In Europe, some countries stand out for renewable energy conversation, and Italy is one of the top players. For 2018 and 2020, respectively, Italy beat its renewable energy targets. The total energy produced by hydroelectric, solar, wind, bioenergy and geothermal power in Italy for 2018 reached 17.8% of final gross consumption, going past the 17% target set for 2020.
There was a 7.7% of consumption in the transport sector for individual sectors, 33.9% in electricity production and 19.2% in heat consumption from renewable energy sources within Italy in 2018. Overall, with that amount of electricity consumption, Italy greatly exceeded the National Action Plan’s target on renewable energy sources, also known as the PAN, for the years 2018 (24.6%) and 2020 (26.4%).
Italy is ranked among the top ten in Europe as part of the list of countries leading electricity production from renewable energy sources. The national impact on the European Union’s total is about 10.7%. The ambitious target for 2030 set by Italy’s National Energy and Climate Plan accounts for 30% consumption with renewable energy sources. So this makes it necessary for Italy to promote and install its renewable energy plans in the future.
Italy’s Renewable Energy Journey, How Far They’ve Come.
The fastest-growing source of renewable energy in Italy is photovoltaic solar energy (PV). Data from 2018, the last full year of available data, shows that photovoltaic systems and installations produced over 22 TWh of energy.
Material from the IEA’s papers on the Global PV Markets also details the impact PV has on the Italian energy sector; accordingly, photovoltaic energy produced by Italy in 2020 was 7.5% of total electricity generation.
With its $6million renewable energy incentives program and a 20.8GW total PV installed capacity as of 2019, more power plants are encouraged to enrol for the specifically packaged incentives. Italy’s strategy for 2021 – 2030 is spelt out in its Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate (PNIEC). It addresses decarbonisation, energy efficiency, self-consumption and distributed generation, energy security and consumption electrification. This strategy aims to bring the part of renewable energy of the final gross consumption rate to 30% by 2030.
Policies Promoting The Growth Of Renewable Energy In Italy
After beating its own 17% set target for renewables shares six years ahead of schedule, Italy has set about creating policies and guidelines to streamline the renewable energy sector for maximum profit all around. It is working under the EU Energy Roadmap 2050 of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels using its National Energy Strategy 10-year road map.
The National Energy Strategy seeks to increase competitiveness, sustainability and security in the Italian national energy sector through schemes and incentives specifically tailored to the Italian market. The schemes or policies responsible for renewable energy – electricity in Italy are controlled by Gestore dei Servizi Energetic (GSE – the Manager of Electricity Services).
Some of the policies are:
- Electricity generated from renewable energy sources is promoted through VAT- and real estate tax deductions.
- Electricity generated from renewable energy sources fed into the grid can be sold on the free market or to the GSE on a guaranteed minimum price colloquially termed “ritiro dedicato.”
- Net-metering, also known as “scambio sul posto”, provides a convenient compensation to prosumers for the electricity fed into the grid.
- Priority access must be given to renewable energy plants by grid operators.
- Priority dispatch of electricity from renewable sources is also an obligation.
- Grid operators can expand the grid if necessary and requested by plant operators.
As for renewable energy in the heating sector, there are a few policies available as well:
- District heating and cooling networks are managed at local levels
- Development of the installations needed for renewable energy sources in heating (RES-H) is supported by price-based mechanisms
- There is a tax regulation mechanism in place to promote using renewable energy sources for heating
Other general policies that concern renewable energy sources in Italy include:
- Certificates of installed energy plants are obligatory
- All new or refurbished buildings must integrate RES, with an extra 10% to the obligation level for public buildings
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects In Italy.
There are many completed renewable energy projects within Italy, while others are still in the planning stages. However, available data for 2020 is all but non-existent because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with 2021 giving us a new lease on life, some projects should soon begin to see daylight, such as that of Eni.
One of Europe’s largest oil company that has decided to diversify into renewables has received authorisation for a few renewable energy projects in Italy. The State Hydrocarbons Authority, also known as Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi or ENI for short, is building a 4.5 MW photovoltaic plant in Trecate to power their production site.
A subsidiary of ENI, called ENI New Energy, acquired three wind projects with a total capacity of 35 MW in the Puglia region of Italy. These will be the first wind projects undertaken by ENI in Italy, and it’s expected to produce approximately 81 GWh annually, avoiding around 33,400 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Construction is to begin in the third quarter of 2021.
When it comes to electricity generation, the National Plan for Energy and Climate (PNIEC) expects power generated by renewables to increase by 65% by 2030 compared to its current total.
Renewables are also scheduled to cover more than 55% of national electricity consumption, estimated at 337 TWh in 2030.
The plan is to concentrate on two renewables, wind energy and photovoltaic energy, with both renewables reaching more than twice the amount of installed power in 2030 than what is currently attainable. This means the increase in total installed power from renewables would go up to 75%.
Italy is not taking any pauses in its race to become the only contender for renewable energy innovations in Europe. It has beat its set targets twice in a row and continues to set higher standards for its sustainability. Hive Power is optimistic about the tremendous progress that can be made in Italy’s renewable energy journey with the inclusion of AI-powered smart grid technologies to promote more innovative solutions.
The driving force of human existence has been to find solutions. As innovations become a reality, we have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of putting them to everyday use.
It is important to understand Grid stability, especially when used alongside the term “renewable energy sources”. Conventional power grids are difficult to run with resources other than fossil fuels, and they are also cost-intensive.
Understanding Grid Stability
It’s simple; there needs to be a balance in production and consumption within an electrical grid. For there to be stability, the energy generated must be equal to the energy consumed. So, “unreliable” energy sources don’t fare well with conventional grids.
