Consumers and companies can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using energy efficiently. The emergence of alternative distributed energy generation combined with a shift from fossil fuels to electricity, as can be seen in the automotive industry, is putting our electrical grids to the test.
The Netherlands is at the forefront of Smart Grid solutions: Intelligent electricity networks that regulate the small-scale generation and distribution of energy. Smart grids play an important role in the energy supply of the future. Technological innovations and new services will ensure our future energy supply remains affordable and reliable, and will ease the shift towards renewable energy sources. More than 20 organizations in the Netherlands are working together to find and test new solutions.
- Smart electrical grids
- Smart Energy Collective
- Energy-saving ‘smart glass’
- Dutch collaborations in renewable energy solutions
What does a supplier of renewable electricity do when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining? The lack of wind and sun doesn't have to be a problem if supply and demand are synchronized at the local market level. Maintaining conventional plants to take over the generation of electricity from solar cells and windmills is expensive. Smart grids need smart appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, heat pumps and high-efficiency e-boilers (boilers that also generate electricity). Such appliances are equipped with an ‘agent’ that submits a tender, i.e. tells you which appliances to switch on for which price. The energy provider collects all of the tenders and compares them to the supply of electricity from all households and, for example, the APX energy market. At the same time, the grid operator checks if the grid will be overloaded.
All of this creates a price that can change by the hour and even by the minute. You can set the washing machine to start at a certain price and still be finished before you go to bed. A separate remote control enables you to see the electricity prices and set the appliance’s start time accordingly. If a lot of wind energy is available, the electricity price will fall and demand will automatically rise. The price will also rise if a lot of people charge their electric cars at the same time. Consumers have the freedom to choose but benefit most if they run their appliances during the so-called ‘happy hours’. A test is being run with such a smart network in Hoogkerk in Groningen.
Information on energy consumption, for example, through smart meters, is necessary to make household and business consumers aware of their consumption behaviour. But this is only one of the components in a smart grid, the ‘enabler’ in the transition to lower energy consumption and the use of alternative energy sources that are generated decentrally. The smart grid is also seen as a way of improving the stability of electricity grids. The Netherlands is a pioneer in market deregulation, which puts it in a unique position to test smart grids in new market situations. The Netherlands is also a pioneer in technology for so-called demand-side management (the active management of energy consumption so demand can be matched to supply) and the development of related technologies such as the PowerMatcher. The next step is to embed these technologies safely and inexpensively in all kinds of electronic appliances.
The Smart Energy Collective (Dutch) (SEC) is an example of a Dutch collaboration in which almost 30 companies have joined forces. SEC has recently started designing testbeds with businesses and households in five locations across the Netherlands. The goal is to demonstrate how the smart grids work in a real environment. SEC works according to the ‘open innovation’ principle, which enables it to develop and test a combination of integrated smart energy products and services. This multi-disciplinary approach gives SEC's eco system an efficient setting. The partners – including NXP for the smart chips – come from all over the smart grid's complex value chain: grid operators; energy providers; IT companies and other service providers; and companies in the surrounding built-up area. Accelerating the innovation process and getting a head start on developments in other countries can improve the competitive position of the Dutch energy sector.
The Peer+ manufactures energy-saving high-tech glass with three settings: transparent, dark and diffuse. In each of these settings, the glass uses sun energy for its electronic controls. The glass is installed in new and renovated office buildings. Peer+'s smart glass is an energy-saving technology that was born from research at the Eindhoven University of Technology.
The smart glass is a functional cross-over between different technologies. This type of cross-over solution is a good example of the strengths of the Dutch high-tech sector. This innovative energy-saving technology will be introduced in more places around the world and might even become a standard.
Working on renewable energy solutions in the Netherlands is challenging; both technically and socially. Together, Dutch companies are working hard to ensure that energy is supplied as optimally as possible in the future.
The companies involved in the Smart Energy Collective are very different and range from grid operators to energy suppliers and technology providers through to service providers, including companies in the building sector.
DNV Kema Energy & Sustainability, the initiators of the PowerMatching City project in Hoogkerk, are working on the project with Essent and the software company ICT Automatisering. This ‘demonstration steppingstone’ project gives companies the chance to test their products and services such as NXP's computer chips, which are used to charge electric scooters.
Peer+ collaborates with Stichting Technische Wetenschappen (STW), the department of chemical engineering and chemistry at TU/e, Energieonderzoek Centrum Nederland (ECN), and Philips Research. Merck Chemicals Ltd and Peer+ are on the users' board.