ALL IN ONE
An important factor for the future stability of the energy grid is also smart energy management in the home - the second most common form of housing in Germany at just under 30 %. But sector coupling is also essential in public spaces.
Especially in rural and suburban areas, they can be seen more and more frequently, enthroned in futuristic splendour on the roofs of modern single-family homes: photovoltaic systems empower homeowners to produce electricity autonomously, independent of fossil fuels such as coal and gas, and disconnected from the basic supply. This is not only economically viable, but also benefits the climate; after all, electricity production through solar energy does not produce any carbon dioxide emissions. However, there is widespread concern that a lack of sunshine or alternating generation and consumption rhythms could reduce the benefits of the systems.
In fact, it is rare for generation and consumption to coincide. By its very nature, the PV system reaches its production peak around midday, when radiation intensity is highest, and generates only a fraction of that towards evening. In most households, however, demand is lowest at midday, as fewer people tend to be at home at this time, and rises rapidly in the afternoon and evening. This disparity ensures that on average more than three quarters of the electricity generated is fed back into the grid. Although this results in little unused electricity, it is usually not in the interests of the operators: the goal is to actually use as much self-generated electricity as possible. Remedies include electricity storage, electric cars, cloud technologies - or a combination of all of these.
From consumers to prosumers
The number of providers offering smart all-round solutions is growing steadily. One of them is the EnBW subsidiary SENEC, which has launched SENEC.360, an integrated cloud-based system that promises just that. The surplus energy generated by the PV system is stored in the electricity storage unit for a short period of time and can be called up in the evening, for example. If a wallbox is available for charging an electric vehicle, it is also supplied with solar energy - at least if there is sufficient solar energy from the roof or in the storage unit. SENEC CEO Aurélie Alemany calls this concept "solar-optimised charging". If there is a surplus of electricity, it is credited to a virtual electricity account in the SENEC.Cloud and can be used at a later time if needed, for example in winter when the energy generated tends to be scarce.
An app that provides an overview of the private energy ecosystem rounds off the 360-degree package. "We are making electromobility climate-friendly with the combination of photovoltaic system, electricity storage, wallbox and cloud - because the e-car is particularly climate-friendly when renewable energies are used for charging," says Alemany.
Offers like these enable private households to achieve complete electricity autonomy. Instead of merely consuming, they become prosumers - they produce, use and distribute energy. The lion's share now remains in their own cycle, the degree of utilisation multiplies - and with it the ecological and economic advantages of the system. In addition, the electric car at the wallbox is also fully charged by renewable energies and, if a bidirectional - i.e. two-way - charging cable is available, functions as a further storage unit as soon as it is fully charged. So if the washing machine is running in the house, the energy required for it can reach its destination from three different sources.
Energy transition essential for mobility transition
A similar package is offered by the French energy company ENGIE, which has its German headquarters in Cologne - as well as the Berlin-based start-up Enpal, which has been able to attract billions of euros in investment in recent years. In order to be able to adequately use photovoltaics as an energy source, electricity storage is just as essential as sustainable electricity generation is for electromobility. The holistic approach, at the end of which there is a self-sufficient supply cycle, will play an increasingly important role in the energy transition in the future - and thus also in the mobility transition. The focus is still clearly on the home, but SENEC also has neighbourhood solutions in mind, as Alemany confirms when asked. However, some obstacles have to be overcome. Among other things, the electricity meter in apartment buildings is usually located in the basement, which complicates cloud solutions; after all, they communicate mostly via the mobile network. In addition, there is the well-known problem: space for wallboxes is at least limited, if not completely lacking.
The Berlin start-up ubitricity, which was recently taken over by Shell, is operating in this market niche. The business model sounds simple enough: street lamps that are connected to the power grid anyway are equipped with a small charging station for electric vehicles. In this way, people who would like to drive electrically but do not have the possibility to install their own wallbox should be able to charge their vehicle easily at the roadside. A nationwide expansion of this system could help to eliminate the main concern of those willing to make the switch: Where do I charge my car? Equipped with solar panels, the ubitricity pillars could soon be energy systems in their own right - in the middle of public space, accessible to all. ENGIE is also dedicated to the installation of smart lantern systems, and future developments should be watched with interest.
The energy sector is of great importance in terms of the mobility transition. Smart systems that connect the sectors have the potential to answer the questions that have always been and continue to be in the discussion about alternative drives and electrification. Smart energy systems in the home can play a big part in the success of the transformation, something that companies like SENEC and ENGIE have internalised. Aurélie Alemany, for example, emphasises that energy storage can increase the share of electricity consumption that can be replaced by solar power from around 30 to 35 % to 70 to 80 %. But the energy supply in public spaces will also be crucial to ensure that no one is left behind on the path to climate-neutral mobility.