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Renewable energy and energy storage

On this page you will find lessons learnt that are distilled from various workshops that the SCIS team attended. The most important points are summarised, giving a quick overview of the challenges / barriers but also solutions with regard to each topic.
Renewable Energy and Energy Storage
Lesson identified at: 

Challenges

The introduction of renewable energy and energy storage can be accompanied by various barriers that can be subdivided into different categories. On a technological level, it is possible that the capacity of the electricity grid is insufficient to cope with increased renewable energy production. From a social point of view, persons in charge of the project should take into account the public opinion on environmental issues. They need to search for the engagement and commitment of property owners, and have to convince the local decision makers to support the implementation (see also Citizen Engagement).

In some case, the conventional energy price is too low to make higher efficiency or renewable energy solutions financially feasible. As a result business models could be difficult to draw up. Moreover, a limited availability of financial resources might also pose a risk to realizing ambitious renewable energy targets. This is also true for the inertia of the public utility.

Furthermore, innovative solutions such as energy storage need more explanation towards both construction practitioners and end-users. Also municipalities and companies are often reported to lack an innovative mindset and are rather risk averse. Additionally, regulations regarding solar PV panels and the electricity produced by those panels (which must be used in the building where it has been produced and cannot be sold tax-free to tenants) can pose problems.

Also from a governance perspective there are various challenges. It is undeniable that multi stakeholder processes, coping with public demands and assigning responsibilities require time and commitment. One might also consider the discrepancy between political and business decisions and goals. Moreover, one might be confronted with a lack of political backing and funding. Finally, setting up contracts with suppliers can also be quite challenging. All in all, the energy utility’s transition towards renewable energy is a slow process.

Recommendations

Taking away subsidies for CO2 emitting and nuclear energy production facilities, implementing a carbon tax, getting rid of barriers related to solar PV electricity production, and introducing an electricity certification system to support electricity produced from renewables can be considered as policy recommendations. It should also be highlighted that good design and communication will result in less protest.

Cities can organise study visits to frontrunners and should support pilot projects. Different stakeholders (like the public administration, construction companies and practitioners, researchers, end-users and associations) should be involved from the beginning, and well documented best practices (use cases, fact sheets from Lighthouse Cities) should be shown.

It can be beneficial to make use of peak shaving, demand response and energy management systems (read more on our Sustainable Energy Management Systems page), and to use solar energy to power technical solutions and equipment during summer time. Being assured of the support from a governmental level is always helpful. Further suggestions are to apply district cooling for large facilities and to use waste heat to feed district heating networks.

Plan for Implementation

The next steps do include a great variety of action fields. People in charge can design a modular (growing) low temperature district heating system and can roll out a district heating network in the whole city to obtain a peak shaving effect.

Moreover, swimming pools can be connected to excess heat sources such as data centres. It is also advisable to combine the low temperature heating network with seasonal storage (for example in heat bed rock) as well as to increase the use of waste heat and the share of solar PV electricity used by the municipality.

Furthermore, one should try to lower the peaks in the electricity network and could opt for the roll out a hybrid energy production system with solar thermal, PV, and geothermal sources. Securing functionality of solutions, including research institutions, and getting the support from the city’s energy and climate program are just as useful as initiating governmental incentives for investments, creating visually attractive material to present, and convincing decision makers The roll out of district heating networks could be stimulated to optimise district heating solutions.

Last but not least, organising site visits and facilitating increased information exchange between cities to overcome resistance can contribute to the success of the project.