Testing Environments for Innovation and Regulation

Testing Environments for Innovation and Regulation

Regulatory Sandboxes for the Energy Transition

Testing out new research findings in real life is an exciting opportunity for the winners of the Regulatory Sandboxes for the Energy Transition competition of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

In this programme, a number of innovative technologies and processes – such as the manufacture of hydrogen – are being tested in the field. The selected research consortia can gather valuable experience in geographically limited experimental spaces – experience they may be able to deploy throughout Germany in future. Problems can be identified, analysed and tackled in real life. This means that new energy technologies will reach the market more quickly – bringing decisive progress in the energy transition.

In Northern Germany, a total of four consortia and their projects were selected by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to become Regulatory Sandboxes for the Energy Transition.

Domestic households use more than three quarters of their total energy consumption just to supply heat, which comes mostly from fossil fuels. There is therefore significant climate protection potential here and we want to play a part with this project in making not only the electricity supply, but also the heating supply climate-friendly.

The aim of the IW3 project Integrated Heat Transition Wilhelmsburg, which aims to implement a consortium around the municipal green-energy supplier Hamburg Energie by 2024, is to establish a virtually CO2-free, decentralised heating supply which does not use any fossil fuels at all.

The project team managed to secure a grant for the implementation from the “Real-Life Laboratories for Energy Transition” programme from the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. The Real-Life Laboratories are part of the 7th energy research programme with which the Federal Government supports research and development in the field of pioneering energy technologies.



“Flying, building and heating more sustainably in the future is the aim of the “Westküste 100 Real-World Laboratory”. To achieve this, the intention is to model a regional hydrogen economy on an industrial scale and then scale it up. The conditions for this are particularly ideal on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein: here, a strong wind-energy region and excellent geological storage conditions meet innovative companies whose aim is to actively shape the future and make an important contribution to achieving climate protection targets.

The cross-industry partnership “Westküste 100” in Schleswig-Holstein is made up of EDF Deutschland, Holcim Deutschland, OGE, Ørsted, Raffinerie Heide, Stadtwerke Heide, Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions and Thüga – together with the Heide Region Development Agency and FH Westküste University of Applied Sciences. The partnership’s aim is to produce green hydrogen from offshore wind energy and to use any waste heat generated from this process. The aim is to then use the hydrogen to produce climate-friendly fuels for aircraft and also to feed it into gas networks. In fuel production without fossil fuels, unavoidable CO2 from regional cement production in Schleswig-Holstein will be used for the production process. What is special and innovative about this real-world laboratory is this integration of different material cycles within a regional infrastructure that already exists.

This research and development initiative was submitted as a project outline entitled “Real-World Laboratory Westküste 100” as part of the “Real-Life Laboratories that foster energy transition” ideas competition, initiated by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy at the start of April 2019. Real-life laboratories provide an opportunity to fast-track the transfer of technology and innovation from research into practice. They enable us to develop technical and non-technical ideas and innovations under real-life conditions and on an industrial scale, and then put them to the test.


The North German Living Lab will test the overall transformation of the energy system, thus contributing to rapid decarbonisation of all consumption sectors. Spread out over five geographical “hubs“ in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, large-scale concepts will be developed for sector linking, with the focus on hydrogen and energy-efficient district solutions in the area of heat production.

For example, in order to save CO2, residue from refineries will be further processed with “green” hydrogen. The effects of adding hydrogen in natural gas burners should also be examined. In order to integrate the transport sector into the system, fuel cell vehicles will be used more and hydrogen filling stations promoted. To further the heat production transformation, the partners also wish to render the waste heat from a refuse incineration plant and an industrial installation usable using existing district heating pipelines. The planned project of the North German Living Lab could save approximately 560,000 tons of CO2 emissions per annum.

In order to reach climate targets, in many areas carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced. Besides the transport sector, CO2 is also generated in many industrial processes, as well as in power plants. The partners in the Green MeOH Living Lab in Stade near Hamburg therefore wish to decarbonise an industrial power plant process and use the CO2 thus obtained.

To that end they wish to filter out CO2 from exhaust gas from a gas power plant owned by chemical company DOW and transform it into methanol by adding hydrogen. Thus 42,000 tons per annum will be generated of a raw material which can be used in other chemical processes, as well as in shipping and heavy goods transportation. The project is 10 times bigger than any comparable installations currently in operation or being planned anywhere in the world and the first process of its kind located downstream from a gas power plant. The project thus acts as a flagship for the decarbonisation of industrial processes.