Living lab for smart energy hubs

The Netherlands is in the midst of an energy transition. Currently, the demand for electricity is growing explosively due to a significant tilt towards sustainability, as well as the growing economy, the digitisation of society and the housing challenge. Developments are taking place at a faster rate than grid operators can reinforce the grids and, as a result, the grid is at capacity in more and more places. All developments – for decades to come – will have an impact on the energy system: electric transport, rooftop solar panels, wind energy, making industry more sustainable, housing challenges and the heat transition in neighbourhoods. The electricity grid being at capacity has implications on business and housing challenges in the Gelderland region, among others.

Energy from fossil fuels is giving way to energy from renewable sources, such as water, wind and solar. Our energy networks – as they are now – cannot cope with the energy transition. We are facing the following challenges:

  • The power grid has insufficient capacity to unlock the solar and wind projects of the Regional Energy Strategies (RESs), residential generation and business parks.
  • The grid has insufficient capacity to meet the rapidly increasing electricity demand from homes, businesses, and mobility.
  • The planned hydrogen network connects the five major energy clusters but will not connect the scattered industry in the East Netherlands, the so-called sixth cluster, for the time being.
  • Finally, weather-dependent energy sources increase the imbalance between supply and demand, and frequent grid failures can no longer be ruled out.

The East Netherlands is well positioned as a living lab for Smart Energy Hubs. Ekinetix investigated the ‘strength of the East Netherlands in the Energy Transition’ (original Dutch title: ‘kracht van Oost-Nederland in de Energietransitie’) in a positioning study in 2020. One of the key conclusions in this report is: “Integrated decentralised energy systems and living labs in which these systems are developed, tested and embedded match the strength and potential of this region.”

Living lab for smart energy hubs

In this context, the Smart Energy Hubs living lab has been set up in the East Netherlands, within which decentralised energy systems will be realised locally at 10 business parks in the provinces of Overijssel and Gelderland. Four hubs in Overijssel and six hubs in Gelderland. These are areas where complexity is high, and solutions require supra-local direction. In this way, we want to gain targeted knowledge and experience and learn from each other for a further roll-out of Smart Energy Hubs in the East Netherlands. Three Smart Energy Hubs in Lifeport, namely InnoFase , TPN-West Nijmegen and Brickvalley (scattered brickworks along the Waal and Rhine rivers). The sites have their own characteristics and their own solutions. By driving and accelerating the Smart Energy Hub development in Lifeport, we align with the East Netherlands’ proposition to act as a living lab for smart decentralised energy systems. On top of the two spearheads in the national climate policy – upgrading the power grid and working on the hydrogen backbone – the East Netherlands offers innovation, technology, and knowledge in the field of decentralised energy systems, which we will apply in the coming years in the living lab of Smart Energy Hubs.

A well-functioning Smart Energy Hub reduces pressure on grids, lowers energy costs, increases reliability of supply, and contributes greatly to making all our energy consumption emission-free. Here, the intention is to supply surplus energy back to neighbouring businesses in the future. This will require some form of energy storage, such as battery storage or hydrogen. Dutch entrepreneurs are fully engaged in working towards greater sustainability. The energy transition and circular business are ‘top of mind’ for many business owners. Precisely because sustainability offers growth opportunities and jobs. The Economic Board, together with the region, is going for a new and sustainable entrepreneurial perspective. We will only achieve this by cooperating fully in the region. With each other, but certainly also with local authorities and other partners.

Business park InnoFase has taken an important first step after a year of preparation: 17 parties signed a letter of intent to turn InnoFase in Duiven into a Smart Energy Hub to make locally generated renewable energy available at any time. By working together, locally produced renewable energy can be utilised here. This will make us less dependent on pressure on the national power grid.