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18 October 2020

CleanMobilEnergy - energy demand in neighbourhoods

The IMET initiative talked with Hugo Niesing, director of the Dutch company Resourcefully, the initiator and management support of the EU funded CleanMobilEnergy project about energy demand in neighbourhoods and the challenge of energy storage as well as energy consumption on demand.

While cities are increasingly investing in local renewable energy production and charging infrastructure for EVs, the control systems for energy generation, utilisation (for city-heating, city-buildings energy use etc.) and storage as well as electric vehicle charging work are currently separate from each other.

With one unique smart energy management system (iEMS), the CleanMobilEnergy will integrate and connect multiple renewable energy generation sources inside the neighbourhood. The goal is to implement the usage of this energy locally in e-mobility, city usage in buildings in the neighbourhood and different types of storage. This iEMS has been developed and pilots are running currently at four pilot sites. Over the year 2021, the iEMS will be improved, combining RES, e-mobility, flexible consumption and storage at neighbourhood level.

Question 1: Can energy demand be spread over time, intensified or delayed, Mr Niesing?

Energy production peaks occur when demand is limited and consumption peaks when clean production is limited. Energy management systems are under development, but these control a single or perhaps double device. The challenge is in the controlling of multiple - all - devices in neighbourhoods. This means all energy generation, usage or storage devices and the grid situation.

These decisions are currently still taken separately from each other, optimising single devices or functions, resulting frequently in grid congestion, unused renewable production and CO2 intensive electricity usage.

Electric vehicles, the charging infrastructure and heat-pumps are essential for a city to improve renewables uptake as they allow flexible charging and storage facilities (V2G-services). Four City Pilots in CleanMobilEnergy act as a test-bed for implementation and improvement of this system in situations with different user groups and city-situations, different supply and demand patterns, regulatory systems and energy markets.

The development of the Open Source iEMS of CleanMobilEnergy aims to increase the economic value of renewable energy and reduce CO2 emissions.

Question 2: What is the scope of CleanMobilEnergy and what results has it brought so far?

The scope of the CleanMobilEnergy project is to provide a tool which can increase the amount of renewable energy produced and consumed at city district level, without adding extra cables, but through optimized consumption, storage and vehicle for energy services (smart charging or V2G).  

The business model is highly dependent on the setting of the City Pilot. In Nottingham, for example, the setting consists of a municipality depot where energy is made and used either in the buildings, or through charging their EVs or through storage and later usage.

In the case of Nottingham, emission and cost savings and grid optimization objectives are all steering the energy in the same direction. The aim of CleanMobilEnergy at site is to ensure that each solar generated electron is either directly consumed in office at the City Pilot or translated into clean mobility or stored in the battery to be used later. This works well, mainly because of the single grid connection and the fact that the financial rules coincide well with the optimization of using your own CO2 neutral energy.

In Arnhem this situation is far more complicated due to the distribution of connected devices of the electricity grid. Here, the generation of energy happens at a large solar park. The usage of this clean energy is focused on all public (about 200) charging stations in the city and an energy intensive shipyard nearby the solar field. Besides that, a large storage device was purchased to use (store?) the solar energy made during the day to be used in the evening.

The idea of this setting is nice but, none of the stakeholders has an economic benefit out of using the local solar made energy. The solar field needs to inject all solar energy to get a maximum profit of the energy (funding). In the case of Arnhem, the storage system is energetically and emission wise very interesting, but the business case is under development and policy dependent. The Charge Point Operator wants to have the best energy price and it is not jet clear if there is an economic benefit at all to buy the electricity from the nearby solar park (which could fuel all EVs in Arnhem for 90% with the solar electricity if they would use the battery).

We are currently implementing the system for the Charge Point Operator to receive real-time charging data and to use the battery so that all EVs are charged with the local solar energy. This way all local electrons would be used optimally. But this is not administratively and financially arranged, that is a second step to be taken - hopefully as part of our project CleanMobilEnergy.

Question 3: What are the benefits of energy storage for consumers and cities?

The whole philosophy is that cities ‘make and take’ their own energy using smart technologies and NOT making a grid system for peaks occurring only 5% of the time, this is very expensive and not necessary. If European cities won’t perform in creating and gaining their own energy like that, they can’t make the transition to a clean society. This will be beneficiary for all at large: the consumer, the grid operator (paid with public money) and of course the city

Question 4: What is needed to scale up your solution?

Technologies exist and get cheaper and cheaper. Now we need better policies and fairer prices for energy made with less emissions, for the usage of transport infrastructure and the time of usage.  I can give you 100 examples, but that takes lots of words.

Question 5: What are your recommendations to policy makers?

Adding to what I said about the need of better policies and fairer prices, I recommend that we have to use our skills and innovative capacities to grow towards a more inclusive system, in which all can benefit from this technologies, especially the less economic advanced urban areas.