If a power grid will remain stable, it needs to respond to volatility in voltage and frequency disturbances. For example, if more power is generated than it’s consumed or more energy consumed from the grid than generated, complete adjustments are necessary within an acceptable timeframe so that the frequency disturbances and power outages get balanced. Equilibrium is what is most important.
Let’s Bring Renewable Energy Into The Picture.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) report, the renewable energy sector’s growth is set to skyrocket by a whopping 50% between 2019 and 2024. With solar photovoltaic energy leading the way, closely followed by wind and hydropower projects – which are gaining traction with speedy rollouts, the fastest observed in four years. This growth is happening because of the reduced costs of renewable energy technologies, global set targets and decarbonisation policies, and the increasingly high electricity demand.
Despite the popular knowledge that renewables are a new form of technology, facts show that they have been around for a while. Fossil fuels were only preferred because of their storage capacities and reliability compared to weather fluctuations in renewable sources.
When there is a lack of a specific renewable energy source, there is always a need to balance that lack. For example, if a drought occurs in an area that relies on hydroelectric power, there’ll be a significant disruption in electric energy production, storage, and consumption.
Relying on renewable energy sources brings its share of challenges that need definitive solutions. These solutions can be storage options, handling fluctuations and specifications for particular RE sources; (for example, solar power solutions would differ, if not slightly, from solutions for thermal energy sources or hydropower, wind farms, and the rest).
What Are The Grid Stability Problems With Renewable Energy Sources?
- Overloading of existing transmission lines, which can lead to thermal overloads.
- Disruption of the grid’s threshold frequency and voltage limits.
These are usually caused by increased demand for renewable energy generation that the conventional grid infrastructure cannot handle; and the decentralised energy production gathering momentum in the increasing renewable-energy-friendly world.
In recent years, an increasing number of renewable energy generating assets are sprouting in locations where the grids were not designed to handle such load capacities or volatility, leading to serious instability.
At first, renewable energy penetration into the power grids was minimal. Connection or disconnection could happen at will, but with larger penetrations nowadays, this is nearly impossible. They create bottlenecks and imbalance in some key areas with the supply of reactive power.
Voltage levels in a grid network are influenced by reactive power. While the frequency can be stable across the grid network, voltages are determined by the recurrent real and reactive power supply and demand. If the grid network does not have enough reactive power injected at the right locations, the transmission system’s voltage levels will exceed planned operational limits.
How They Can Be Solved.
To ensure a stable and reliable grid, redistribution or ‘re-dispatch’ is necessary within the networks. The n – 1 criterion allows for this to happen. The n – 1 criterion effectively means that despite congestion that does occur, a particular line’s failure must not lead to the whole system’s failure; the current must always have an alternative route giving way for current-relief on the network. A system can tolerate the failure of only one component within itself.
Grid managers always have to be on top of this growing problem of increased injections of renewables to the grid networks and tally these increases with their corresponding costs.
- Installing a huge number of reactive power compensation plants and building HVDC transmission lines from the generation centres to the load centres
- The use of conventional load flow controllers (however, these prove to be too slow when compared to the rate at which renewable energy use is growing)
- A dynamic load flow management system (which seems to be the best option) found in a unified power flow controller that can be fast-reacting. This solution should keep power lines within the n – 1 criterion balanced by managing both series and parallel compensation, which would keep the electricity on and flowing at optimum.
Working renewables into conventional grid systems is necessary. Using any or all of these solutions can guarantee better working grids compatible with growing needs. Much more, as a grid operator, you must take advantage of smart grid management solutions, like Hive Power, with modules that deliver the following:
- Analytics for the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)
- Analytics for optimal grid management
- Energy data forecasting for loads and production
- Preventive analysis of future grid violations
- Generic visualisation/monitoring tools.
Fossil fuels have served their purpose wholly since their discovery, providing energy that has surpassed initial expectations. Still, over the years, with more innovations springing up around the world due to technological development, it has become apparent that the source of our all-important energy and its continued use is detrimental to the environment we so desperately need for continued existence. So we have turned to renewable energy.
This form of energy has a less negative environmental impact, is more sustainable, allows for the creation of a much-needed increase in employment. RE sources also help sovereign nations utilise their natural environment and resources to generate the power they need and acquire a self-sustaining income.
This post is a case study of one of these sovereign nations at the forefront of renewable energy innovations; Switzerland.
Interesting Facts About Energy in Switzerland
Although Switzerland has seen a significant surge in renewable energies such as ambient heat, biomass, wind power and solar power since 2005, their main energy sources hinge on oil, natural gas, nuclear power and hydropower.
- 50.6% of Switzerland’s energy comes from petroleum and fuel sources, making them the main sources, electricity follows with a bit above half of that percentage with 25%, then gas with 13.5% and finally wood at 4.4%
- Hydropower plants are the primary sources of electricity, nuclear power generates about 33.5%, and thermal power plants (that do not use renewable energy) generate 2.3%
- Many Swiss citizens have strong opposition to nuclear power, and they have derailed several nuclear power plant projects. An example is the case of Canton of Aargau (Kaiseraugst) when in 1975, public protests led to the abandonment of a nuclear power plant project.
- Presently, Switzerland has set goals for an energy transition. In the Energy Strategy 2050, one of its most ambitious aims is to phase-out nuclear power use.
- 59.9% of Switzerland’s total domestic electricity production comes from its 638 hydroelectric power plants.
- The largest dam in Switzerland is The 285-metre-high Grande-Dixence dam (canton of Valais) is the third-highest gravity dam in the world and the largest dam in Switzerland.
