Business Day

A digital definition – the energy transition starts here

It’s time to accelerate the energy transition, they said; to set up a definitive course and lay out the challenges facing industry sectors after the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015. Investors and the finance sector are now influencing the future energy landscape and forcing others to look ahead at how the transition will actually happen, because it will no doubt affect national economies, GDPs and the competitiveness of nations and continents.

Businesses in other sectors are preparing for the transition by looking at the security of supply, competitiveness, efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gases. Here, new market designs take into account new partnerships that contain designs and options for shared visions, and lay the foundations for the next steps.

Three recommendations were made:

  1. Price carbon emissions and create a CO2 trading system
  2. Introduce dynamic pricing
  3. Prepare grid infrastructure and supporting IT platforms for flexibility

Award winners 2016

  • Business Award

Blue Motion Energy and Geospin for their effort on innovation, environment, viability and impact. Read more.

  • Science Award

Rens Philipsen, German Morales-Espana, Mathijs de Weerdt and Laurens de Vries for their paper and presentation about Imperfect Unit Commitment Decisions with Perfect Information: a Real-time Comparison of Energy versus Power.

Find solutions with each other’s knowledge

“Use each other’s knowledge, and find solutions,” said moderator Anke Truijen, a reporter specialising in the energy sector for Business News Radio (BNR) in the Netherlands, when she opened the 2016 Erasmus Energy Forum. “Two hundred countries have agreed to speed up the use of renewable energy. Today, we have 200 participants talking about digital solutions for redefining the energy landscape.”

Volker Beckers, chairman of the ECFEB and former Group CEO of RWE Npower, summarised the challenges ahead: in digitising the industry, by introducing community energy and different business models, what happens to existing business models? And where are the opportunities for new services in a decarbonised world when existing business models are disrupted?

“Everything is influenced by the political debate – so we need to recognise the support from policy makers, especially in the context of the EU,” he said.

Innovation is the driving force

Franz Josef Kremp, German ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands said the pace of digitisation is at a level and a force that has never been seen before. Kremp gave 10 points about Germany’s energy transition, underway since 2011 and rooted in the 1970s’ oil crisis and nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

1. Nuclear waste cannot be safely stored and the risk of nuclear error cannot be eliminated.
2. Coal, oil and gas generate greenhouse gases and climate change.
3. Fossil fuels are scarce and finite resources.
4. Much conventional energy is imported, but renewable energy is produced locally.
5. Germany will cease generating nuclear energy by 2022 – this resolution is fixed by law.
6. The exceptional speed and scope of Germany’s strategy is to secure an efficient energy supply of tomorrow.

7. Wind and solar power provide a third of German electricity; efficiency is increasing and greenhouse gas emissions will be cut by 25 per cent before 2023.
8. Germany’s 10-point energy agenda aims to capitalise on the new renewable markets, in which there may be up to 230,000 new jobs by 2050.
9. Funding makes renewable energy viable; it has a demanding expansion corridor, and it ensures electricity-intensive manufacturing remains competitive.
10. The European Commission’s 2030 Energy Strategy is important for reforms in energy trading to maintain investments and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The electricity market of the future must offer secure and affordable renewables and will co-operate within the EU as well as across markets. It will also need thousands of kilometres of new power lines across Germany.

Monitoring the energy transition may require government intervention, he concluded.

Partnerships are essential

Climate KIC is Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate change, consisting of dynamic companies, academic institutions and the public sector. Its ambassador, Bertrand van Ee, warned climate change could create ‘climate refugees’ and suggested that private-public partnerships can be a solution for climate change because they influence the energy sector.

Government goals, such as the Paris Agreement, show Europe’s feasible and affordable plan but gave him mixed feelings: “I believe Europe can lead. Still, I wish our politicians had more creativity to handle issues,” he said. The cost of renewable energy is decreasing, and investors are stepping in, but challenges such as the use of low-carbon renewables and efficiency remain, and market growth is putting pressure on the grid. Partnerships are essential for bringing efficiency innovation and other ideas to the market, and while digitisation is important, so is “how we work together in a different way.” Government influences research, and business has a role to play in bringing solutions to the market. “So we need to work together,” he said.

Around 500 start-ups have received funding through Climate KIC, which has aided the development of ideas by linking higher education, research and business. “The key is to match the start-ups with business and get scaling on the way,” he said.

