The energy system of the future and our citizens

The SINTEG research programme is developing blueprints for the energy system of the future and is getting citizens on board. It has already achieved a great deal, not least in the Lausitz region [former coal-mining area].

SINTEG© Bildkraftwerk/Weiler

On 11 and 12 September 2019, the city of Kassel hosted the SINTEG project’s annual conference. This is the most important yearly conference on ideas for the energy transition and innovative model solutions for the energy supply of the future. The focal topics of this year’s conference included data-driven business models, the digitalisation of the grid, and opportunities for involving local citizens.

In his opening speech and in talks, the State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy with responsibility for energy, Mr Andreas Feicht, praised the high level of commitment of those taking part in the conference, the courage of the private sector to make investments and the spirit of togetherness. He said that there was a special atmosphere which was characterised by enthusiasm, a spirit of discovery and close exchange between very different partners.

High expectations placed on SINTEG solutions

The expectations on the ideas and solutions developed in the SINTEG project are high. By 2020, 'blueprints' are to have been developed for mastering the challenges involved in providing a climate-friendly energy supply. These are to cover regions affected by structural change, such as the Lausitz, where last week in Schwarze Pumpe (Spremberg) the first Lausitz conference took place. The conference, attende by 200 people, was convened by the WindNODE showcase, which is sponsored as part of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy’s SINTEG programme, together with the State Chancellery of Brandenburg and the Institute for Climate Protection, Energy and Mobility (IKEM). Presentations were given on specific energy projects that are designed to strengthen the economic power of the Lausitz and safeguard and create jobs in key sectors for the future.

More than 1,000 participants and 300 project partners

The ideas and solutions for mastering such challenges are developed in the SINTEG projects, which involve over 1,000 participants working on behalf of around 300 project partners, five model regions, and all 16 Länder. These projects are testing how energy generation, energy consumption, electricity grids and electricity storage can be made to interact with one another intelligently based on an energy mix that is 100% renewable.

Local residents are also able to experience this spirit of research and the results being generated in their respective areas. This is because the SINTEG experts run various creative projects and unusual types of event in the model regions right across Germany to inform the public about the transformation of the energy system. These projects and events are designed to get the local residents interested in the energy transition and motivate them to become involved.

Everyone can experience and help shape the future of energy

The WindNODE project has also succeeded in getting local residents on board. This showcase stretches across the Länder located in north-eastern Germany. The project focuses on storage technologies such as large batteries, the possibilities of using sector coupling, such as electric cars or electric heat generation (power-to-heat), and making use of flexibility among electricity customers. An annual competition for ideas callled the WindNODE Challenge is held, in which each and every citizen has the opportunity to help shape the energy transition themselves. In 2018, the winner was a start-up that develops road surfaces from photovoltaic modules to generate electricity from solar energy. This year, the competition includes an energy transition role-play game which is all about promoting mutual understanding among the many actors involved in the energy system. The participants will include school pupils and managers from the industry.

Travelling roadshow showcasing interactive model of the energy transition

An interactive model of the energy transition is being exhibited at various locations in the model region 'NEW 4.0' which extends across Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. The travelling roadshow comprises four large augmented-reality screens (each 4 metres by 2 metres in size) which visitors can use to discover in a fun way what challenges the energy supply in their region is faced with and how these can be overcome.

'Energy Route' shows key components for the electricity grid of the future

An 'Energy Route' connecting the Länder of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and the Saarland is being used to test how distribution grids can be controlled using smart technolgy. Visitors to the Route, which is part of the energy showcase 'Designetz', can see and also have a virtual experience of key components within the electricity grid of the future. Information panels designed as 'stops' are erected along the way where visitors can not only read about what a project involves but, by photographing a marker, can also create a three-dimensional and interactive virtual energy system in the Designetz app. They can use this feature to create virtual wind, for example, or to convert excess electricity into gas and heat.

The 'C/sells' showcase: showing how small energy cells are largely self-sufficient

The 'C/sells' showcase is based on an energy system in which small energy 'cells' – for example a region, a district or individual houses – are largely self-sufficient. The showcase extends across the Länder of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse. 'C/cells' experts have developed an innovative type of event called Tram Talk, whereby experts from the consumer advice centre, the municipal utilities and researchers ride the tram and make themselves available for discussion. Passengers can also talk to them about opportunities for actively becoming actively involved in the energy transition. The showcase also organised a tour of Lake Constance on solar ferry 'Helio' on which it provided onboard lectures and the chance to discuss the opportunities and challenges linked to the energy transition. This included, for example, discussion on how private homes with solar systems and storage facilities can be integrated into the electricity system in the best possible way.

'enera' investiges how the electricity system can become more flexible

In northwestern Lower Saxony where the 'enera' project is taking place, large quantities of wind energy are produced which the grid does not always have the capacity to transport. Here, project partners are looking at the question as to how the electricity system can be made more flexible in order to optimise the way in which wind resources in the region are used. In order to stimulate the interest of the people in Friesland and East Friesland to actively get involved, two members of the project staff launched a roadtrip on which they criss-crossed the region on cargo bikes. They used the trip to talk with local residents about ways in which each and every person could get involved in the energy transition.

Another creative event put on by enera is the Dangast Bar Camp. At this particular camp, it’s the participants that set the agenda. Topics might include the future of renewable energy, mobility, digitalisation, and new ways of learning and working. The discussions held enable the 'enera' experts to learn what the people in the region think. They then feed the insights they have gained directly into their work.

Regulatory sandboxes for the energy transition

Every one of the five showases works like a regulatory sandbox that develops model solutions for the technical, economic and regulatory challenges met in the process of restructuring the energy supply (for more information on regulatory sandboxes/'reality labs', please click here). The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is providing a total of more than 200 million euros to foster the work of SINTEG. Together with the investments provided by the 300 companies that are taking part in the programme, the total figure that is being invested stands at more than 500 million euros.