- As of 2015, the per capita electricity consumption in Switzerland was 7,033 kWh putting it higher than the 2014 rate for France, which stood at 6,233 kWh, Germany at 6,225 kWh and the Netherlands at 6,108 kWh. However, it maintained a lower rate than Norway, which stayed at 21,091 kWh, Finland at 14,477 kWh, Sweden at 12,597 kWh, Belgium at 7,225kWh and Austria at 7,081 kWh.
(Source: Discover Switzerland)
Growth Of Switzerland’s Renewable Energy Policies
The Energy Strategy 2050 emphasises ‘increased energy savings (energy efficiency), the expansion of hydropower and new renewable energies, and, if necessary, on fossil-fuel-based electricity production.’
The system Kostendeckende Einspeisevergütung (KEV), which is the feed-in tariff (FIT) and its predecessor, the Mehrkostenfinanzierung (MKF), as well as specified targets, are the key instigators for market demand in renewable energy. Even though the budget made available has been rather limited compared to market demand.
The institutional framework in Switzerland, which supports renewable energy, has developed to grow continually without major hitches. With support from the SwissEnergy programme, this process has brought together myriad stakeholders, promoted innovative ideas, providing pertinent information, pushed market deployments and supported collaboration across different sectors.
As soon as KEV was introduced, an objective for sharing renewable energy within the national energy mix by 2030 was also introduced, providing a concrete signal for renewable energy sector investors. Within the Swiss Energy Act was included the target of an annual additional renewable electricity generation of 5400 gigawatt-hours (GWh) by 2030, of which 2000 GWh are to come via hydropower. These long-term targets build upon an important element in the overall framework for RES.
The government implemented a set of measures due to The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Action Plans of 2008 to improve renewable energy technologies’ market conditions. These measures included:
- Financial support for the replacement of existing heating systems with renewable energy, for example, heat pumps and biomass through global budgets distributed to the cantons dedicated to supporting measures
- Revision of the building standard for new buildings
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects in Switzerland and Expert Projections
The world’s first high-altitude floating solar power plant is currently operating in the Swiss Alps. According to experts in the field, this technology could become a major part of the photovoltaic industry worldwide. Photovoltaic energy is produced by turning sunlight into electricity, and in 2013 Guillaume Fuchs got the idea to spearhead this high-altitude floating solar power plant in an alpine environment.
According to SwissInfo.ch, “The solar plant at Lac des Toules consists of 1,400 panels, laid on 36 floating structures made of aluminium and polyethene plastic anchored to the bottom of the lake. Current production exceeds 800,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, which is the equivalent of consumption for about 220 households”. Constructing a photovoltaic power plant in a human-made lake at very high altitudes means that the weather conditions are harsher and more intense with a thinner atmosphere and extreme UV rays. More electricity is generated thanks to the two-sided panels that capture the sun rays above and the reflected sun rays from the water’s surface.
Experts believe that floating photovoltaic stations such as this one are the future of solar energy because there is less need for unwarranted land use. There will also be a reduction in the competition between agriculturists, construction companies and the renewable energy sector regarding land. The water placement also leads to increased yield capabilities because it cools the panels as they sit effortlessly, extending their lifespan altogether.
Per year, nuclear power plants in Switzerland produce about 25 TWh of electricity. For the government to replace that amount of power, approximately 25,000 football fields would need to be covered with photovoltaic panels to cater to consumer needs, hence the need for more innovation.
We, at Hive Power, believe that the use of innovations plays a huge role in driving the renewable energy sector and technologies. Our Smart Grid Analytics solution offers industry participants the capacity to manage electric energy and electric grids, using data-driven AI-powered solutions, efficiently.
As the use of fossil fuels increasingly becomes a thing of concern, renewable energy, on the other hand, is picking up steam as a more sustainable and widely accepted alternative for energy production and consumption. Renewable energy technologies (RES) are getting ever more advanced with big tech companies such as Tesla and countries worldwide trying to outdo themselves and demonstrate the innovative potential of these new technologies from replenishable sources.
The objectives of these projects primarily are to slowly phase out pollutant fossil fuels, meet expected renewable energy targets, and optimize the new energy exportation landscape.
Here is a list of five projects from around the world to look out for in 2021:
The TuNur project is a power plant with a 2,250MW solar CSP located in the Sahara Desert. It also has a 2 GW HVDC submarine cable that runs from Tunisia to Italy. The plan is to generate around 9,400GWh of total renewable energy dispersed every year to other European countries such as Germany and Switzerland.
The Tunisian government has found that they have an abundance of solar and wind renewable energy sources that can be utilised to yield the set target of 30% renewable energy use by 2030. This has allowed them to enter into partnerships to harness this opportunity and promote a series of projects in all concerned technologies and varying capacities. One of these is the one with Nur Energie, named TuNur which is looking to become the leading renewable energy developer in the region.
TuNur is concerned with filling the renewable energy gap in Europe and consolidating the immense development of solar and wind energy in Tunisia and North Africa.
This project is overseen by ConnectGen developing solar projects in Texas, specifically southwestern Leon County. Their large-scale solar project expects to generate energy enough to power more than 50,000 homes.
ConnectGen chose Leon County for solar technologies development due to its proximity to an already existing transmission system, which at the start of 2020 had produced enough power to supply 498.637 homes in Texas. It is expected that there will be a 13,310 MW added capacity introduced to the Texas renewable energy sector over the next five years.