Van Ee said developments such as the UK’s June 2016 referendum on its membership of the EU and the recent Netherlands-Ukraine referendum show that we have to act together, but that people are scared of change. “We must change relationships between people, and between people and the planet,” he said. “I believe Europe can be in a very good place to lead the global economy to a zero-carbon society. But we have to act quickly.”

Future generations need a voice

Businesses should have a care for future generations, said Prof. Wolf Ketter, director of the Erasmus Centre for Future Energy Business (ECFEB) who described the concept of a utopian energy economy in a landscape of completely renewable energy. The future energy market economy is reliable, sustainable and has competitive markets without monopolies in a decentralised energy landscape.

Avatars are needed in such highly intelligent and efficient smart markets because they present ‘so much data’; they speed up business decisions.

Ketter warned that many stakeholders are left out when only highly civilised nations have access to intelligent technologies to deal with access to clean water, deforestation, pollution, health care, and energy; market participants and stakeholders are not the same. New systems are needed to address the scale, scope and complexity of such ‘wicked problems’. The consequences of mistakes made now won’t be felt for another 20 or 30 years, “so we need to take the right actions fast,” said Ketter.

Sharing information

The ECFEB focuses on working towards replacing two-thirds of electrical energy from fossil fuels with electricity from a sustainable source, but sustainable and renewable are not always the same, he explained.

Intelligent heat and electricity grids via the new sustainable smart markets will share information in the cloud to get better decisions faster, he said, dismissing privacy concerns – people readily share more personal information on Facebook than they would about their power consumption.

The professor proposes that electric vehicles (EVs) such as buses can act as virtual power plants and energy storage in a smart city, their batteries buffering intermittency from the grid. The ECFEB is currently researching, with the Port and other companies, a large-scale industrial energy co-operative that could be used to better balance demand and supply, and manage flexibility through storage systems such as thermal storage and cold storage in port warehouses as well as EV batteries; algorithms that can run these systems are in development. The professor described co-ordinating and exchanging information in industrial energy-dense co-operatives to cope with peak demands without using extra generators. “These are the small Rosetta Stones that help us to see and understand the vision of living in a sustainable manner – that’s the only option we have.”

Almost 82 per cent of the audience agreed that working towards a utopian energy economy, as Professor Ketter described, is possible but only if data is shared.

Doing nothing is not an option

The Dutch Central Bank (De Nederlandsche Bank – DNB) recently released a report on the transition to a carbon neutral economy. Prof.  Jakob de Haan, head of research at DNB, explained that the energy transition, although not part of the bank’s core business, is considered one of the most important long-term challenges for the company as a central bank and a supervisor of financial institutions. “It will affect every sector – including the financial sector,” he said. “A radical transition to a carbon-neutral economy is necessary and will take place within the lifespan of the houses and offices we’re building today.”

Professor De Haan warned it would be a huge challenge to renew capital stock without leaving too many stranded assets – assets that have suffered from unanticipated or premature write-downs, devaluations or conversion to liabilities – associated with fossil fuel reserves such as electricity generating plants and drilling platforms.

Pension funds at most risk

The survey showed most Dutch banks are involved with less risky short-term loans and insurance companies have even smaller exposure than banks. However, pension funds are exposed to the biggest risk. “More than five per cent of their total balance sheet is in fossil fuels,” said the professor, adding that it’s crucial that such risks are managed so financial stability is not threatened by the transition.

No guarantee of a gradual transition

Responding to questions, Prof. De Haan said most institutions imagine a gradual transition and a low risk of stranded assets, but no-one can be sure of this. He warned there is a clear need for uniform standards for measuring this risk, and the financial sector is doing little to finance sustainable energy projects.

Government has not done enough

He said minimising costs should be a fundamental priority, and made it clear as a matter of public record that these are important goals; they need to be incorporated into a more competitive strategy where emission targets come first. “Here I think government should play a crucial role – so far our government has not done enough,” said the professor, which is why the DNB, as a central bank, did its own survey.

A game changer for energy suppliers

“The energy sector is leading us into a new era,” said Medy van der Laan, chairman of Energie-Nederland, the trade association for almost every power generator, trader and supplier in the Netherlands. “Renewable energy is growing fast; companies and citizens want to invest in a sustainable future. The consumer is becoming a prosumer,” she said. Energy companies must accelerate the pace at which they develop products if they are to be successful in the energy transition. They should also keep in mind the reliability of future electricity supplies. “Avoid conflicting policy goals and instruments, and drive renewables to achieve a sustainable CO2 target,” Van der Laan recommended.

