How can digital innovations contribute to the EU’s ambitious programme for a sustainable energy transition? The Digital Solar & Storage Conference addressed these questions with over 250 industry players, experts, policy makers and media representatives which attended the event at Brussels’ Thurn & Taxis area.
More than 55 expert speakers came, including high-level European policymakers. As such, Ditte Juul Jorgensen, Director-General for Energy from the European Commission. She kicked off the conference with a key statement: “Our top priority is putting the new green deal into practice, and solar energy is key to this transition”.
After her opening keynote, a distinguished panel laid out the possibilities and the state-of-art for solar energy in the EU. Particularly impressive was the presentation of flowing solar power plants panels with an image of the PV Park Sekdoorn in The Netherlands. Since only 10 % of Europe’s fresh water man-made reservoirs can hold large-scale so-called floating PV’s, this is an unique opportunity to reconcile natural resources and energy supply. During the break, Mercè Labordena and Raffaele Rossi from Solar Power Europe explained the YEL delegation further details on these floating solar power plants.
Another session addressed ways and means to use digital technology to make renewable solar energies more effective. Ditlev Engel from DNV GL – Energy asked: “When self-learning blockchain & AI systems are in charge, how can users and managers trust technologies which connect all data?”.
Indeed, data protection in the age of automated decision-making and algorithmic analytics is still a key concern not only for energy companies. Also public policy actors need to ensure that the EU’s high consumer protection standards are being maintained. Therefore, trust in digital infrastructures is key to implementing future sustainable energy systems. But policymakers also look at another key issue when moving towards sustainable energy in Europe. Solar combined with digitalisation and storage options will be some of the most important technologies in the years to come to improve security and flexibility of energy systems and meet energy targets. Dr. Ole Langniß argued that blockchain technology can be the core of business, serving as common data layer for solar energy systems and data sharing. Indeed, blockchain technology may fundamentally change how electricity markets operate. Therefor, it is of fundamental importance for the EU to reconcile consumer protection and privacy standards as well as more closely connecting advancements in digital technologies to renewable energy sources.
The uprising Internet of Things (IoT) environment offers new ways of distributing, controlling and reusing zero marginal cost renewable energies. The digital infrastructure for these systems are key, because they determine how efficient and sustainable the energy resource is used. For further advancements, the SolarPower Europe Digitalisation & Solar Task Force specifically investigates questions around smart meters, smart buildings and smart grids, and which opportunities and obstacles arise in combination with solar energy. Moreover, since digital technology can connect solar with other small-scale generation technologies, how can consumption and demand be more balanced in the future? How can so-called Virtual Power Plants assist in the transition?
The SolarPower Europe Digitalisation & Solar Task Force Report entitled ‘When solar policy went digital’ looks in-depth at the processes and requirements of the solar energy ecosystem for policymakers. The report is based on 10 previously developed high-level regulatory demands to encourage the uptake of key digital technologies and services. Additionally, Task Force members, solar and energy companies, voluntarily committed themselves to a set of standards for data protection, interoperability and facilitating towards the growth of the solar energy sector in Europe. More than 50 European digital solar companies identified a need for reforming the EU electricity market design and facilitate the integration of renewables in a ‘Go Digital’ declaration. The report therefor addresses both European policy makers as well as digital solar service providers to facilitate the energy transition towards the full integration of solar and renewables to implement the Green Deal. The link to the report can be found here.
The hashtag #DigitalSolarStorage featured in over 100 tweets, reaching over 165,000 followers on Twitter, towards which also the YEL delegation contributed. The afternoon concluded with a presentation of four Startup Awards finalists in the field of solar & renewable energy transition. The audience elected FlexiDAO, a cleantech start-up based in Barcelona ,as the winner. FlexiDAO provides a software platform for Energy Retailers that harnesses the power of blockchain technology to provide energy data management tools. This award concluded the first day of the Digital Solar & Storage Conference 2019.
The YEL Delegation much enjoyed attending the enriching presentations, panel discussions as well as fruitful discussions with the SolarPower Europe team and participants.
Rosanna Fanni is a digital science researcher. She currently pursues an Erasmus Mundus MA in Digital Communication Leadership in Brussels. Her main research interests are centered around the dissemination of information with a particular focus on political communication. Rosanna is German-Italian and holds a degree from FU Berlin and UCL London. She was a YEL delegate to the 2019 Digital Solar & Storage event organized by SolarPower Europe.