Construction of the Pecan Prairie solar project area will begin in 2021 with operations to begin in 2022. This project’s advantages include tax revenue generation for the Lone Star state, creation of local jobs, and community support. ConnectGen focuses on developing best-in-class wind, solar, and energy storage projects in America to increase the supply of low-cost clean energy domestically produced.
This project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is meant to be developed in seven phases beginning with Inga 3, which has 2 phases. The hydropower use of the Inga river in the DRC is very complex and already has two facilities, Inga 1 and Inga 2, built in 1972 and 1982 respectively which currently provide a substantial amount of grid electricity. This 5-dam complex is expected to generate 42GW of power, holding 52 turbines each, which would make it the world’s largest hydroelectric dam at completion.
Congo cannot utilise all of the power that this project will generate, so, they will export most of it to other African countries such as South Africa via a power line running through Zambia and Namibia. The plans for this project started as far back as the ’50s when some European countries expressed interest, such as France, Belgium and China, not eliminating a few African countries.
Inga 3 will approximately cost $14 billion with Angola committed to buying 5000MW once operational. However, this project is overshadowed by a few concerns surrounding environmental impact as per loss of biodiversity, and social impact in the form of displaced communities.
Hornsea 2 has been in development since 2015 by the Danish company Ørsted intended to be part of the larger Hornsea zone a few kilometres of the coast of East Riding, Yorkshire. The power of the wind is the core energy source for this project. Ørsted is the leading company in offshore wind utilisation. It has taken up the responsibility of building the world’s largest wind farm off the UK’s coast generating clean energy for UK homes.
Hornsea 2 will have 165 turbines with a capacity of 1.4GW providing power to well over 1.3 million homes. In 2019 onshore cable construction was started with the wind farm and HVAC substation. Turbine installation will commence in 2021 after which startup should commence. The wind farm is expected to connect to the grid at the North Killingholme National Grid transmission station in North Lincolnshire.
Saint Brieuc has been projected to have a total installed capacity of 496 MW, which should generate clean energy for approximately 835,000 people, and it is located 16 kilometres off the coast of France with 62 SG 8.0-167 DD turbines.
Brittany, where Saint Brieuc bay is situated, is prone to immense winds and high tides. Hence, it makes sense that it would be one of the first large-scale offshore wind farms to receive all the necessary documentation and permits from the French government for its creation and operation. Offshore operations are expected to start in 2021 with Dutch marine contractor Van Oord installing the substation and pin piles. The total investment in this project is said to be 2.4 billion euros.
Our list is in no way exhaustive because renewable energy has slowly grown from being a niche only sector to a completely pivotal market creating high demands that must be met. Projects are springing up across the globe in the private and public sectors, from Europe to Africa to Australia to Asia and back. Clean energy seems as though it should now be crowned the ‘Pure Gold’ of our time taking over from the much-acclaimed ‘Black Gold’.
Electricity is not only created when it’s needed but also stored on a large scale for easier distribution in response to its demands and supply, which is what necessitates grid energy storage. And with the advancement of renewable energy production around the world, the future of grid energy storage is slowly shifting from complete dependency on fossil fuels to throwing renewable energy sources (RES) into the mix, and ultimately only utilising RES in the production and distribution of energy for a cleaner environment.
According to Science Direct, “Energy storage is defined as the conversion of electrical energy from a power network into a form in which it can be stored until converted back to electrical energy”.
In essence, methods of energy storage work the same as the battery of your mobile phone. If you have to constantly keep your phone plugged in to use it, it will tend to put some restraints on its most basic uses, like being an actual “mobile phone” instead of becoming a “dormant phone”. That wasn’t the idea at first, was it?
Creating a battery pack that can be recharged at your convenience with the ability to hold the “electrical energy” needed to keep your mobile phone running while you go about your daily activities was a better answer to the dormant phone debacle, and now this idea is being innovatively recreated on a larger scale. Think, massive energy storage plants like silo farms, except for energy.
Importance of Grid Energy Storage
Yale Environment says that “experts believe widespread energy storage is key to expanding the reach of renewables and speeding the transition to a carbon-free power grid”. Over time batteries have been observed to be capable of storing and discharging energy exceeding periods that consistently become longer, making power capacity expand exponentially.
There is always a need to store excess energy for increased demand, and with renewable energy sources, the need is mostly tied to the uncontrollable variations in weather patterns.
For example, you can get solar energy during the day when the sun is out, but what happens at night when electrical energy is needed?
Or, in the situation where we can get the bulk of hydroelectric power from large water sources, but these sources are disturbed especially in rainy seasons?
The answer will turn out to be that energy that has already been produced will have to be pooled from elsewhere. Like mobile phone batteries just lying in wait for when needed, a wider variety of grid energy storage options are essential, so that there will be less dependency on the fluctuations or variations in weather or energy sources.
What are the Grid Energy Storage Options?
The electrical grids need a stable system that provides a balance between supply and distribution, many methods have been applied since the discovery of electricity to keep up with these demands so here are a few energy storage options that can be integrated into the grid systems that are worthy of note:
1. Tesla Powerwall/Powerpacks
These are lithium-ion batteries for home and grid use. According to Tesla “Powerpacks house, the world’s most sophisticated batteries with AC-connected energy storage system and everything needed to connect to a building or utility network. It dramatically simplifies installation, integration and future support, offering system-wide benefits that far outweigh those of standalone batteries.” It focuses on peak shaving, load shifting, emergency backup and demand response. A persuasive example is Hornsdale Power Reserve in Australia, where it was commissioned in 2017.
2. Redox flow batteries
These are a special kind of electrochemical battery cells that allow chemical energy provided by to chemical components that are dissolved in liquids that are pushed through the system on separate sides of a membrane to create stored energy. Essentially chemical energy is turned into electrical energy through reversible oxidation and reduction.