Acceptance of all sorts of renewables

“Politics focuses on electricity, but [the future] is also about heat. We need to create acceptance of all sort of renewables; this is key to the transition on a great scale.”

Van der Laan says investments in reliable renewable energy should be based on market share, not supported by energy saving subsidies, and she called the energy transition a game changer for energy suppliers, who will service customer needs and manage demand, not supply. Flexibility and guaranteed supplies will be an important part of using renewables – those are not possible yet. Grid operators should have a clear public role in managing the energy market. A clear distinction between grid operators and market parties will benefit both,” said the chairman.

Deserving a place in the market

The transition must be accelerated, said Van der Laan. Facilitating business clients means energy companies can create new opportunities by developing new products and services. Numbers of energy corporates are growing. “They deserve a place in the energy market,” she said.

According to Van der Laan, the focus should be on using real-time and customised big data. Safety and security are a focus of major efforts, while processes and changes in regulations need to speed up.

Most of the focus of political decisions is on sources of renewables, while organisations like Energie-Nederland relies on data as an important accelerator for the energy transition to create standard processes. Van der Laan concluded by saying the Dutch energy sector is moving forward and recognises the need to do more and do it fast.

Robots are faster, cheaper and more effective

“Everyone around us is connected. As a trend watcher and future watcher I need to be part of it to know what is going on,” said trend watcher Richard van Hooijdonk. His commitment to his vision of future includes being a part of ‘the Internet of Things’; he has a microchip implanted in his arm to let himself into his house, to start his Tesla EV, and to store his passwords. Such connectivity can have a huge effect on energy worldwide, he said.

Referring to industry and manufacturing, Van Hooijdonk said robots are not a bad thing; they are fast, cheap and effective. His generation has come from ‘zero’ connectivity to now live with high-speed internet and automated processes in which no humans are needed. His experiences in Japan have led him to believe that humans will have relationships with robots that help them with daily life.

Processes block change

“We’re used to doing the same things every day, but processes block change,” he said. Change is the only constant factor, and companies and governments should have a new way of looking to new systems and concepts. “Scientists say we have enough solar energy to power the world in the future. We can get energy from outer space!” he remarked.

But we need a new way of managing such disruptions: “The future still seems secondary; our children learn about jobs that won’t exist 10 years from now.” Solving energy problems requires hyper-connectedness and crowd-sourcing. Small and flexible companies with a core focus are needed for the rapid pace of the electricity transition, he said.

But the biggest challenge is in mindsets and behaviour. “We’re stuck. We need to create an environment for brilliant and intelligent people to help us with the next phase. To get these people on board, we need to give them space and opportunities to stay brilliant.”

25-year-old co-CEOs

People should be encouraged to fail so they dare to try new ideas, said Van Hooijdonk, who recommended ‘future labs’. “CEOs should have 25-year-old co-CEOs to assist giving new life to the company. Only those who want to change, read web blogs or do research will succeed. If your employer says no, you should change companies,” he concluded.

The dismal economist who begs to differ

Professor Marc Oliver Bettzüge, director of the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne said Van Hooijdonk’s future world will require a lot of electricity and assumed there would be no problem with supply. “This dismal economist begs to differ,” he said, and went on to outline the lessons Germany has learned from the last 15 years of its energy transition, known as Die Energiewende.

Germany has no blueprint for a global energy transition. Reducing its use of lignite (brown coal) between 1990 and 2000 and saw a reduction in CO2 emissions; Bettzüge called it ‘a by-product of the 1990 reunification of Germany’, and nuclear power decreased between 2000 and 2010, but not much happened after that. “In reality, we are a long way from targets being met,” said Bettzüge, who pointed out that while Germany switched off nuclear power plants and replaced them, it didn’t reduce its demand. “Can we sustain a digital future and reduce consumption? It’s a big question,” he said.

