Renewable energy and energy storage
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 electricity net capacity is insufficient to cope with more data centres. From a social point of view, people in charge should take into account the public opinion on environmental issues, need to search for the engagement and commitment of property owners, and have to convince the local decision makers to support the implementation. It is also difficult to draw up certain business models since the conventional energy price is too low to make higher efficiency and renewable energy solutions financially feasible. The limited availability of financial resources might also pose a risk. This is also true for the inertia of the public utility as well as the lack of innovation within municipalities and utility companies. Furthermore, innovative solutions need more explanation both towards construction practitioners as towards end-users. Additionally, the regulations regarding solar PV panels and electricity (that must be used in the building where it has been produced and cannot be sold tax-free to tenants) can pose problems. Also the governance will face various challenges. It is undeniable that multi stakeholder processes and 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 banking and funding. Finally, setting up contracts with suppliers and data centre owners can also be quite challenging. All in all, energy utility’s transition towards renewable energy is a slow process.
Taking away subsidies for CO2 emitting and nuclear energy production, implementing a fossil fuel 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 can also be stated that good design and communication will result in less protest. Cities can also 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 also be beneficial to make use of peak shaving, to demand response and energy management systems, and to use solar power to power technical solutions and equipment during the 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 peak shaving. 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 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 to roll out a hybrid system with solar thermal, PV, and geothermal. Securing functionality of solutions, including research institutions, and getting the support from the city energy and climate program are just as useful as initiating governmental incentives for investments, creating visually attractive material to present and convince decision makers as well as simulating district heating networks to optimise district heating solutions. Last but not least, organising site visits and having more information exchange between Lighthouse Follower Cities to overcome the resistance can contribute to the success of the project.