Smart Energy System

The Smart Energy System enables national energy systems to be converted from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy, without consuming an unsustainable level of bioenergy . The concept has been under development at the Sustainable Energy Planning Research Group in Aalborg University, Denmark, since the early 1990's. The key principal behind the Smart Energy System is the integration of the various sectors in energy system, so that intermittent renewable sources (such as wind and solar power) can utilize new sources of flexibility, such as thermal storage, gas storage, and liquid fuel storage.
Today's Energy System
Today, the design of the energy system is based on fossil fuels. This makes the energy system very flexible and reliable since large amounts of energy can be stored in liquid, gas, and solid form via fossil fuels. This means that energy can be provided ‘on demand’, as long as there is a suitable fossil fuel storage nearby, such as a diesel tank in a car, a gas tank for a boiler, or a coal storage for a power plant. Hence, fossil fuels have provided society with a lot of flexibility: fossil fuel
Future and the Smart Energy System
The future energy system will rely on renewable energy resources such as wind and solar power. These resources do not contain large amounts of stored energy, but instead the energy from the wind, sun, waves, and tides must be captured and used immediately. This is the key technological challenge facing energy systems in the future.
* Challenge: How can the future energy system, which will be based on renewable energy, operate without the flexibility currently being provided by large amounts of stored energy in fossil fuels, while simultaneously providing affordable energy and utilising a sustainable level of the resources available?
* Solution: The solution will be to find new forms of flexibility within the energy system, which are affordable and utilise renewable energy resources in an efficient manner. This is called a smart energy system.
A smart energy system consists of new technologies and infrastructures which create new forms of flexibility, primarily in the ‘conversion’ stage of the energy system. This is achieved by transforming from a simple linear approach in today’s energy systems (i.e. fuel to conversion to end-use), to a more interconnected approach. In simple terms, this means combining the electricity, thermal, and transport sectors so that the flexibility across these different areas can compensate for the lack of flexibility from renewable resources such as wind and solar. The smart energy system uses technologies such as:
* Smart Electricity Grids to connect flexible electricity demands such as heat pumps and electric vehicles to the intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar power.
* Smart Thermal Grids (District Heating and Cooling) to connect the electricity and heating sectors. This enables thermal storage to be utilised for creating additional flexibility and heat losses in the energy system to be recycled.
* Smart Gas Grids to connect the electricity, heating, and transport sectors. This enables gas storage to be utilised for creating additional flexibility. If the gas is refined to a liquid fuel, then liquid fuel storages can also be utilized.
In a stricter sense, these infrastructures can be defined as:
# Smart Electricity Grids are electricity infrastructures that can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected to it - generators, consumers and those that do both - in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supplies.
# Smart Thermal Grids are a network of pipes connecting the buildings in a neighbourhood, town centre or whole city, so that they can be served from centralised plants as well as from a number of distributed heating or cooling production units including individual contributions from the connected buildings.
# Smart Gas Grids are gas infrastructures that can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected to it - supplies, consumers and those that do both - in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure gas supplies and storage.

Based on these fundamental infrastructures, a Smart Energy System is defined as an approach in which smart Electricity, Thermal and Gas Grids are combined and coordinated to identify synergies between them in order to achieve an optimal solution for each individual sector as well as for the overall energy system.
Designing Smart Energy Systems: EnergyPLAN
The advanced energy systems analysis model, EnergyPLAN, has been developed to model these smart energy systems on an hourly basis (, so that optimal solutions can be identified. The results verify that with these smart grids in place, it is possible to transform to 100% renewable energy systems by 2050, based on sustainable resources and while providing energy at the same price as fossil fuels.
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