The focus is on the regulatory, organisational, economic and technical areas of regulatory sandboxes. Insights gained, e.g. how a transfer from “laboratory” to field tests of systems, sensors and actuators can succeed, are thereby placed in a comparable context. The aim is to develop general recommendations for action that enable the sustainable implementation of the energy transition in practice. A clear role definition of all actors participating in regulatory sandboxes is essential as well as targeted external communication that focuses on the special opportunities for potential innovations through such tests under real conditions.

Regulatory sandboxes as innovation systems for the energy transition

In the energy transition and in the digitalisation of energy supply, regulatory sandboxes create a framework for action for systemic innovation because they enable interaction in key areas of the energy transition. Therefore, all relevant stakeholders should be involved as far as possible in the implementation. In the context of SINTEG, this includes more than 300 companies, research institutions, municipalities, districts and federal states. Innovation systems are needed as enablers and catalysts that enable appropriate interaction between these very different actors. The regulatory sandboxes of the SINTEG showcases have proven to be an efficient means to create such innovation systems and to master technical, regulatory and organisational challenges together and across the board in practice.

Practical implementation of innovation systems for the energy transition

Involving diverse stakeholders is necessary to understand how new goals and measures for the energy transition can be put into practice through a sustainable process. It is essential to work out basic organisational concepts together. The liberalisation of the energy system and the associated unbundling - i.e. the unbundling of generation, transmission, distribution and the end-customer business, especially in the electricity sector - is proving to be a challenge. As a result, stakeholders usually only have experience in limited sub-areas. Consequently, a systemic view and way of working is difficult. Regulatory sandboxes counteract this by offering all stakeholders the space to work together on new solutions for the energy transition and to implement them in practice. 

The energy industry must react collectively to the new requirements of the energy transition (digitalisation, integration of volatile renewable energies, energy communities, prosumers, etc.). Implementing practical applications together in a regulatory sandbox can help overcome silo thinking and encourage joint solution finding. This often leads to interdisciplinary solutions that fit into the current framework (regulatory, organisational, economic, technical) and can cope with future challenges. Organisational innovations are consolidated in the process. At best, these lead to new networks, processes and a new corporate culture.

Digital platforms as drivers for systemic innovation

In the practical implementation of the SINTEG regulatory sandboxes, digital platforms and related activities for the formation of innovation systems have proven particularly effective. A good example is enera's Smart Data and Service Platform (SDSP). First and foremost, the SDSP is a technical tool for making generation, consumption and storage in the electricity system more flexible. It is based on the provision of active power via the trading mechanisms on the enera flex market and an optimised operational management strategy with real-time data from EPEX Spot.

As diverse stakeholders were involved, the SDSP has proven itself in testing new organisational and regulatory concepts. For this purpose, the liquid energy market was expanded to include regionalised products - based on the connection of network operators and other participants of the enera flex market to the EPEX trading platform (incl. interfaces to the eCount web portal of EWE Netz, to energy & meteo system GmbH and other third-party providers). In addition, a verification platform was connected to verify delivered flexibility. This made it possible to gain insights into how regulatory and organisational framework conditions could be adapted.

Overall, the SDSP has been successful in engaging stakeholders at the horizontal level (between energy domains) and vertical level (beyond the energy sector) in terms of an innovation system. Especially in comparison to typical R&D projects, the practical involvement of stakeholders was a decisive factor for the success of the regulatory sandboxes. The same applies to activities in other showcases. Innovation systems could be built around digital platforms that address systemic aspects in addition to purely technical aspects (e.g. system control from the point of view of aggregators, concepts for exchanging, caching and forwarding data).

Expert quote

"The SINTEG showcases have demonstrated the importance of involving different stakeholders in the innovation process for the transformation of the energy system. The involvement of political decision-makers has been a key success factor for regulatory sandboxes. This role model effect can be felt, for example, in Austria within the framework of the Energy Showcase Regions, where a similar programme for the decarbonisation of industry has been set up."

Wolfgang HribernikSINTEG subject matter expert