combined impact of a number of small distributed plants.

Even a brief look through the conference programme turns up many sessions of interest for decentralized generators. Wednesday’s day-long focus on New Approaches, New Markets, Decarbonization and Nuclear (Brown 02) includes presentations on the Opportunities and Limits of Mobile Power Generation; The Multifuel CFB Boiler for Zabrze CHP Unit as Flexible Solution for the Future Heat and Power Market; San Donato Milanese District Heating: Concept and Execution of the New Enipower CHP Plant; Development Trends in Cogeneration and Combined Heat and Power Plants; GE’s Combined Cycle and Combined Heat and Power Integrated Plant Solutions for 75-150 MW Applications; the Value of Flexibility in a Dynamic District Heating Market in the Context of the KWKG 2016 German Legislation; and How Utilities and their Customers can Benefit from CHP Installations.

On Thursday morning there will be a focus on Future Technologies for the Decentralized Energy Market (also in Brown 02), as well as A Holistic Approach to Providing De-Centralised Low Carbon Power, Heat and Cooling Demand in a Commercial Application; Stationary Fuel Cells for Industrial Applications – First 1.4 MW Fuel Cell Installation in Europe; Distributed Power Generation with Fuel Cells – Will they Change Utility Portfolios in Europe like in the US and Korea?; and Waste-to-Energy (WtE) in the Polish Economic Reality in the Reference to European Countries – and, again, many more!

Blackaby also notes that those interested in decentralized themes should ‘have a look at what we’ve got in the Presentation Theatre’, a knowledge centre located on the exhibition floor which will showcase presentations, seminars and workshops on a wide range of topics by industry associations, NGOs, utilities and engineering entrepreneurs. One session in particular stands out, he says: on Thursday (13:00-15:30) there will be a session on ‘Dispersed generation and microgrids: the new backbone of the electricity system’, presented by the Lombardy Energy Cluster and Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico (RSE SpA). The space will also feature an introduction to the European Commission’s NER 300 programme, which funds low-carbon energy demonstration projects, including presentations from companies that have received funding. On Tuesday (11:45-15:00) CIMAC (the International Council on Combustion Engines) will present on reciprocating gas engines for Europe’s power industry, with a focus on practical examples from the operator and supplier perspectives.

Visit your pavilion

Although the many exhibitors working in decentralized energy are integrated throughout the exhibition hall, in Hall 3 there is a special area of focus, the Decentralized Energy pavilion – now in its second year. Within it you’ll find companies from across Europe, from Finland’s Valmet to Germany’s BERTSCHenergy, which offers complete solutions for power, heat and waste heat technology; Turkey’s Cimtas for pipe engineering, fabrication and contracting; Italian steam and hydraulic turbine company Franco Tosi Meccanica; US- and Italy-based heat recovery steam generator maker Nooter/Eriksen; Danish boiler manufacturer Aalborg Engineering; and more.

See the technology in action

Monday’s first technical tour (meeting time: 9 am at the Registration desk; duration: around six hours; pre-registration is required) takes us to the Torino Nord cogeneration plant, which provides district heating to the city of Turin through a piping network of over 530 km – the largest district heating system in Italy. The plant came online in 2012 and is operated by IREN Energia.

According to the company, the installation is composed of a combined-cycle gas turbine plant with an output of 390 MWe and 240 MWth, and boasts around 85% efficiency in full cogen mode. The plant is equipped with Dry Low NOx burners and DeNOx and CatOx catalyst systems, reducing CO and NOx to less than 10 mg/Nm3 across the plant’s operating range. Also featured are six absorption chillers for use during warmer months.

Three heat-only boilers with a combined output of 340 MWth are used as backup and for integration with the district heating system. A pressurized heat storage system with six vessels features an overall capacity of 5000 m3 and a storage capacity of around 300 MWth at nominal conditions.

If energy integration is of interest, the fourth technical tour on Monday (meeting time: 9 am at the Registration desk; duration: around five hours; pre-registration is required) will visit Enel Distribuzione’s Smart Grid Laboratory in Milan. Enel describes the lab as its technological centre, where it tests the latest innovations in intelligent networks, key to expanding power generation from renewable sources. The centre has recently been renovated and now showcases new technological and communication solutions, as well as an exhibition titled ‘Counting on the Future’ which includes a timeline of electricity meters from the earliest Bakelite models to the latest generation.

A changing energy landscape

To find out how the technologies that are the backbone of decentralized energy systems are evolving to deal with the changing energy landscape, we spoke with ABB’s Axel Kettmann, who is also CIMAC’s vice-president of communication.

‘Increasing uptime, availability and operational flexibility is an R&D focus in the application areas that rely on engines to enable capital intensive or highly critical businesses that extend well beyond the operation of the engine (oil & gas business, emergency standby units, balancing power plants) First cost and total cost of ownership are very important also here,’ he says.

‘The energy sector is suffering from the passivity of the politicians to complete the regulatory framework they have started with the Energiewende, Energy Union and the focus on renewables to the end, by focusing on clean and safe fuels for balancing power (namely natural gas) and by creating a tariff framework that allows private investors to invest into modern efficient and clean balancing power.’

Read more from Kettman and CIMAC in our exclusive pre-show interview on

Your industry, your say

Those attending the exhibition and conferences in Milan will have a unique opportunity to express their opinion on the industry in which they work. The POWER-GEN Europe Confidence Index is a comprehensive pan-European report for the power industry providing key market information, insights and trends to aid strategic decision-making. It gives you – the power industry professional – the opportunity to make your voice heard alongside those of your peers. Every opinion is extremely valuable, whether you work in the boardroom, on the power plant floor or out ‘in the field’.

The Confidence Index is now in its second year and will build on the insights gathered last year from over 700 participants. There will be a dedicated booth on the exhibition floor where you can complete the survey.

Please visit for more information and the full event schedule

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