The annual congress of the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft – BDEW) is the most important network event for utilities and energy suppliers in Germany. With 1,600 visitors the BDEW Congress 2017 set a new record. This year EXXETA was again present at the Congress to discuss current trends and challenges in the energy industry.
Cooperation and sector coupling
This year’s BDEW Congress adopted the theme of “Industry Convergence”. By convergence he understands “approaching and converging” BDEW chief executive Stefan Kapferer explained at the opening. This means that individual sectors must approach and become stronger all togehter in the future. There are already numerous innovative cooperations between the sectors of heat, energy and mobility in Germany. As an example, Kapferer named the Enercity and Daimler project, which bundles 3,000 battery modules from the Smart-Electric-Drive fleet into a stationary storage, which can thus act as a supplier of primary control power. Or the blockchain project between the network operator TenneT and the battery manufacturer for homes of the Sonnen Group, in which decentralized home storages are connected by using the blockchain technology, thus stabilizing the power grid. Only by means of strong partnerships it will be possible to prove that “the digital energy supply of tomorrow will be created in Germany,” says Kapferer. He is referring to the blockchain project in New York, which predicted the elimination of energy suppliers and caused great media attention. This requires “clearer messages from politics” because “we will only be successful if we cooperate with each other,” Kapferer said.
Tenders as a success model
Although the energy sector clearly confirms the climate policy objectives of the EU, the political influence must be reduced, Kapferer said. For example he referred to the current tenders for offshore energy. In 2017 the remuneration of renewable energies is not determined by the state as before, but is now
determined by tendering on the market. The significantly reduced remuneration rates of 0.00 cents / kWh in some examples show that offshore wind energy can already be financed through market prices only. As a result the market could better define the necessary framework conditions than politics for the further expansion of renewable energies, said Kapferer.
Innovations for the Energiewende
Once again, high-ranking politicians such as Chief of the Federal Chancellor’s Office Peter Altmaier and Federal Minister of Economy Brigitte Zypries followed the invitation to the BDEW Congress. Thus, Zypries said that the Energiewende is not only ecologically but also economically a success model. Unconventional ideas and new business models are required, which can be realized through the cooperation of start-ups with established actors in the energy sector. The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology supports these cooperations through numerous programs such as the “Future Energy Accelerator” of the German Energy Agency. However, as in other discussion rounds such as in the theme session “fast forward – innovations for the Energiewende”, it has often been criticized that innovations are important but there is often lack of support from the management. Companies need new, strategic approaches that make innovation management the central tool in the company.
Resilience despite digitization
However, regarding the many opportunities for growth potentials there are also numerous risks to in the energy sector. Especially facing challenges such as digitization and data protection, or problems such as the recent hacker attacks by WannaCry, the issue of IT security was an important issue at the Congress. But also in terms of the increasing decentralization of energy generation or storm catastrophes, the security of supply must be ensured in the future – in particular through the distribution networks (DSO). The measures for security are not only cost drivers, but also new business opportunities. Cedrik Neike, Member of the Board of Management of Siemens, summarizes the requirements for the future energy system: Resilience means a decentralized, fast reactive and automated power infrastructure, which can only be achieved by means of a successful digitization strategy in the company.
Distribution networks of the future – decentralized and digital
A special importance was often attached to the distribution networks (DSO). “The distribution networks are the future and the rising stars of the Energiewende,” says Thomas Dederichs, Senior Expert at innogy, “we have just achieved 35% of the transformation”. The challenges, that the distribution networks are facing are numerous: fluctuating feed-in, flexibility and decentralized storage, digitization, data management and consumption control. Here, for example, the conventional grid expansion, the intelligent grid expansion regarding smart grids and sector coupling are required for the use of electricity in heat or electricity in vehicles. However, discussions about tariffing and incentive regulation for the refinancing of the grid infrastructure must be continued. In the plenum discussion “Decentralized and Digital – Distribution Networks and DSO 2050”, Dr. Marie-Luise Wolff, chairwoman of ENTEGA, called for a more equitable distribution of grid fees in order to ensure the long-term affordability of energy in private households. She does not expect any upheaval on the market, so no market system in network operation. As far as security of supply and network operators are concerned, this must be guaranteed by appropriate regulation system.
Conclusion: Digitization remains the trend topic
Overall, for the BDEW Congress 2017, it can be summarized that Energiewende within the energy industry is no longer seen as a risk, but as a driver for innovation and business models. This requires more cooperation between sectors and companies, greater planning reliability and security as well as fewer interventions by politics. All speakers and participants are sure that digitization will be the trend topic for the coming years and will remain in the long term.
If you are looking for ideas on how to bring digitization to your energy company or need support in drafting a digitization strategy, please contact our experts at energy@EXXETA.com.