Bild: Fraunhofer IEE

Digitization is a central key to implementing the energy transition

With the study “Digitization of the Energy System – 14 Theses for Success”, the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence CINES positions itself on the digitization of the energy system. CINES is an association of Fraunhofer institutes and addresses the central technological and economic challenges of the energy transition, thus bundling the competencies for applied energy research in the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

Based on the current state of digitization of the energy system, Fraunhofer experts from the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence “Integrated Energy Systems” have developed 14 theses in a study that highlight the potentials of a more far-reaching digitization of the various sectors and, at the same time, current obstacles. The objective of the study published in September 2022, in which experts from the Fraunhofer Institutes IEE, ISE, SIT, ISI, and IOSB-AST participated, was first to analyze current trends in the fields of energy and digitization and to determine the current state of digitization in the energy system. Based on this, 14 theses were drawn up in collaboration with internal and external experts, which also contain concrete recommendations for action for players in the energy system and for policymakers.

In a symposium on the digitization of the energy transition, the theses were presented and discussed at Fraunhofer ENIQ in Berlin on September 27 and 28, 2022. “It became clear that the timely and economical implementation of the energy transition requires a far-reaching digitization of the German energy system, from plant control to the upper grid levels,” said digitization expert and head of Fraunhofer IEE, Dr. Reinhard Mackensen, summarizing the discussions.

The theses of the study are divided into five main areas, which result from an analysis of the most relevant trends in energy system transformation and digitalization: Data economics, sector coupling, plant communication, grid planning and operation, cyber security. This study thus aims to contribute to the further development of digitization in the energy system in order to establish the climate-neutral energy industry with digital tools in the best possible way.

“The authors of the study have formulated theses for all key topics that do not have a purely national perspective, but are also intended to provide an impetus for a European strategy for the digitization of energy supply,” explains Dr. Marijke Welisch, Managing Director of Fraunhofer CINES. However, the focus of the analysis and the concrete recommendations for action was the German regulatory and legal situation.

“In summary, the authors believe that digitization is a key factor in the implementation of the energy transition. Without far-reaching and consistent digitization, from plant control, through the entire grid cascade, to the individual sectors, an economic and timely energy transition is not feasible,” concludes Manuel Wickert of Fraunhofer IEE, who heads the digitization dimension in the CINES cluster.

“In this context, a data economy can be the enabler to make the necessary cross-actor process automation possible. In order to further increase the security of energy supply, cyber resilience must also play a relevant role in a European digitalization strategy for energy supply,” Wickert and his colleagues are convinced.

Antonia Heinemann from Umlaut Energy in her keynote stressed that Germany’s expansion targets for renewable energy and e-mobility for 2030 can only be achieved by using efficient digital tools and processes.

There were exciting presentations and lively discussions on the role of digitization in the energy system of the future on both days. Participants and experts from research, business and politics discussed trends, challenges and possible solutions on the topics of sensors and IoT in the energy industry, digital energy supply companies, data rooms, cyber security and digitalized sector coupling.

The 14 theses on the digitization of the energy system are:

Thesis 1: In the future, the value of energy will depend on the linked data

Thesis 2: Digitally driven value networks are the future of energy supply

Thesis 3: A Sovereign and Resilient European Energy System Requires EU-Based ICT

Thesis 4: Without digitized sector coupling, the costs of transforming the energy system will rise significantly

Thesis 5: Viable energy industry business models for digitized sector coupling at the neighborhood level currently fail due to regulatory hurdles

Thesis 6: Efficient decarbonization of the heating sector can only be achieved with digitization

Thesis 7: The smart metering system will be overtaken by other solutions in plant communication

Thesis 8: The energy transition needs plant communication based on current IT technologies and open documentation

Thesis 9: Modern plant communication is plug&play capable and enables cross-actor process automation

Thesis 10: Digitization is a necessary core competence in future power grid operations

Thesis 11: A decentralized energy transition means complete digitization down to the lower grid levels

Thesis 12: Timely implementation of the energy transition can only succeed through complete digitization of planning and approval processes

Thesis 13: Cyber resilience will replace cybersecurity

Thesis 14: Reliable EV networks require reliable communication networks

Fraunhofer Cluster CINES

The Cluster of Excellence Integrated Energy Systems CINES addresses the central technological and economic challenges of the energy transition. The goal is the system and market integration of high shares of variable renewable energies into the energy system. For this purpose, CINES bundles the competencies of the institutes for applied energy research of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.

CINES develops solutions for energy system transformation – comprehensive, cross-sector energy system analyses, digital solution models for the digitalization of new technologies, decisive advances in electrolysis, power electronics and heat, and the successful communication of the energy transition.

CINES is composed of Fraunhofer ISE, IEE, ISI, IEG and IWES as well as the partner institutes UMSICHT, IOSB-AST, ICT, SIT and IBP.