Decentralisation – a trend to watch

An increasing number of subsidised low-energy renewable sources require a lot of space so decentralisation is a trend that should be watched closely, said the professor, who also warned time-based demands (wanting power now, not in an hour) and local supplies with good grid connections are also needed. He suggested two cheap and easy solutions for flexibility; generate from alternative fuels, or switching down or off if there’s excess. But switching off is a bad idea; it’s a waste of money to curtail renewables but as yet there’s no suitable energy storage technology. “Also the sun is moving. Let demand follow the movement of the sun or wind using a grid. Grid expansion is an obvious solution,” he suggested.

Excess electricity with a low market value could be used for heat or for EVs, but it happens typically only for a few hours a year and in specific locations. Dedicated electrical storage batteries have a lot of hype, but are an expensive solution to the flexibility problem, he said. Seasonal storage – to bridge the two sunless and windless weeks in winter – is not yet possible, so thermal back-up for such meteorological conditions is still needed, and could be used in the shorter term too.

Bettzüge compared various options. Converting power to heat will be cheaper than batteries. Adding renewables to a stationary system doesn’t reduce capacity, but does economise on fuel. Nuclear and coal power both give economies of scale, but gas plants don’t. “Power to heat is the way to go,” he concluded.

The old world of electricity including the planning of grids, was ‘top down’ but the new world is ‘bottom up’, and driven by consumer choice – but the transition is not yet seen in pricing, he said.

Pop-up talk show

Representatives of energy companies, academia, policy makers and public-private innovation reacted to three statements concerning the transformation of the energy market; the audience also gave their opinions.

Panel members were:

  • Chris Mooiweer, director Climate-KIC Netherlands
  • Peter Vermaat, CEO Enexis
  • Prof. Wolf Ketter, RSM
  • Prof. Marc Oliver Bettzüge, University of Cologne (EWI)
  • John Post, programme director, TKI Urban Energy
  • Prof. Jakob de Haan, head of research, De Nederlandsche Bank
  • Igor Kluin, founder of Qurrent and Monyq

1. Greater emphasis must be placed on emission reduction as the fundamental objective of energy/climate policy.

Jakob de Haan of DNB said governments must take the lead but the Dutch government hasn’t yet done enough. Chris Mooiweer of Climate-KIC warned of a 33 per cent chance of exceeding the 2°C limit for an increase in global temperatures. Igor Kluin expressed shock that another coal-fired power plant had just opened in the Rotterdam region. Peter Vermaat of Enexis agreed, saying gas is preferable to coal.

Prof. Bettzüge from the University of Cologne said feeding the growing global population shouldn’t be forgotten. “Don’t fall into the trap of picking one absolute goal. That has been a recipe for social disaster in the past,” he said. EU policy makers had failed and an educated vision was lacking. Bettzüge proposed a transition from “inefficient coal to efficient coal” as the marginal mitigation option.

Prof. De Haan of DNB said increasing energy consumption in the developing world ‘will backfire on us’, so developed countries must reduce emissions.

Of the audience, 86.8 per cent agreed with the statement that greater emphasis must be placed on emission reduction as the fundamental objective of energy and climate policy.

2. Electricity pricing schemes are not in tune with the shift from top-down to bottom-up in the electricity system, nor are policymakers currently prepared to truly allow for ‘consumer choice’.

Peter Vermaat of Enexis said new pricing schemes should reflect capacity mechanisms instead of volume mechanisms. Prof. Bettzüge said a pricing system that reflects the scarcity in the system was needed. Prices fluctuate strongly because the system charges on a kW basis instead of a fixed price.

Among the audience 89.8 per cent agreed with the statement, and 10.2 per cent disagreed. One audience member asked if Bettzüge’s response was based on the German situation. “Yes it is, but elements are similar in other countries. “Subsidy schemes are needed to bring large amounts of renewables into the system, he said.

Igor Kluin said politicians were unwilling to bring flexibility and dynamics into the system. Prof. Wolf Ketter lamented that ‘policy’ prevents the implementation of good ideas from PhD students “You can make this work when you use the energy that’s available. If you have constant fees, it hinders it,” he said.

John Post of TKI Urban Energy, an organisation of independent advisory councils for programming and implementation of urban energy, said many there must be compromises in such discussions about politics and economics, but the social element is often forgotten.

3. Our biggest problem in fighting climate change is not technology but psychology.

John Post of TKI Urban Energy said users play an important role in the system proposed by Wolf Ketter. They should be part of the discussion. Prof. Ketter said people don’t trust energy companies. “We need more studies on different ways of making a consumer an active prosumer,” he said.

