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Strategies and instruments for accelerating the transfer of technology were discussed by (from the left): Dr Fynn Scheben [Moeller Operating Engineering GmbH], Dr Stefan Nießen [Siemens AG], Stefan Hoppert [A. Eberle GmbH] and Martin Braun [Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology IWES]. Moderation: Christian Spanik.
© Jutta Perl-Mai, BINE Informationsdienst
Status conference on “Future-proof Power Grids”
29.09.2016

Ulrich Benterbusch from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy underlined the importance of a modernised electricity grid for the success of the energy transition.
© Jutta Perl-Mai, BINE Informationsdienst

Expanding the electricity grid for the energy transition

Experts from science, industry and politics met on 22 and 23 September 2016 at the first status conference on "Future-proof Power Grids" in Berlin. More than 300 delegates followed the invitation of the German federal government and offered an insight into their current research on the subject of grid expansion. Since the beginning of the "Future-proof Power Grids" funding initiative in 2013, the participating German federal ministries have funded more than 300 projects with around 140 million euros.

The "Future-proof Power Grids" funding initiative is researching and developing methods, concepts and materials for expanding the electricity grid. The focus is on optimising the integration of renewable energy in the transmission and distribution networks. At the invitation of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, 310 participants from the initiative met last week to exchange ideas at the first status conference on "Future-proof Power Grids", which was held in Ludwig-Erhard-Haus in Berlin. An important aim of the conference was that science and companies should provide the government with an indication as to which conditions need to be met in order to accelerate the transfer of technology.

In his opening address, Ulrich Benterbusch, Directorate Head in the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, highlighted the strategic importance of rapidly modernising, remodelling and expanding the electricity grid for a successful energy transition in Germany. He said that research has a key function and needs to develop technologies in order to meet the new challenges with innovations. Previously, Dr Karl Huthmacher, Director-General at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, explained to the delegates at the two-day event that the electricity grid is a technological "Gesamtkunstwerk" that needs to oscillate synchronously at the same frequency throughout Europe.

The conference opened with topics concerned with security in information and communication technology (ICT), system services as well as grid planning and expansion. With their introductory presentations, Professors Bernd Engel, Kurt Rohrig and Christian Rehtanz provided the technical impetus for discussion. The participants agreed that there should also be an emergency operating mode without ICT technology in the future. A key component for a reliable supply structure in the next few years are virtual power plants. An innovative approach for improving the storage facilities in the grid is provided by concepts for developing and using entire cities as large storage systems. Several research projects are currently working on this topic.

Centralised or decentralised?

The subsequent panel discussion highlighted the various options for providing a more centralised or decentralised expansion of the electricity networks in the future. The panel members included Dr Thomas Engelke from the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv), Professor Wolfram H. Wellßow from Kaiserslautern Technical University, Achim Zerres from the German Federal Network Agency, Sascha Müller-Kraenner from the German Environmental Aid Association (DUH), and federal parliamentary member, Dr Joachim Pfeiffer. The delegates agreed that the majority of the population essentially backed the energy transition. Nevertheless, the necessary innovations for an efficient grid expansion would face a struggle in order to gain acceptance. The amended German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) provided another focus area.  This was mainly concerned with the future possibilities for citizens to continue participating in the production of renewable electricity. In regards to the market structure in the next few years, there was consensus among the panel that competition was the best instrument. This will decide who will prevail in the end: municipal utilities, local authorities, small networks or more public participation.

In a second panel discussion, the participants discussed the possibilities for accelerating the transfer of technology from research into practice. Here Professor Martin Braun from the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology in Kassel represented the scientific community. Stefan Hoppert from A. Eberle GmbH, Dr Stefan Nießen from Siemens AG and Dr Fynn Scheben from Moeller Operating Engineering GmbH represented the business sector. There was general agreement that science and industry have demonstrated in many collaborative projects that they can successfully develop innovative technologies if there is a clear objective. What they want from government is its support in the subsequent product development and market introduction phase.
81 collaborative projects are working with partners from science and industry in the "Future-proof Power Grids" funding initiative.

Energy Research Network

At the end of the event, the staff from the Project Management Jülich presented the Energy Research Network (Forschungsnetzwerk Energie) to the delegates. This offers the participants at the conference and other professional experts an opportunity to network beyond fixed events and to be continuously involved in the grid expansion research area.

Further information on the presentations at the status conference and on individual projects in the research area is also provided on the Web portal at www.forschung-stromnetze.info.

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Web portal for the research initiative on power grids with the latest research and development news