3. Flywheel energy storage
These can be found on wind farms such as that owned by the KEA electric cooperative in Alaska. This ETS harnesses the power of the wind to create and store energy. It works by accelerating a flywheel rotor to immense speeds of about 20,000 to 50,000 RPMs and keeping the energy in the system as rotational energy that can be extracted when needed.
4. Thermal energy storage
These are mainly used for heating and cooling applications. The idea behind this EST is to heat or cool a storage medium so that the energy stored within can be utilised when needed. The most popular of which is sensible heat storage which concentrates on storing thermal heat by raising the temperature of a solid or liquid, examples are gravel, ground or soil, pebbles and bricks. The Crescent Dunes solar energy project in Nevada is an example of this ETS that can store up to 1.1 GWh of energy which is equal to 10 hours of full power energy setting it apart from most of its predecessors.
5. Pumped-storage hydroelectric stations
These follow the process of electrically pumping water from a lower reservoir to an upper one where the hydroelectric station will then contain the water to create and store more energy. They are used during off-peak seasons to store water that can be used to generate energy when needed at peak seasons. An example is the Grand Maison Dam can power up within three minutes to feed up to 1.8GW of electricity into the French national electrical grid during peak demand.
6. Compressed air energy storage
This sees air becoming pressurised and stored underground until it’s needed, similarly to the process of hydroelectric energy conversion and storage. Excess electrical energy is stored as high-pressure air in large tanks or salt caverns and spaces. To revert it to electrical energy, the compressed air is pushed through a turbine. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Bonneville Power Administration have undertaken a project to “evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of developing compressed air energy storage in the unique geologic setting of inland Washington”.
At Hive Power, we strongly believe that the future relies on the cohesive synergy of all these elements, technologies and innovations. Power generation, infrastructure, energy sources, and storage grids need to be designed to feed off each other producing stable and reliable energy sources for day to day use while also helping to reduce fossil fuel emissions. The future of Grid energy storage is smart, renewable and sustainable.
When the EU created the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), they set targets and policies, both long and short term, to drastically reduce the volume of greenhouse gas emissions. The targets and policies became binding on all EU countries that were signatory to the directive. The obvious fact that some of these countries had already set individual targets on curbing fossil fuel use and its residual effects was no deterrent.
As a union of countries willing to work together for a common goal, it would be expected that there should be cooperation whether in varying degrees or forms, to meet set targets. These have been made available in the Renewable Energy Directive under Cooperative Mechanisms as a way of ensuring that there is cooperation on various levels. Especially when concerned with countries that can’t meet their set targets because of one overarching developmental or environmental factor, while others meet and exceed their targets with little hindrance from said factors.
For example, a landlocked country will not be able to create as much hydroelectric power for consumption as one that has several instrumental water sources at its disposal. In the same way, a country that doesn’t get as much sunlight for solar energy production as much as one that does, due to weather variations, will have to rely on the greater producer or another means of creating clean energy to meet its targets and boost the overall cooperative advantage of the EU.
This doesn’t mean any EU country is lacking in every area where they can find renewable energy sources (RES); on the contrary, all EU countries have a host of renewable energy sources at their disposal.
The Cooperation Mechanisms enumerated under the Renewable Energy Directive are:
- Statistical transfers
- Joint projects
- Joint support schemes
As explained previously, not all EU countries have equal RES. However, under article six of the Renewable Energy Directive, countries are encouraged to cooperate and help boost the renewable energy statistics of low-performing countries to meet individual targets jointly. This should only be down if they have reached their specified targets before the required timeframe.
With statistical transfers, countries can transfer specified renewable energy amounts (statistics only) to other countries. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will transfer RES but the statistics that spill over, you can see an example in the cooperation between Lithuania and Luxembourg.
National targets given by RED were to be reached at the ending of 2020. As of 2015, Lithuania had reached a target of 25.75% overshooting it’s designated 23% target while Luxembourg had only achieved 5% of its mandatory 11%. Both countries essentially reached an agreement to be the first pair to utilise the cooperation mechanism of statistical transfer to propel Luxembourg to its specified target by 2020. (European Commission Info)
Let us not forget that the RED sets compulsory national targets for each member state and statistical transfer can only happen after the cooperating countries have informed the European Commission. There is available flexibility with this particular mechanism to incentivise individual countries to exceed targets for some fee while others reach targets at lower costs, in essence, promoting cooperation while achieving individual targets.
These projects specifically target electricity or heating and cooling and can be extended to non-EU member states.
According to a briefing by the European Environment Agency on Cross-border Cooperation on Renewable Energy, there are at least three outstanding benefits to using joint projects as a cooperation mechanism.
The core benefits are as follows:
- More efficient and cheaper electricity generation
- Increased certainty in the energy market
- Open access to new resources and opportunities
Other contributions of joint project cooperation are enumerated as:
- The integration of the EU internal energy market
- The harmonisation of national legislative and policy approaches across the EU Member States
- The achievement of EU energy targets
Applying these benefits and contributions will play up a solid economic case for the use of joint projects by member states of the EU to hit their renewable energy targets and create a better economic climate, with reduced overall costs and satisfied citizens.
You can see an example with the cooperation between Denmark and Germany during an auction for electricity prices for solar PV in both countries. The bids were historically low, helping Denmark cut the estimated amount of aid it would have had to release to itself for the project had it been on an individual basis.
