On June 10th, Solar Heat Europe organised a webinar on one of the most relevant European topics these days: smart sector integration. We have been following this topic for some time, and already collected concrete examples and best practices from the solar thermal sector. After a public consultation closed on June 8th, the European Commission is now expected to publish a strategy in the coming weeks
In the meantime, we had the pleasure of hearing from 4 speakers on their different perspectives on this subject, on the challenges and opportunities for the solar thermal sector. If you missed it, here are the main points that we discussed:
Irene di Padua, Policy Officer, Solar Heat Europe/ESTIF: Smart sector integration and the European perspective
Irene gave us a brief overview of the ongoing debate at European level and the ways in which the solar thermal sector is involved in this debate. Sector integration should not be limited to gas and electricity, being an imperative to include heating and cooling. She presented the advantages of the integration of solar thermal with other renewable energy. One of the benefits is providing added flexibility to the power grid management, by integrating solutions that help balancing the grid and shaving peak demand. In order to do so, thermal energy storage (TES) is crucial, and its development should be a priority. For a real sector integration, it will be essential to raise awareness on this topic, combine centralised and decentralised energy solutions, and focus on energy efficiency.
Gerhard Stryi-Hipp, Head of Smart Cities group for the Fraunhofer Institute: Smart sector integration for climate-neutral energy systems of cities
Gerhard Stryi-Hipp showed the relevance of local policies and city planning tackle climate change, and shared an example related to the work they have developed for the city of Frankfurt. Indeed, smart sector integration allows for the coupling of electricity, heating and mobility while harnessing the potential of local renewable energy sources. To a achieve climate neutrality at city level, an optimal balance between non electric and electric heat generation by renewable energy sources have to be achieved. This is the strategy used by Frankfurt to be supplied by almost 100% of renewable energy by 2050.
Christian Holter, CEO, SOLID: Smart sector integration, Industrial solar heating and cooling
Christian presented several concrete examples and projects and explained the process of integrating solar thermal with other renewable energy sources in buildings. Combined with district heating, solar thermal can provide heating, but also cold water and air conditioning from a thermal driven cooling device. One of the cases presented includes biomass and solar heat, with the use of storage to manage peak load in the winter. Christian Holter stressed that storage is one of the main priority and challenge to smart sector integration and TES a relevant option.
Christos Travasaros, Production manager and business development manager, Prime Laser Technology: Solar thermal solutions in smart system integration in Greece
Christos presented smart sector integration at residential and small scale level, with a strong focus on digitalisation. The use of smart meters, which help to monitor the energy demand, allows thermosiphon systems, an ubiquitous application in Greek households, to participate in reserve and ancillary services, supporting the management of the power grid. New technologies and tools benefit both the supplier and the consumer, but there is still a need for more research and innovation funds and development of related business models. Decentralised solar thermal for hot water and space heating should be the priority in planning sector integration.
The presentations were followed by a Q&A session and covered a variety of topics, from the role of heating and cooling in the smart sector integration process, to the potential of solar thermal, the necessity to start planning now the future of energy, especially at local and city level or even the limitations to some highly propelled solutions, such as hydrogen.
Special thanks to our moderator Bärbel Epp, founder of Solrico.
If you have any question concerning this webinar or this issue, or if you wish to propose our next topic, please contact us at [email protected].