Chris Mooiweer suggested psychology can help change behaviour, such as children being rewarded to encourage parents to save electricity. Igor Kluin said we shy away from the real problem, and even with technology, there are still problems feeding the global population.

Vermaat said people see the possibility of using less energy and making it more sustainable, and trust is a societal issue. Institutions must reconnect with citizens and consumers. Enexis is encouraging people to get active by sharing knowledge and ideas, feeling involved.

Among the audience, 63.9 per cent agreed with the statement, and 36.1 per cent disagreed. One audience member said Tesla tackled climate and technology change in a way that everyone understood. “When people actually know what a kW is, they can understand.”

Prof. Jakob de Haan said he was worried that the financial sector in the Netherlands is not actively financing new initiatives, and his organisation was discussing use of a monitoring system to watch their activity. “Financing new developments is key and that’s missing in this statement.”

Breakout session – Energy port and industry

Workshop reflections

The huge energy requirement in the port has resulted in a large investment in the infrastructure to use fossil fuels – which currently have a low value – so there’s also a reluctance for industries located there to abandon them. Some companies are reluctant to invest in future energy sources because the landscape is changing so fast.

There has been recent investment in using steam waste heat and biomass, a synergy between companies in the port, but there is still a lot of potential for more efficiencies and synergies to even out peaks and spikes. There is also potential for more openness in sharing information and smart grids in the port.

The oversupply of power, especially from North Sea wind farms can be used by the chemical industry in three ways. Companies need to be open to change and collaborate.

In detail

Grid operator Stedin’s director of strategy David Peters said sustainable energy should be for everyone. Stedin wants to facilitate and accelerate that transition, while making sure the grid is reliable and maintains flexibility – particularly for the Port of Rotterdam where any industry leaving or arriving has a large impact. Flexibility influences trading and supply, creating cheaper contracts. Routes to flexibility include smart metering, supplying the grid with power from EVs and innovative energy storage, making use of ICT and data. Stedin needs to understand the local situation. Options for flexibility in the port include virtual power plants, flexible production processes, and research into how to connect energy carriers such as power-to-heat conversions.

He invited other firms and industries into getting the dialogue going and sharing data, which is crucial for making the business case.

Tesla Motors’ company mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, said Bart Hoevenaars, sales manager for Tesla’s Powerpack, the company’s utility-scale rechargeable battery. Peak loads in demands don’t match renewable energy supplied, especially because of the effects of summer and winter, and wrong forecasts affect the balance of the grid. Solutions include curtailment – producing less – as well as strategic pricing, and a reduction in consumption. Tesla is currently testing its lithium-ion batteries with solar panels in a utility-scale pilot project in Hawaii, where peak production energy is stored and returned to the grid after sunset. “In any one year, a battery can be in operation for just five per cent of the time,” said Bart Hoevenaars, “so you can help the grid to stabilise the other 95 per cent of the time.”

Small prosumers can use smart software to aggregate their small surpluses in order to contribute to the grid – which demands a minimum contribution and availability. Aggregation can also solve other market issues such as congestion and secondary reserves, said Hoevenaars.

One of the challenges of the chemical industry is to work ‘cleaner and greener’ using stocks that are locally available, said Sigrid Bollwerk, programme development manager for ECN/Voltachem, a business-driven shared innovation programme that connects the electricity sector to the chemical industry. Dutch industries must compete for the large market share of the Far East but new developments, for example, re-using CO2, may make new opportunities. She described a utopian view of the chemical industry of the future with renewable feedstocks producing synthetic fuels – quite a challenge, she commented.

Bollwerk said industry could play a more active role in renewable energy systems; the main challenge is to find a synergy between the development of chemical industries and developments in renewable electricity systems, turning electricity into high-value products while buffering the supply. She mentioned converting electricity into heat. “Not preferable from our standpoint, but it could be a good way to use a surplus,” she said. She also suggested electrolysis of water into hydrogen and oxygen; hydrogen gas (H2) can be converted into other chemicals. Power-to-hydrogen conversion by local wind turbines can fuel hydrogen-fuelled cars. Bollwerk mentioned Shell’s recently announced wind parks in the North Sea that produce H2 on its existing platforms, and the process of converting H2 to ammonia (NH3). And power supplier Nuon announced it would be looking at this chemical product to be made from renewable energy, she said.

