By Tibor Tarabek
A rising tide of countries around the world have begun to craft sustainable energy systems designed to save energy users time and money while providing a cleaner energy future. EU countries have developed different strategies towards reaching this goal of developing a smarter energy future. How are these countries utilizing the potential of smart energy management in their march towards a more efficient future of energy?
A history of smart energy management
Why is smart energy management important? While it is possible to save energy on your own (with energy-saving TVs, LED lights, converter energy, etc.) these can only save roughly 20 percent of an energy bill at most. As technology becomes more advanced, we have been able to develop systems specifically designed to manage energy much more intelligently, reducing cost for the user and promoting a cleaner energy future.
Present day has started to trend towards smaller grids, making energy more resilient as there is no longer a need to rely solely on one large grid. When combined, smaller microgrids act as a “swarm of bees” when everything is going smoothly; in case of a natural or manmade energy disaster, however, they can act independently. Most importantly, they allow for smarter energy management.
Regulation plays a major part in how countries approach energy. Energy management in Europe is horizontally divided and regulated, meaning they have different companies working together to produce, distribute, and provide user sales. This is in stark contrast to the United States, which largely manages its electricity vertically (with the same company in charge of all stages of energy from its production to its user sales). This allows for a larger variation as to how each country approaches energy consumption within its borders.
The 2006 EU mandate requires each member country to convert 80 percent of its meters to smart meters by 2020. Some countries are on track, some are behind, and some are finding innovative ways to adhere to the new policy. Even with many similarities in grids and regulations, combining the whole grid of the EU is not a simple task.
Germany recently unveiled an ambitious plan tofully transition into smarter, cleaner energy use throughout the nation. The plan, called Energiewende, aims to make a transition from carbon-emitting power plants to renewable energy, thereby reducing consumption, and phasing out nuclear power and carbon emissions. Specifically, Germany wants to completely halt all nuclear energy production.
Germany has instituted a program to move away from fossil fuel energy production by 2038, and all of the atomic power plants by 2022. This strategy, while bold and beneficial to the future of energy usage, has proven difficult to actually carry out. Along with monetary concerns, there is currently a debate within Germany on how to replace the thousands of jobs in the coal industry. Even so, Germany remains in danger of failing to meet its lofty goals of reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020. At the present moment, Germany remains one of the highest producers of carbon emissions in the world.
In order to adhere to EU regulations, Germany is instituting smart metering for those who use over 10,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) in annual energy consumption. These smart meters are designed to expand the German energy market - to benefit the digital world while ensuring a high standard for its users. The German Smart Meters Operation Act states that grid operators are to carry out the maintenance of the meters; third-party operators, however, will be able to do this once granted approval.
Germany is also pushing for smart energy storage; they hope to have 200,000 smart home batteries installed by 2020. This is not only important for the future of renewable energy (which is currently unreliable), but also the ability to hold surplus energy. This advantage is vital in allowing renewable energy to gain a major foothold in Germany and elsewhere.
France is still producing over 70 percent of its energy with atomic power – it is the most atomic energy dependent country in the world. In fact, France has recently pushed back its plan to reduce dependence on nuclear energy by ten years. Even with this dependence on nuclear energy that will continue into the near future, President Macron has repeatedly made it clear that France will be committed to a clean, smart energy future.
France has taken the opposite approach to Germany in this regard – more nuclear energy but fewer carbon emissions. France ambitiously aims to reduce fossil fuels by 40 percent by 2030, including a legal framework to shutdown coal-fired power plants by 2022.
France is on track to have its EU mandated 80 percent of its grid run by smart meters, currently on pace for a massive 95 percent by 2020. By using smart energy management, France aims to decrease wasteful energy consumption throughout its country.
The United Kingdom
The UK is arguably the best in the world at developing energy systems with integrated smart control systems. The UK Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) has done a great job in developing smart energy systems within the UK. Ofgem is not afraid of regulating smart systems and allowing them to be connected to the national grid. Thousands of people are currently connected to smart control systems, with the potential for much more.
The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) recently launched a £30 million fund to promote local development of smart energy ideas. The goal of this initiative is to find innovation at the local level that can be scaled for use at the national level. The government is dedicated to providing citizens with the best technology in order to be more efficient with their energy consumption.
Across the EU, governments have been zealous in attacking climate change and increasing energy efficiency. While the strategies may differ, it’s inspiring to see the leaders of the western world set an example for the rest of the world to follow.
Tibor Tarabek is Chief Data Officer at FUERGY, an AI-powered device that utilizes blockchain to help users optimize energy consumption, maximize energy efficiency & participate in the energy market.
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