Energy is a topic for the future all over the world. Fossil fuels are running out, while burning them accelerates worldwide climate change. With the phase-out of nuclear energy in Germany, decided by the federal government in 2011 in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, all German nuclear power stations will be closed by 2022 and alternative energy sources will have to be found.
The transition to renewable energies is presenting municipal energy providers in particular with new challenges. Rhineland-Palatinate alone is planning to gain 100 per cent financially of the electricity used in the state from renewable energy sources by 2030 and to become an electricity exporter. As a consequence of this, however, supplies to business and thus the competitiveness of Rhineland-Palatinate as an industrial location must be secured permanently. At the same time, energy providers have an obligation to offer private individuals affordable energy prices.
Because of this development, renewable energies must be tapped and supply networks expanded and adapted to the requirements of renewable energies. Regional energy providers therefore play an important role in shaping the energy of the future in our state.
Local authorities as partners. As an energy provider, EWR AG is predominantly active in Rhine-Hesse and the Hessian Ried, along with its subsidiaries EWR Netz GmbH and EWR Neue Energien GmbH. The company sees it as its role to use innovative ideas to make the region a showcase for the future of energy. Because only dealing with energy sustainably and in ways that make both economic and environmental sense will allow us to contribute to maintaining and increasing people’s quality of life, even given the coming transition to alternative energies.
Regional energy providers attach particularly great importance to involving the districts in their supply areas in the network activities and thus building partnerships for the region’s energy future. After all, expanding renewable energies over the next few years will require not just powerful and intelligent networks, but also regional partnerships. This close networking in the region brings with it responsibilities for the company, which it is happy to live up to. This includes, for example, supporting cultural or sporting institutions and events. EWR supports sustainable regional projects in particular, such as the current reforestation of the Ober-Olmer forest with 5,000 saplings.
A network for the transition to renewable energies. In the EWR network area, around 125 wind turbines and over 6,500 photovoltaic systems are currently feeding their electrical energy into the network. And this is only set to rise significantly. However, generating green energy is only part of the transition to alternative energies. Electricity generated by sun or wind has completely new requirements of the networks which deliver the electricity to the customers. While in the past it was simply about transporting the electricity from the power stations to the users, it must now be possible to control the network flexibly. This is because, although renewable energies and other local generation systems are feeding ever more electricity generated in an environmentally friendly way into the network, they do not always do so at the times it is needed. A structure is therefore needed which is able to compensate for the fluctuating productivity of local energy generation systems, especially a lack of wind or sunshine. If a wind power plant is built, for example, EWR Netz GmbH erects the transformer stations or expands existing ones to allow the connection of larger wind parks. In addition, the required conditions are created to feed the energy generated from photovoltaic systems into the network and to stabilise the network close to these systems if necessary.
In the future, an intelligent network called a smart grid will ensure the optimum use of renewable energies and above all consistent voltage quality. This allows excess energy from renewable sources to be stored in storage elements and passed on to the electricity network later. If no energy from renewable sources is available, energy from the storage elements or conventional power plants is fed into the network. In data transmission, we are combining the establishment of a smart grid with optical fibre conductor technology – also known as glass fibre technology.
Smart grids also allow mobility, because an intelligent network will be used in the future to control the supply of electricity to electric cars. That’s why EWR is already paving the way for integrating electromobility into our network area in good time. In order to achieve this, the company is a member of groups such as the working group for electromobility in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and supports the Rhine-Main showcase region in a number of projects. With a fleet of electric cars and the establishment of an extensive charging infrastructure, it is now gaining the experience needed to secure mobility for the future.
Investments for the region. The Federal Network Agency has certified EWR as a network operator with an efficiency value of 100 per cent. Electricity networks must be expanded and adapted in order to guarantee reliable energy supplies even in times of renewable energies. That’s why EWR is investing 30 million euros every year in the maintenance and expansion of the networks and another 100 million euros over the next ten years for the integration of renewable energy systems. One advantage of municipal energy suppliers: the majority of these investments remain in the region, thus strengthening the local economy and securing jobs and apprenticeships. However, it is not only the network which has to be equipped for the requirements of the future – among the staff, too, the necessary expertise is being developed to meet the technical challenges the transition to alternative energy brings.
Following his apprenticeship as a power electronics technician, the author studied information technology, business management and economics alongside work. From 2002 to 2010 he was CEO of Energiegemeinschaft LEW. He was a member of the management board of Elektrizitätswerk Landsberg from 2004 to 2010. Since 2010, he has been the member of the executive board responsible for sales at EWR.