Other ways to produce chemicals using renewable electricity include making renewable feedstocks, but also by modifying current processes. It’s also possible to make synthetic gas to replace natural gas and use direct electrosynthesis of chemicals into intermediates and products. Voltachem plans to continue its shared innovation programme centring on the electrification of the chemical industry.

Port breakout – Interactive Q&A panel with:

  • David Peters, Stedin
  • Bart Hoevenaars, Tesla
  • Sigrid Bollwerk, ECN/Voltachem
  • Ruud Melieste, Port of Rotterdam

As large-scale consumers, ports are in a position to be a driver of the energy transition said Ruud Melieste of Port of Rotterdam. The Port is considering carbon capture and storage methods in order to meet ‘deep decarbonisation’ targets in 2050. He talked of biofuels and biochemicals, as well as a massive supplies of new renewable electricity from thousands of new turbines in the North Sea wind farms, which have yet to come into production. “We will have a lot of offshore wind energy and the Port of Rotterdam can be a buffer for this – with Stedin, Tesla and Voltachem all working together,” he said.

Q Are they all realistic to implement? Ruud Melieste said yes, it’s challenging but it can be done.

Q Where to start? Storage? Ruud Melieste said the Port of Rotterdam mainly stores oil.

Q How do we start the transition from oil to renewable energy? Tesla has already started, said Hoevenaars of Tesla, with cars in the higher segment of the market. Buyers are the ‘early movers’ and are paving the way. Tesla’s highly anticipated Model 3 is aimed at a lower market segment and was using the firm’s brand in the world of energy. “People and companies want to be identified with us on sustainable energy projects, and that’s to our advantage.”

David Peters from Stedin said the transition from oil to renewable energy would require a new grid and presented infrastructure challenges for countries – and for Europe – but it was difficult to know what would change.

Q The Port of Rotterdam is the location for a lot of companies based on fossil fuels. How can you convince them to go along with the energy transition? Ruud Melieste said it was hard because fossil fuel prices are low, and Port firms ‘are in operation mode’ rather than thinking ahead. On the other hand, the Port is an environment in which people want to collaborate in new ways. Such as the new steam and waste heat grids being built. A sort of energy co-operative was needed to create the flexibility to use intermittent renewable energy in this vast industrial area. “The challenge for us is to keep people co-operating,” and although the Port wants to have an attractive business climate, existing processes hamper disruptiveness. “Companies feel the infrastructure that has been so productive in last decades is now hampering them. The situation of favourable conditions will change.”

Breakout session – Urban energy

Workshop reflections

Speakers agreed on one point – the key driver of energy is IT. Sustainable energy should be a lifestyle for companies and households, and should fulfil a role as enabler for energy sufficiency. It shouldn’t take another four years of talking to do this. An intelligent market that responds to price signals and connects all energy, and is incentivised by price signals is needed for a solid and efficient use of the grid.

Enexis gave an opposing view and a lively debate followed, suggesting no future for grid operators, they face obsolescence. Energy transport should be reduced as much as possible by focusing on using data to reduce the grid.

In detail

Technology is not a factor, it’s an enabler

Mark Mooy, vice-president oil and gas, utilities and communications for CGI, said the organisation’s annual worldwide survey showed digitisation is forcing the energy market to transform, and said: “Technology is not a factor, it’s an enabler,” adding the focus should be on helping consumers become aware, rather than technology as a limiting factor. Utility companies must migrate to new digital business models, and such transformations drive convergence of operational and consumer technologies.

We need trading

Jochen Schwill, co-founder and CEO of Next Kraftwerke discussed how more renewable energy might change the business case; by increasing decentralisation and flexibility, and in a 100 per cent renewable energy market that allows innovation which reacts to cry-signals. His company Next Kraftwerke is a digital aggregator of decentralised power producers and consumers through machine to machine (M2M) technology that enables networked devices to exchange information.

Next Krafwerke has teamed up with Utrecht-based Energie365 to start a virtual power plant (VPP) in the Netherlands.

Looking for the silver bullet

“We’re working with two challenges: energy and ICT,” said Willem-Jan Zwart, CIO of regional energy network operator Enexis. “We’re all trying to find that silver bullet that solves it all. We’re looking for heroes. So why are people not willing to co-operate?”