Benefits can transcend economics to levels of:
- Cooperation involving common markets
- Access to locations outside of individual borders
- Increase certainly in safe trading conditions within these markets
- Technological innovation
- Shared energy policy creations, and;
- An overall level playing field for an integrated energy market (European Environment Agency)
JOINT SUPPORT SCHEMES
This cooperation mechanism differs from the joint project’s mechanism in the sense that it deals with any renewable energy production between member states. That means it is not limited to electricity or cooling and heating.
Both member states share responsibilities and result in RES production and distribution to meet their RED targets together.
The key ways to do this is through:
- Feed-in tariffs (FIT) which are fixed electricity prices paid to the producers of each unit of renewable energy injected into the electricity grid
- Feed-in premiums (FIP), which are the premiums gotten from sold electricity by renewable energy producers
- Auction mechanism where producers of renewable energy bid their lowest acceptable prices to develop renewable energy projects
- Quota obligations which see to the realisation of a certain proportion of renewable energy consumption from member states
The cooperation mechanisms set out by the RED to aid member states in achieving their renewable energy targets are not as yet widely used despite hoping to promote essential cooperation. Only a few projects proffer ready examples, while most are still in testing phases. The good thing is that there is available room for member states to work together in creating a balance and level field of play for further explorations and expansion of ideas.
The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) of 2009 by the European Union (EU) was to be the first time the EU would set obligatory targets on a national level to implement some recommended measures. Reasons for this directive were as follows:
- To increase the use of renewable energy and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases,
- To promote the security of energy supply, and
- To boost employment and regional development as well as technical development and innovation.
The initial target given by this directive, was for the EU to gain at least 20% of its energy needs through renewable energy sources by 2020, and for all its member countries to guarantee that at least 10% of their transport fuels originate from renewable energy sources. For the most part, putting forth a directive can be said to be a step in the right direction but have these measures been met? To what degree? Can they be sustained or improved on?
Decarbonizing the entire EU economy by between 80% to 90% by 2050 is the long-term objective, but breaking it down to reasonable action plans with checks and balances is one reason RED I and RED II were implemented. To understand this, we will need to look at key categories to help us answer our myriad questions such as the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, added value, and lessons learned.
What Is The Relevance Of The EU Renewable Energy Directive?
The key factors of renewable energy are that their sources are clean. This means that these energies do not produce greenhouse gases responsible for climate change or increase pollutant emissions. They are and remain inexhaustible. They are different from fossil fuels because they are diverse, abundant, and can be used anywhere in the world.
Prices of renewable energy sources (RES) are also on the opposite side of the spectrum compared to fossil fuels making them a sensible alternative for governments, businesses, and individuals alike. Moreover, both wind and solar energy are showing a constant trend of cost reduction.
For the EU, renewable energy is important because of all these reasons and for meeting long-term goals and keeping up as a forerunner in the sustainable development sector.
As far as the 27 member states follow the measures spelled out in the articles given in the Renewable Energy Directive, they should notice a surge in regional development, technical development, innovation, and reduced carbon emissions, at the very least. (At this time, it is uncertain as to what stance the United Kingdom will take after BREXIT regarding the RED, but they are still included as a member state for this article).
Have The Outlined Measured Of The EU Renewable Energy Directive Been Effective?
The Renewable Energy Directive appears to have increasingly merged the development of renewable energy in member states. There is an observation that the overall target at the EU level for member states and subsequent targets on the national level, which remains legally binding, have promoted national action to an acceptable degree, with member states continuously vying to meet the national target.
The only downside is those states who have to control overly progressive outcomes to remain within the given targets.
However, not all countries or member States are the same, especially regarding GDP per capita or their RES potential. To create a cohesive balance, targets are set according to economic capabilities as a factor to lower renewable targets. This has, in turn, advanced political and social support for renewable energy policies in these countries.
The major controversy from the get-go was the 10% target set for the transport sector under biofuels. Despite the criteria given by the directive, concerns have arisen as to how sustainable it can be since the effectiveness only allows room for calculations of reduction in emissions of greenhouse gasses and not the degree of usefulness of newer renewable energy sources such as biomethane and hydrogen. These new sources, and indeed new methodologies, should be considered when counting towards the 10% transport target.
So, to the big question:
Has The EU Renewable Energy Directive Produced Results?
By mandating all member states to be legally bound by the Renewable Energy Directive, the following contributions have been highlighted:
- Reduction in the cost of renewable energy technologies
- Market failures in the innovation sector have been addressed, successfully
- Binding national targets have allowed for a reliable RED framework giving a positive effect to public authorities and private stakeholders
- The limited administrative burden on member states
Some pitfalls have also been highlighted as:
- Lack of cooperation between member states due to individual renewable energy targets not concerned with the RED
- Difference in implementation
As far as efficiency, the articles espoused within the Renewable Energy Directive show that it is on track until further deliberations on directives make room for more recent considerations. What makes it so efficient is the binding targets on all member states, which reduces the risk of limited deployment or development in the renewable energy sector.
Other Added Value
Continuing assessment of the implementation of policies is a strong argument for the added value of the Renewable Energy Directive. Member states aren’t left to their whims under this legally binding directive.
The subsequent targets given to member states are introduced on time to ensure that the national targets are met, without a hitch. This serves to spotlight a clear framework through all sectors of the RED, leading to greater discipline in implementation and rarely a deviation from the established plan.
An intensified ambition to increase RES production and the need to stay in line with the RED from individual member states has also proven to be an effective means of implementing the renewable energy policies.
It has become obvious that close monitoring of the binding directive promotes a certain level of cooperation, even if it is not on an individual basis. An increase in reporting obligations from member states specifying whether targets are/are not reached, results in greater discipline from all quarters.
