Innovations for a sustainable energy future
Innovation management at EVN is organised as an interdisciplinary network. Its central responsibilities include the systematic monitoring of the environment and the detection of technologies and trends that are relevant for EVN in order to identify opportunities for innovation at an early point in time. An important step to systematise this process was taken in 2013/14 with the start of the “EVN trend monitor“. Following the identification of trends and technologies by EVN’s managers and experts, EVN employees were invited to register as trend scouts for various trend clusters. These trend scouts monitor current developments, locate the most important trends and provide interested employees with relevant information in the form of articles, videos, blogs etc. on an Intranet platform. EVN’s employees are also invited to share their know-how, interesting media reports and other information sources over the trend monitor to enable a more comprehensive monitoring of current trends and future developments.
Another key building block for innovation management is the “EVN future lab”. Various future scenarios for the company’s operating environment in 2030 were developed in line with the most important trends and used to pinpoint possible new future areas of activity based on EVN’s current core expertise.
Energy efficiency – demand side management
The volatility of windpower and solar power generation has created a range of new challenges for utility companies and also had an effect on EVN‘s innovation, development and research strategy. In this connection, EVN is working to improve energy efficiency in end customer households (among others through demand side management) and to store the surplus energy produced by renewable energy carriers during peak generation periods – not least as a means of supporting network stability.
The storage alternatives currently under evaluation by EVN involve electrochemical storage in batteries, chemical storage in the natural gas network and thermal storage in the form of heat:
- Hydrocarbons can be used as energy carriers for electricity generation and mobility in periods of high energy demand. Based on the “GECO“ feasibility study – which investigated the conditions under which the storage of surplus renewable energy in the natural gas network would generally be possible – the “wind2hydrogen“ project is now testing possible operational scenarios, operating conditions and business models in real time at a pilot plant.
- In Lichtenegg, EVN started to test the operational alternatives for battery storage during the reporting year. This “multifunctional energy storage“ study involves a real local network and is part of a small windpower plant project.
The optimisation of decentralised household photovoltaic equipment also makes an important contribution to network stability and supply security. In a joint project with a research partner, EVN defined the optimal configuration for household equipment based on individual consumption behaviour. The goal was to maximise the household’s own use and thereby reduce the burden on the electricity network in advance. The voltage monitor introduced by EVN in 2013/14 also helps to protect voltage quality by mounting the device on the feeder near the meter and gradually reducing the feed-in when there is an excessive voltage increase.
Sustainable energy generation and climate protection
EVN has set a goal to generate 50% of its electricity production from renewable energy sources over the medium term. In order to reach this goal, approx. EUR 140m will be invested to expand windpower generation capacity in Lower Austria over the coming years. Plans call for an increase from the current level of 213 MW on 30 September 2014 to 300 MW over the medium term. Work is also proceeding on a number of innovation projects to develop new methods for electricity generation from renewable energies and additional methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- The research and development projects CO2SEPPL (CO2 separation from flue gas) and CO2USE (production of bioplastics with microorganisms, CO2 and sunlight) were successfully continued during the reporting year. Most of the projects‘ goals were reached together with the participating partners Andritz, the Graz University of Technology and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.
- Sludge2energy: This process is based on the decentralised connection of sewage sludge drying with subsequent monocombustion and electricity generation by means of a gas turbine. It guarantees the optimal reduction of the sewage sludge volume and mass. No external thermal energy is needed due to the independent (self-sufficient) combustion and drying process, and most of the residual waste material can be recycled (e.g. in construction).