The research communities of the Nordic countries have a crucial role to play when it comes to leading the way into the smart energy system of the future. This message was presented by Mark van Triphout from the European Commission when he gave his closing speech at Aalborg University Campus Copenhagen May 24th. The speech was the climax of the Conference “Sustainable future energy systems”, jointly organized by Aalborg University, Nordic Energy Research, DTU and House of Energy as part of the Nordic Clean Energy week.
Discussion and brainstorming amongst the 200 participants (representing e.g. Nordic academia, large energy companies, system operators, and members of House of Energy, Danish energy cluster for sustainable energy technologies) were spurred by presentations organized around the theme of smart energy systems.
Based on state-of-the-art knowledge on smart energy systems, Aalborg University professor, Brian Vad Mathiesen, outlined the fact that potential synergies of combining electricity grids with gas grids and the often forgotten thermal grids are vast in going towards 100% enewable energy systems. Providing a fully renewable energy system using energy efficiency and energy storgage is not a technical problem – it’s now a political and market design problem.
Brian Vad Mathiesen stressed that the political prioritization of integrated energy systems is a keyword in this transition. This sentiment was repeated in the various scenarios presented by the energy systems stakeholders at the conference. For example Rebecca Collyer, Director of Power Program at European Climate Foundation, addressed the role of the European Community and the framework conditions necessary for the optimal, integrated transition to a decarbonized, electrified European energy system. The business prospects for large companies engaged in the decarbonization and electrification the European energy system are clear, but political action is still needed if the transition is to be successful. CEO for Danfoss Drives, Vesa Laisi, expressed concern regarding the speed of implementation. His fundamental message was: “We need policy makers to match policies with technologies of today.”
Smart energy technologies and the skills to develop, create and manage these technologies were recurring topics on the conference. The idea of multi-disciplined engineers (e.g. 80% electrical engineering and 20% economics) was presented by AAU professor, Birgitte Bak-Jensen, at a separate workshop focusing on the smart energy skills of the future. This idea is an innovative response to the required skills of the “System Operator of the future” as outlined by Sonja Berlijn from Stattnett.
Projects funded by Nordic Energy Research have made groundbreaking contributions to the advancement of sustainability of energy systems. Electro-mobility is already developing in the Nordic countries, and there was a discussion on what the role of electro-mobility will be in the future, and how this vision can be achieved. The newly released Nordic Electric Vehicle Outlook, from the International Energy Agency, which visualizes the Nordic EV trends in relation to the rest of the world was presented. The Nordics are leading and may inspire the world in a number of areas when it comes to electrification of transport. For example in Norway electric vehicles represent roughly 50% of sales of new cars. In addition, e-mobility business models for personal transport including free float car sharing with electric vehicles and test beds for introducing electric buses, ferries, as well as trucks partly driven by cities are among the Nordic strongholds according to the Nordic Energy Research (NER) Flagship project – Sustainable Horizons in Future Transport (SHIFT).
Development of technologies for Carbon capture from power and industry plants is another Nordic stronghold. NER’s flagship project “Negative CO2” looks at removing carbon from the atmosphere through chemical-looping combustion (CLC). CLC allows for carbon from burning biomass to be more easily captured, because it eliminates the need for the costly separation of gasses at the emissions stage. The captured CO2 can then be permanently stored underground, creating in a negative emissions process as more trees are planted to replenish the fuel stock and absorb more CO2.
This is the Nordic, European, and Global Horizon that we are looking into, according to the European Commission as articulated by Mark van Triphout.