What Lessons Can Be Learned So Far?
Several factors work in tandem to effectively make the Renewable Energy Directive work within the EU, and no single factor is more significant than the other. It is the availability of cumulative activities from all sectors that determine the success, or lack thereof, of the RED in member states.
Components that have and can continue to help the RED succeed include:
- Energy policies that reflect a commitment to the directive
- Fiscal measures to encourage investments
- Financial support
- Technological development
As a consequence of the foreseen significant increase in stochastic generation in the electrical grid, the need for flexibility and coordination at demand side is expected to rise. Decentralized energy markets are among the most promising solutions allowing to boost coordination between production and consumption, by allowing even small actors to capitalize on their flexibility. The main purpose of Hive Power is to develop a blockchain-based platform to support groups of prosumers that want to create their own energy market. The core element of this framework is the so-called Hive, i.e. an implementation of an energy market based on blockchain technology (see our white paper on hivepower.tech to have detailed informations about Hive Power platform).
This article describes Demo Hive, the first testbed developed by our team and presented during the Energy Startup Day 2017 in Zurich, Switzerland on November 30th 2017. Practically, the demo is a simple but also meaningful case of a hive; it is constituted by a producer and a consumer, the so-called workers. A third element is the QUEEN, whose aim is to manage the interaction between the workers and the external grid and to track the measurements related to the power consumed/produced by the workers. The producer, following named SOLAR, simulates a photovoltaic plant with a nominal power of 5 kWp. Instead the other worker (LOAD) generates data about a load consumption. Fig. 1 shows the demo testbed.
Fig1: The Demo Hive testbed
Essentially, the main hardware components of Demo Hive are:
- two SmartPIs, one for each worker. This device is constituted by an acquisition board for the electrical measurements (voltages and currents) connected to a Raspberry Pi 3. In Fig. 1 the two workers are the black boxes on the bottom.
- A Raspberry Pi 3 in order to provide the Queen functionalities.
- A 5G router to provide the Internet connectivity and a WLAN inside the testbed.
One of the most meaningful aim of Demo Hive is to tokenize the produced/consumed energy and to save the related information on a blockchain. For that reason an ERC20-compliant smart contract was deployed on the Ropsten network in order to create a demo token, called DHT, which has the following fixed value:
- 1 DHT = 1 cts = 0.01 CHF
The basic idea of Demo Hive is that LOAD owns a certain amount of DHTs and sends part of them to the producers (typically SOLAR, but also the external grid through QUEEN) to buy energy. In the following chapter this aspects will be exhaustively described.
A set of applications runs on the aforementioned devices to actuate the Demo Hive platform, a part of them developed by Hive Power. In this article only the main behavior of the demo testbed will be described, avoiding to explain all the code in details. The following image reports the software interactions inside the demo and outside with the Ropsten network.
As written in our whitepaper, periodically the real Hive platform will save data about the tokenized energy on a blockchain. This is quite unconvenient in a demo testbed because the period can be too long. For that reason the demo software considers virtual days with a duration of just 10 minutes. This means the SOLAR worker produces in 10 minutes the same energy really performed in 24 hours. Similarly the power measurements, in a real application performed off-chain and usually acquired every 15 minutes, in Demo Hive are measured every 5 seconds. As shown in Fig. 2, during the virtual day of 10 minutes the power measurements are saved by the workers in QUEEN (black arrows) in an InfluxDB database, a time-series oriented DBMS commonly used in monitoring applications. When the simulated day ends, the workers energies are calculated and tokenized in DHTs considering the following static tariffs.
- Buy on grid: 20 cts/kWh
- Sell on grid: 5 cts/kWh
- Buy in the Hive: 10 cts/kWh
- Sell in the Hive: 10 cts/kWh
Consider that LOAD/SOLAR worker can only buy/sell energy. Instead QUEEN, managing the interface with the grid, is allowed to perform both the operations. At the end of a simulated day a tokenization algorithm tries to maximize the hive autarky using the following rules (see also Fig. 2):
IF 𝑬_𝑳𝑶𝑨𝑫>𝑬_𝑺𝑶𝑳𝑨𝑹 : LOAD buys 𝑬_𝑺𝑶𝑳𝑨𝑹 from SOLAR (10 cts/kWh) and 𝑬_𝑳𝑶𝑨𝑫−𝑬_𝑺𝑶𝑳𝑨𝑹 from QUEEN (20 CHF/kWh)
ELSE IF 𝑬_𝑺𝑶𝑳𝑨𝑹>=𝑬_𝑳𝑶𝑨𝑫 : SOLAR sells 𝑬_𝑳𝑶𝑨𝑫 to LOAD (10 CHF/kWh) and 𝑬_𝑺𝑶𝑳𝑨𝑹−𝑬_𝑳𝑶𝑨𝑫 to QUEEN (5 CHF/kWh)
Practically the workers exchange all the available energy in the hive, exploiting the more convenient tariffs.
