To broaden the use of renewable energies beyond the electricity sector to likewise encompass the mobility sector, thermal sector as well as the industry sector, the “coupling” of each and every sector is a must. In the electricity sector about 50 per cent of energy is currently generated from renewable resources, in transport just 5 per cent and in thermal energy sector 15 per cent. The substantial share of renewables in the electricity sector underlines the unlocked potential for improvements in the other sectors and for sector coupling.
Solutions for the Energy Transition as a Whole
To achieve a complete energy transition across all three sectors, various approaches are being pursued. Numerous pilot projects are currently under way, designed to prove the effectiveness of sector coupling and its technical regulation. Furthermore, legislation and regulatory frameworks play central roles for sector coupling projects, since their economic viability is highly limited by fees and charges for grid utilisation. At the same time, poor charges on carbon emissions most often lead to considerably cheaper costs for fossil-fuelled heating or transportation, when compared to a supply with renewable electricity.
Storage Technologies for Surplus Electricity
Modern storage technologies can help improve the use of energy produced from renewable resources. These include “Power-to-Gas”, the generation of gaseous energy carriers such as hydrogen and methane from renewable electricity through electrolysis. “Power-To-Heat” is another important direction, the use of excess quantities of electricity in the thermal energy market through the use of controllable heating elements in local thermal storage systems and grids. “Combined Heat and Power” is another approach, coupling the generation of electricity and heat, e.g. in cogeneration plants.
The lighthouse project “Norddeutsche EnergieWende 4.0 - NEW 4.0 (Northern German Energy Transition)” ran from 2016 until 2020 funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy as part of the “Smart Energy Showcases” program. The project involved the topic of “sector coupling” in many of the 100 individual projects. 60 partners from Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein worked on a blueprint for energy transition. As part of the project consortium, Renewable Energy Hamburg was responsible for B2B communication.