In the future, digital technologies – such as digital market platforms, smart measurement systems and smart transformers – will enable generation plants, networks, consumers and storage facilities to be all integrated into smart energy networks. A huge number of sensors distributed at close intervals across energy infrastructure will monitor and record its state at every moment of the day. This information can then be exchanged between the different parts of the energy system via data platforms. This will enable systems and networks to be managed automatically and to send energy whenever it is needed.
All of the data captured across the energy networks will also be used to improve forecasts for power generation and consumption so that the individual components within the energy system work together in the best way possible.
Electricity will be used flexibly and in many ways, from charging an electric car to generating steam in industry. Virtual power plants will bundle various generation facilities and storage facilities together so as to be able to react more flexibly to changes. Automated trading platforms will ensure that the costs for coordinating energy generation and consumption are kept low.
The goal of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy’s SINTEG funding programme is to drive forward the digitisation of the energy industry and support the transformation of energy systems. Practical tests are being conducted in five model regions across Germany to look at how the smart energy supply of tomorrow can be designed, and how a smart energy system can be established. Experts are using the model regions to develop and test new technologies, processes and business models and to design solutions for the technical, economic and regulatory challenges created by digitalising the energy sector. Blueprints are being developed for how to digitalise the energy industry, which can then be applied many times over in Germany and throughout the world.
One example of the blueprints being developed are designs for digital market platforms that will enable energy and flexibility services to be traded efficiently (based upon the use of blockchain and cloud-based). These market platforms will make it possible to bundle and use the flexibility that is spread across many different systems – not only large generation systems such as wind farms, but also small systems such as battery storage in private households. The first use case being developed and tested in SINTEG will involve the network operators using these flexibilities to optimise network operation whenever bottlenecks are experienced. This can help stabilise the electricity grid and ensure that it works in a cost-efficient way.
The SINTEG showcases are also developing and testing new digital business models that have emerged as a result of the ability to merge, process and analyse energy-related data. A number of digital start-ups are also involved in this work. In addition, standards are being adapted so that they can also be applied to new technologies within the smart energy system and to processes that have been altered. A modern information and communication infrastructure is also being developed, which includes deploying more than 40,000 smart measurement systems and equipping networks with even more sensors to improve monitoring of the state of the network. With the SINTEG ordinance providing the regulatory basis, SINTEG has thus become a regulatory sandbox for the digitalisation of the energy transition.