HomeDecentralized EnergyWhat's the innovation formula to deliver the energy transition?

What’s the innovation formula to deliver the energy transition?

Special focus from members of the European Technology & Innovation Platform for Smart Networks for Energy Transition

What if we accelerated innovation and customer empowerment in the European energy sector?

That was the question posed to members of ETIP SNET (the European Technology & Innovation Platform for Smart Networks for Energy Transition).

On the consumer question, Venizelos Efthymiou, chairman of FOSS Research Centre for Sustainable Energy and member of the governing board of ETIP SNET, says that the power system has been on a path to “a more consumer-centric perspective” for the past two decades.

What if the pandemic accelerated the green transition?

“The grid is more than ever turning into an active, digitalised, interconnected system with bi-directional flow of energy and data, facilitating the strong contribution of end users.”

He lists several sector developments that are “paving the way for a stronger presence of end users in generating, managing and using their energy”, including solar PV, smart grid technologies, blockchain and peer-to-peer trading, plus electric mobility and its related technologies such as vehicle-to-grid and storage.

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All of these, he says, are “sowing the seeds of this emerging world with consumers at the centre of the energy transitionࢀ¦ and such seeds, once germinated, will play an important role in the transition. But they need the expert support of the grid operators, who can act as market facilitators for secure, resilient, and optimal use of all interconnected systems and sources.”

He says that “drawing the full picture requires a composite action, with well-developed and designed systems through the support of knowledge experts from the electricity industry as well as emerging actors like aggregators that will support the role of the active consumer”.

Meanwhile, in terms of innovation, Sergio Olivero, head of the Finance & Business Innovation Unit in the Energy Centre at Turin university Politecnico di Torino, cautions that “technology related to the energy transition is a powerful tool to accelerate innovationࢀ¦ but technology without finance is not enough”.

“The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus is showing the limits of speculative finance,” he says, “and shows the need to put the real economy back at the centre of investment policies for the recovery after the crisis.”

He says that funds will be available soon at European and world level, “and innovative business models are needed in order to exploit this investment capacity”.

“A comprehensive strategic approach must therefore rely upon short-to-long term initiatives that are capable to involve local supply chains, where all stakeholders can play an active role and reactivate their production processes.”

Nathalie Samovich of renewables innovation developer Enercoutim says that existing technologies are only partially addressing the current needs of the energy transition.

“The greater innovation need stems from the fact that the societal challenges we are facing are cross-domain and of cross-border relevance. What we innovate on ” and the integrated solutions we are currently working on within the energy sector ” have broad reach and scale-up potentialࢀ¦ an incentive and driver to all stakeholders.”

And she adds that more significant innovation can occur “within the environments where implementation barriers are eliminated along the way. Our effectiveness at mission-oriented targeted research and innovation should follow an effective scaling-up across Europe.”

Mark Howitt is chief technology officer of compressed air energy storage firm Storelectric, which like Enercoutim and Politecnico di Torino is a member of ETIP SNET.

He is keen to stress that “the issue is not innovation per se “it is the roll-out of innovative solutions into the field”.

“The valley of death is broad for both large-scale prototype construction and, especially, full-scale, first-of-a-kind commercial plants”.

He says this valley “is particularly deep for technologies that cannot be built small” and adds that he believes that the European Commission should fund the ‘risk’ element of such projects by match-funding their construction regardless of whether income will be generated from the resultant prototype.

Don’t miss the ETIP SNET/Enlit Europe brainstorming workshop.

On October 22, ETIP SNET will partner with Enlit Europe to deliver a unique virtual workshop that will brainstorm the challenges for emerging technologies in the energy sector. There will be four ‘brainstorming tables’, tackling Electrification & Sector Coupling; New Market Models; Distributed RES & Grid Planning; and Energy Communities.
Spaces for the workshop are limited, so sign up now.

Kelvin Ross
Kelvin Ross is Editor-in-Chief of Enlit Europe and Power Engineering International. A journalist for more than 30 years, he has worked on regional, national and international newspapers, as well as trade magazines serving sectors including insurance, shipping, health and financial markets. He has covered the energy sector for more than 10 years. He helped establish Energy Live News in the UK before joining PEi and he has been ranked among the top 100 global influencers on Twitter for 'renewable energy' and 'smart grid' topics.