2017-03-15 ¦ The first Community of Practice (COP) workshop

The first Community of Practice workshop, organized in the framework of the EU-funded Project ReFlex, took place from the 13th to 15th of March 2017 in Wüstenrot, a village close to Stuttgart in Germany. This event brought together up to 30 participants: Swedish, German, Austrian and Swiss project partners, stakeholders and experts of the seven running demo sites participating in the ReFlex project. The main objectives of this event were to learn from the field-testing experiments carried out by the ReFlex partners, to identify and to discuss crosscutting issues (marketplace, stakeholders, and technology) encountered in the demo site regions and, furthermore, to agree upon research questions to be followed up.

The first afternoon session, scheduled on Monday 13th March 2017, was dedicated to the demo site Wüstenrot. The short introduction, made by representatives of the Municipality of Wüstenrot was followed by two interesting presentations. The participants got first insights into the EnVisaGe project aiming at accelerating the transformation of the Municipality of Wüstenrot towards a plus-energy community. The first event day was completed by a guided tour through the plus-energy neighborhood “Vordere Viehweide”.

The second event day, on Tuesday 14th March 2017, started with a short welcome and ReFlex project presentation. During the morning session, a poster gallery offered the opportunity for the participants to talk to and get feedback from demo site representatives as well as to have a better overview of all the smart grid projects involved in the ReFelx project and their highlights. A short round table discussion was held to debate which topics should be discussed in small groups. The seven demo site representatives decided to reflect on the following four research questions:

  • Storage system and the services they can provide
    • The main discussed question: “Are there any economic business models for storage systems?”
  • Demand side management from a technical perspective  
    • The group discussed about successful approaches. Easiness of installation and integration (for example batteries) could be a successful factor for technologies introduction. Demand side management success is tightly coupled with business models; proper tariff design is a prerequisite condition.
  • End user acceptance
    • Not only prices but also awareness, an easy interface and clear benefits for users are extremely important for end user’s acceptance
  • Island grids, specific challenges related to microgrids or weak rural settings
    • Demand has risen significantly. Technical and economical investment are needed to flexibilize the local grid and the interconnection to the mainland, but complex ownership doesn’t facilitate the needed investment, a more flexible regulation could facilitate these improvements.

During the afternoon session of the second event day, discussions continued in two consecutives parallel sessions, focusing on four predefined key research questions. Demo sites experts had prepared for this purpose short speeches and leading questions to launch the discussion:

  • Important steps towards new regulations
  • Preconditions/requirements for successful business models
  • Data security and privacy and good practices when working with end users
  • Project launch, management and end user involvement

The first COP has been a success and the following research questions need to be followed up:

  1. What are the benefits of the Wüstenrot solution for other municipalities: who is benefiting and who is paying the overall cost of infrastructure?
  2. What are the key driver for the deployment and adoption of smart grid solutions? How does the diffusion of smart grid technologies relate to the overall use of energy (shift from an energy carrier (oil) to another (heat pumps) or how it does depend on local conditions? How fast can it be and who has to be involved?
  3. How to integrate renewable energy sources and storage systems (including long term seasonal storage system for power-to-heat) into the grid? Business model for suppliers, municipalities, house owners?
  4.  Smart meters allow for quicker troubleshooting and maintenance cost reduction. Do they provide other benefits, especially in countries where power quality is not an issue?
  5. Does it make sense to scale down smart grid solutions to sell more products?
  6. How to attract small companies (SMEs) to take part in smart grid projects?
  7. What strategies should small distribution system operators (DSOs) adopt? What could be outsourced and what should be kept in house?