Enexis wants to incorporate state-of-the-art services and networks to meet climate goals using data rather than additional investments. “There’s no future for a grid operator. We should go for zero per cent transport. Go from producing to using,” he said, adding networks should make themselves obsolete. Zwart concluded we need a new kind of leadership: energy logistics in order to achieve energy transition goals.

Urban energy breakout – interactive Q&A panel with

  • Mark Mooy, CGI (finance)
  • Jochen Schwill, CEO, Next Kraftwerke
  • Willem-Jan Zwart, CIO, Enexis
  • Astrid Madsen, Gemeente Rotterdam

Astrid Madsen said the City of Rotterdam is working with energy grids to enable citizens to use solar panels and insulate houses. “Heating is two-thirds of our energy consumption so it’s my main focus. Do you go for electric or district heating? Where can you combine the systems to optimise and balance your electricity grids?” she asked.

An audience member asked if this meant grids will be obsolete; Willem-Jan Zwart agreed they would be in new houses in a new environment. Jochen Schwill said it makes no economic sense for one or two per cent of households to be off-grid. More grid was needed, not less, to enable more energy sources for households, big companies and industries. He disagreed with Zwart; we need 200 per cent transport, not zero per cent.

Audience member: “What would you do without a grid? For us it’s possible with Tesla, but not everyone can pay for this luxury.” Zwart suggested getting as close as possible to the zero per cent; Astrid Madsen said the problem isn’t with new housing stock, but with the other 80 per cent which is older.

Jochen Schwill said a grid is needed to collect electricity and bring it into cities – as long as batteries are more expensive than providing a grid. Zwart said storage is the key that everyone is waiting for and will create more possibilities.

Moderator John Post asked for the best way to integrate different energy systems.

A member of the audience said the current grid is sufficient for now but intelligent grids must be future-proof, which the panel had not mentioned. “In a transformation period you need more intelligence in your network, otherwise you’re going down,” they said.

Breakout session – Electric mobility

Workshop reflections

A common theme among panel members was openness, sharing and collaboration. ‘Open source’ is important for complex technologies. Panellists and audience want to see it used to share developments.

The audience wants see more use of ‘open platforms’ – for example the latest BMW with software and smartphones gathering data – so other companies can make use of it too.

The idea of open vehicles, smart mobility and shared vehicles can be seen from industry, especially with regard to the sharing economy. But a lot of innovation in the sector, such as robots and driverless cars, can’t be effectively used if there are no policies or standards in place. Governments and companies need to work together on general standards that can be used in the field to help innovation grow; then the infrastructure can scale up.

In detail

  • Marc Bras, manager BMWi, BMW NL
  • Jorg Heesbeen, founder Jedlix
  • Henk Meiborg, business developer EMODZ and Slimme Mobiliteit

Moderator: Vollker Beckers

The solution is not a car, sharing is the new giving

Marc Bras, manager BMWi, BMW NL presented the case for simple, rational partnerships that share solutions. He gave as an example BMW’s engagement with Rotterdam communities, architects, landscapers and infrastructure owners to integrate its innovations into a zero-carbon residential building Het Timmerhuis. It has solar panels, BMWi battery storage and shared cars for residents – one of BMW’s sustainable urban solutions for e-mobility. 

Jorg Heesbeen, founder of EV smart charging company Jedlix created a digital platform and app which arranges charging EVs based on demand and supply of renewable energy in the grid. Choosing the ‘right charging moments’ creates a bigger share for renewable energy sources in the total energy supply. The company shares its pricing data and financial profits with customers. It has created a steady balance on the daily market for the 90,000 EVs in the Netherlands. “We see big opportunities for the day ahead market,” said Heesbeen, who started the company in November 2015.

Henk Meiborg, is business developer for EMODZ and Slimme Mobiliteit, two platforms that help conventional car retailers to transfer their business to e-mobility. He explained that Slimme Mobiliteit gives retailers a head start in enabling and advising customers, addressing the gap between customer demands for information and technical services for EVs and the capabilities of sales and aftersales departments, changing retailers’ business models to enable more e-mobility and provide user friendly solutions.

