A smart grid can balance supply and demand
The current energy value chain starts with the major producers, from where the energy is transported, distributed and ultimately sold to businesses and households. The boundaries between these steps are blurring, and households with solar panels are becoming "prosumers". The network is a grid of power lines which transport electricity from the power plants to the consumers. In the past, such a network could find itself unable to meet market demand. The focus at that time was on increasing production, often using fossil fuels. By adding smart technology to the grid , we can gain a better understanding of how this grid operates. A smart grid also enables a two-way interaction between all the players in the value chain. The grid forecasts how much energy is needed when, and can even influence demand. Sharing information with each other can improve how the grid is used.
Energy islands, driven by local needs and opportunities
In addition to the standard grid, we can also set up energy islands to supply energy to a particular neighborhood. Within such an island, we combine all the energy vectors, and manage them together. This differs from the normal way things work, where they would be managed separately. Given a holistic picture like this, it is also much easier for renewable energy to claim its place. For example, a factory with solar panels uses the energy it produces during the week, but a lot is often lost over the weekend. Within an energy island, this energy can be made available to households in the vicinity of the factory. Islands stand alone, but can also jump in if the standard grid is at risk of failing.
We are working on the RENergetic project, which is co-financed by the European Commission. This project revolves around community-led, sustainable, multi-vector energy islands. The aim of the RENergetic project is to improve the efficiency, community involvement and socio-economic viability of three urban energy islands. One of these is located in Ghent.