Active consortium management and participation in research and development projects are an integral part of 50Hertz’s approach to innovation. Through different partnerships with both academic and industrial partners, the organisation primarily focuses on the areas of new technologies and digitalisation; energy markets and system security; the integration of renewable energy into the system (including the development of the grid to support this); and supporting industry in the decarbonisation of its processes. Its commitment to such areas is reinforced through its Scientific Advisory & Project Board (SAPB) and its work with industry and the science world, as well as via the Group-wide Innovation Week and Elia Group’s own incubator, The Nest.
Twenty-one of Germany’s most renowned scientists met twice in the year under review as part of the newly established SAPB. The latter addressed strategic topics including the German Government’s hydrogen strategy and the challenges the country will face on the path to climate neutrality. The SAPB also addressed topics including concrete applications for 50Hertz’s everyday business; these related, for example, to future energy scenarios and grid reconstruction projects in a world with more and more renewable energy. In addition, the SAPB approved two projects which were developed with scientists and 50Hertz throughout the course of the year. The results of these are expected to be made available in the first quarter of 2022. In future, the SAPB will focus on the establishment of a consumer-centric market design.
As a further component of the 100 percent by 2032 - new energy for a strong economy initiative, 50Hertz is contributing its expertise as an associated partner to three use cases, so called real time labs, related to the energy transition. In addition, 50Hertz helped to construct a number of power-to-heat plants in Hamburg, Parchim, Rostock, Stralsund and Neubrandenburg (among other places) under the motto “Exploiting instead of curtailing”. Each of these projects focuses on sector coupling or the use of hydrogen. In future, millions of electric cars are due to be used across Germany and will need to be charged regularly. In order for them to contribute to system stability, data exchange via smart metering infrastructure will be required. Therefore, in a joint project with Elli and Bosch.IO (which are subsidiaries of Volkswagen AG and Robert Bosch GmbH), the distribution system operator Stromnetz Berlin and 50Hertz are investigating and testing what type of data exchange will be required for this and how flexibility can be provided by a fleet of electric cars.
‘Through our commitment to living labs, we want to specifically support the development of power-to-x technologies for the energy market: if the market’s situation becomes pressing in a few years' time, we will need tried and tested experience with the new technology that is tailored to the grid.’
In 2021, Elia Group’s Innovation Week was held under the motto “Co-creating the future with our ecosystem”. As part of this, the most innovative projects from across the organisation related to the five ‘Moonshot’ fields of system management, consumer centricity, infrastructure, asset management and offshore were presented to staff. For the first time in the history of the Innovation Week, 15 external partners were invited to take part in the event, helping to present their projects with staff from the Group. In order to embed innovation across the Group, a new space, The Nest, has been launched; this enables innovative projects to be developed through the prototyping and testing of ideas in an agile environment.
The Elia Group study ’Roadmap to net zero’ was published at the end of the year. This study focused on three elements: energy balance - the use of resources to cover the future energy demand; flexibility - how fluctuations in power generation can be balanced with renewable energy; and security of supply - how to handle longer periods of low renewable generation.