Advanced Energy Conversion and Distribution

Smart grid and storage solutions provide other means of more efficiently using available energy resources

Traditional renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar, while very important, are not the only solutions. Smart grid and storage solutions (advanced energy conversion and distribution) provide other means of more efficiently using available energy resources.

The key challenges in developing advanced energy solutions are updating the regulation and energy market design to keep up with new developments, rolling out smart meters as a prerequisite and engaging the public in playing an active role.

The main EU research and innovation focus is in the areas of smart grid design as well as operation and demonstrations to investigate active customer engagement.


Fuel Cells and Hydrogen

Fuel Cells are an efficient conversion technology and hydrogen is a clean energy carrier.

Together, they have great potential to address Europe's energy challenges and will have a significant role to play in a number of sectors from electric vehicles to power plants.

The key challenges are the cost of commercialisation of the technology and also to roll out the supporting infrastructure.


What is the European Commission doing?

The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) is a public-private partnership between the EU and European industry and research institutes.

The aim is to accelerate the development and deployment of fuel cells and hydrogen technologies.

The partners are implementing a programme of research, technological development and demonstration to accelerate the commercialisation of fuel cells and hydrogen technologies.


Flexible/Back-up generation

Renewable energy sources are generating an increasing share of electricity in Europe.

However, the intermittent nature of solar and wind energy means that they cannot be a direct replacement for conventional power plants.

Several solutions attempt to address this situation by providing flexibility of supply to the network:

  • Storage technology allows energy to be stored and supplied at a later time when needed. Examples include: fly wheels, compressed air energy storage, batteries, and pumped hydro storage
  • Demand response shifts the time of demand. It typically involves a voluntary, compensation agreement where consumers adjust their consumption to balance the grid at peak times
  • Flexibility can also be provided in the form of dispatchable power plants that can ramp up and down relatively quickly. These include dispatchable renewable energy plants, such as geothermal or concentrated solar power with embedded storage, as well as advanced gas turbine facilities

The main EU R & I focus is running trials to investigate active customer engagement and the role of aggregators in a market with flexible demand response.


Smart grids and energy system integration

Historically, energy networks were based on large central power stations with one way power flow from the network to the passive consumer.

Smart energy networks or "grids" increase the use of renewable energy resources by better integrating them and enabling two way flows in the local network.

A smart grid is more resilient and therefore able to prevent blackouts. They may also generate significant savings in energy and enable consumers to take an active role in the electricity market.

The most effective, secure and low carbon methods of integrating these diverse sources and providing heat, light, power and transport systems for our society is a major challenge facing Europe and the wider world.

Research to achieve these goals focuses on three broad themes:

  • Technology
  • Regulation and market design
  • Future roles of the TSO, DSO and consumer (customer engagement)

While the electricity network will certainly comprise a key component of any future energy system other sources should not be neglected, including the natural gas network, biogas and hydrogen.