Level 2: Along with options for adjustments in individual sectors, SynErgie also examines solutions for the overall production infrastructure, which can in principle be transferred to many different sectors. Once again, the project concentrates here on just the sectors where particularly large reductions and increases in energy consumption are possible. This is the case for applications such as air conditioning units, cold stores, heat supply, production processes, or building technology. Because structural modifications to enable flexible energy consumption in factories are often very expensive, SynErgie’s partners also outlined a solution to include energy flexibility in the plans from the beginning when constructing new factory buildings.
Platform synchronizes supply and demand
Level 3: To allow the production technologies from the first two levels of SynErgie to actually be used profitably, the project’s IT partners are working on developing a software platform that analyses various questions: What is the electricity supply on the market like at the moment – is there a shortage or an excess? How fast do reactions have to be, and how long do they need to last? And what companies can act straight away to offset this shortage or excess? An intelligent control system is needed to strike this flexible balance between supply and demand. In addition, the researchers analyse how electricity markets should be structured in future to motivate companies to offer greater flexibility.
Level 4: To ensure that companies have incentives to reorganize themselves to deliberately consume more or less electricity, the project aims to show that the developed technologies are also generally efficient. Project researchers are therefore using Augsburg as a model region for flexible energy consumption to test out potential options for balancing electricity fluctuations locally – together with local energy suppliers, grid operators, industrial companies, citizens’ initiatives, and policymakers.
In order to be able to bring demand-side management into use across Germany soon, SynErgie also regularly invites doctoral researchers to seminars, where they have the opportunity to meet interdisciplinary experts and discuss their own research into flexible energy consumption in industry. This is because SynErgie can only implement flexible energy consumption solutions throughout Germany and beyond if enough experts are familiar with these solutions in future. Visits by project partners to companies that can already demonstrate successful flexible energy consumption innovations are organized for the same purpose.
Concepts to overcome legal obstacles
In parallel with this, SynErgie scientists work to ascertain how great the potential for industrial demand adjustment could be in future. How much can companies increase or decrease their demand by, and for how long? What is the situation regionally, nationally, and internationally?
SynErgie’s results are already promising. Nevertheless, there are barely any incentives at the moment for companies to invest in reorganizing to allow flexible energy consumption. This is because the law still penalizes companies that have fluctuating energy consumption rather than rewarding them. SynErgie partners are therefore developing concepts for future legislation that would provide companies with incentives to act in a way that benefits the power grid. This also requires business models for how companies can be rewarded for helping out the power grid over brief periods of time, since structural modifications to enable flexible energy consumption are not only expensive, but they also often shorten the lifetime of the plants in which they are implemented. Accordingly, energy suppliers, grid operators, industrial companies, scientists, and citizens’ initiatives work together in SynErgie to develop implementation options for demand-side management that will ultimately benefit everyone.