Interactive Q&A

The audience asked if the current energy grid is ready for the rise of e-mobility and vehicle-to-grid load balancing. Marc Bras of BMW said he believes scaling up will bring profits to e-mobility and charging, and will be beneficial for grid owners. Asked what role vehicle manufacturers should play in developing the charging infrastructure, Henk Meiborg said car manufacturers should expand services and products to enable e-mobility, offering hardware and infrastructure.

He said EV owners need to trust their batteries, charging systems, the pricing system, and maintenance if they are to be motivated to share their energy vehicle-to-grid. Jorg Heesbeen said EU standards and guidelines are needed if the adoption rate of vehicle-to-grid energy is to become equally common for company cars and personal cars; the market must open up. Henk Meiborg said he was backing a paper sent to the Dutch ministry for transport that offered facts about the vehicle-to-grid market, calling for a protocol that would enable EVs to increase their market share.

Natural gas vehicles might provide competition for the e-mobility market but Henk Meiborg suggested that although it has proven technology, it’s less efficient than EVs. “There is too much waste and less profit to make.”

In conclusion, Marc Bras said the market is opening up, but ‘we need to stay brave and live up to an open-source environment.’ Jorg Heesbeen agreed open platforms are needed by car manufacturers and consumers. Henk Meiborg wants people to think innovatively and not to take ‘no’ for an answer.

Round table sessions

Open table sessions produced a mix of conversations, some with conclusions, some without. The round table sessions provided a perfect environment for networking and picking each other’s’ brains – this was noted by the participants.

A small selection of final comments from the round table discussions is included here.

  • Open standards

Advocating for open standards is strongly recommended, and working with proprietary standards should be forbidden. It would be best if such standards are organised by industry. The internet – and other industries – work with a lot of such open standards and it would work with the young EV industry too. We shouldn’t make the same mistakes again – we should go straight to open standards.

  • Willingness to innovate

Keynote speakers have discussed the need to innovate, given dying business models and the advance of diagnostic analytics. The positive conclusion from this is there’s a lot of awareness, and willingness to innovate and use new methods to innovate with partners. We can expect a lot of innovation from incumbents in our industry.

  • Not ready

Speakers have talked a lot about minimising the transport of energy and incentives to make it happen from a grid operator’s perspective, but there’s also a lot of discussion about centralised, pan-European and global grids. So we’re not ready for solutions yet – it’s a complicated topic and needs a lot of research and experiment.

Erasmus Energy Business Award

The result of the judges’ deliberations for the Erasmus Energy Business Award 2016 was a tie between Geospin and Blue Motion Energy BV. Runner-up was Norsepower. Read more about the award winners.

‘Create people’s involvement and ownership of energy production’

The final session of the day came from serial innovator Igor Kluin, the founder of local renewable energy company Qurrent and also of start-up a tool and banking user interface company Monyq. Banks offer other products that customers are not waiting for, said Kluin, who explained Monyq accepts scans of receipts and other data, adding it to the user’s database for indexing. “Your financial life has enriched data so it can become valuable to you,” he said, commenting it was remarkable that in the banking world, 13-year-olds and 85-year-olds still use the same user interface.

Regarding renewable energy, Kluin said consumers and politicians are reluctant to take decisions. He recommended people should take ownership of energy production with domestic solar panels feeding into decentralised energy generated from collective renewable sources. He mooted the business idea of a platform for small-scale energy companies, along the lines of Airbnb or Uber. In practice it would need an administrative layer to handle inequalities between neighbours’ consumptions and generation rates.

More morality

Just as the energy industry uses network interfaces, Qurrent’s QBox calculates for a local energy network scaled down to a residential level. But, Kluin said, sharing communities like this are still not legal. De-concentrating powers, introducing more sustainability and more innovation as well as a greater sense of morality are needed to avoid havoc. But disruption is hard and no fun. “We are drowning in old compliance rules. Regulations discourage innovation and obstruct it.”

Disruption is ‘now’ – smartphones are common can be used to offer services everywhere – and bottom-up business models are exciting, says Kluin. It feels good to bring together the energy to do something, and the support from other people trying to help feels good too. “You’ll find people along your path will try to help you out.”

Some big companies need to ‘scale down, lose 60 per cent of what they carry’, said Kluin, and  encouraged members of the audience to find out more about the Follow This campaign to persuade Shell to become more sustainable, and also to investigate other disrupters in the energy industry such as,, and

“There’s so much to do, so much to gain in energy and materials!” he concluded.