Thus, the energies are tokenized in DHTs and the related tokens (as written before, 1 DHT = 1 cts) sent by buyers (LOAD or QUEEN) to sellers (SOLAR or QUEEN) according to the aforementioned algorithm. In Fig. 2 these operations are represented by the red and light blue arrows. The DHTs transfers are then saved on the Ropsten blockchain. This can be performed because on each demo device a geth client maintains a node synchronized to the Ethereum testnet network. In order to minimize the required disk space, the geth instances run the Ethereum light client protocol. The Ropsten accounts of the components are reported below:
- LOAD: 0x888d0aafc4d7c95fcaff9264d4bc2c1829a575be
- SOLAR: 0x3b5b6bbF5A14259bdF499f526A51aE7bF21c7476
- QUEEN: 0x7ab0c357cf3ae3c36b7ee8d4a84722a96790a6bd
As explained above, the Demo Hive testbed simulates “virtual” days with a duration of 10 minutes. During a single day the produced/consumed power of the two workers is saved every 5 seconds. At the end of the day (i.e. 10 minutes) the related energies are calculated, tokenized and saved on Ropsten network. In order to have days with both the aforementioned cases of the autarky algorithm (i.e. solar production > load consumption and solar production < load consumption) the following power profiles are taken into account for the workers:
- SOLAR: two profiles are considered, the former (following named CLEAR) with a significant production, related to a day without clouds. Instead the latter (following named CLOUDY) has a poor production, simulating an overcast day. The sequence of the profiles in the simulated days is a continuous alternation, i.e. after a CLEAR day there is a CLOUDY one, and so on.
- LOAD: a unique typical profile is taken into account as baseline, then every day a noise is added to it. As a consequence, during the simulated days the resulting profiles are always similar, but never equal.
Fig. 3 shows an example of two simulated days. It is simple to note the difference between the CLEAR and CLOUDY cases.
The profiles shown in Fig. 3 were performed during the Energy Startup Day 2017. Considering the first profile (CLEAR), it is simple to understand how the SOLAR production exceed the LOAD consumption. As a consequence, all the energy needed by LOAD is locally bought in the hive from SOLAR producer at the convenient Hive tariff (i.e. 10 cts/kWh). On the other hand, the remaining amount of produced energy not bought by LOAD will be sold by SOLAR on the grid with a less convenient tariff (i.e. 5 cts/kWh). Acting as described, the local energy exchanging is maximized and, consequently, the two workers realize to save/profit money taking advantage of the Hive tariffs.
In the second case (CLOUDY profile), the production is not able to cover all the consumption. Thus, LOAD has to buy part of the needed energy from the grid paying 20 cts/kWh.
At the end of the simulated day the savings/profits data are then tokenized and the related DHTs distributed by the consumer (e.g. LOAD in a CLOUDY case) to the producers (e.g. SOLAR and QUEEN in a CLOUDY case) in order to pay the used energy. In the following list the energy profits/costs in DHTs are reported comparing the cases of Demo Hive against a business as usual (BAU) situation, where the hive market does not exist (i.e. only the grid tariffs, 20/5 cts/kWh to buy/sell energy, are available).
- Solar revenues:
12:00-12:10 (CLEAR): HIVE = 432 DHT BAU = 254 DHT HIVE-BAU = 178 DHT
12:10-12:20 (CLOUDY): HIVE = 135 DHT BAU = 68 DHT HIVE-BAU = 67 DH
- Load costs:
12:00-12:10 (CLEAR): HIVE = 356 DHT BAU = 713 DHT HIVE-BAU = -357 DHT
12:10-12:20 (CLOUDY): HIVE = 590 DHT BAU = 725 DHT HIVE-BAU = -123 DH
It is easy to note how the saved/earned money of LOAD/SOLAR is much higher during the CLEAR day, being the solar production able to cover all the energy needed inside the hive. The following list reports the precise amounts:
- LOAD saves 3.57 CHF during CLEAR days
- LOAD saves 1.23 CHF during CLOUDY days
- SOLAR earns 1.78 CHF during CLEAR days
- SOLAR earns 0.67 CHF during CLOUDY days
The following URLs report the Ropsten transactions details related to the simulated days.
- TX_CLEAR_1: 356 DHTs sent by LOAD to SOLAR
- TX_CLEAR_2: 76 DHTs sent by QUEEN to SOLAR
- TX_CLOUDY_1: 455 DHTs sent by LOAD to QUEEN
- TX_CLOUDY_2: 135 DHTs sent by LOAD to SOLAR
The Demo Hive testbed implements a very simple case of hive. It is a significant starting point for the development of the complete framework, but some improvements have to to be implemented. The following list reports the most meaningful features still to develop.
- Prototype of a “blockchain-ready” meter: SmartPi device is based on a Raspberry Pi 3 board, a great hardware platform for prototyping and initial tests but not projected to be easily integrated in an industrial product. In order to develop a blockchain meter, naturally necessary in our framework, the idea of Hive Power is to take into account more industrial-oriented hardware platforms and using them to substitute the SmartPi devices.
- Power profiles: Currently the workers profiles are quite similar during the “simulated days” of 10 minutes. Practically there is a precise alternation of clear and overcast days for the SOLAR production. Regarding the LOAD, every simulated day a noise is added to the same predefined profile. In order to have a more realistic situation, new profiles have to be considered (e.g. two different LOAD profiles, the former for workdays and the latter related to the weekend)
- State channels: in our demo testbed, the power measurements are now acquired every 5 seconds and the related data saved in an database running on QUEEN. In order to have a fully decentralized approach, our idea is to handle power data using State Channels technology avoiding to use a local database.
- More workers: To have a more realistic simulation of a Hive energy market, the number of workers should be increased.
- Prosumer/Storage worker: Currently being in Demo Hive only a consumer (LOAD) and a producer (SOLAR), it will be meaningful to introduce prosumer and storage workers in order to have a complete market. It is interesting to consider that with storage systems it would be possible to implement load-shifting algorithms to maximize the costs savings.
- Dynamic tariffs: In Demo Hive only static tariffs are taken into account for the energy buying/selling. Clearly, this is not a realistic situation and consequently a dynamic system of tariffs has to be implemented.