With this monthly newsletter, we hope to provide you with interesting insights and exciting new findings. Making long-term energy system planning feasible is a joint effort, which is why we want to point out to you what has been keeping us busy this month!

Let’s meet…

Starting with the new year, we are launching a new series: Meet the Team! From now on, you will get to know one team member with every newsletter. Today, you are meeting…

Magical Physicist

Steffen joined the team in autumn last year to support with backend and further development of the optimization algorithm kerith’s magic is the result of. By choice (and heart), Steffen is a physicist with a special interest in leveraging his skills and knowledge to work against climate change. What impresses upon that is how he coordinates his work for kerith and sporty activities while progressing with his master thesis in atmospheric physics and transport processes (magic again). The whole team is very much looking forward to asking him this question in person very soon. 

What are your main tasks at kerith? Backend development with Julia, refining and testing the energy optimization algorithm.

How do you spend your free time? Staying safe and socially distanced. Playing football, running, cycling. Besides, learning about the global challenges mankind is facing & thinking about solutions.

Why have you decided to join kerith? Contributing to a decisive societal challenge, the energy transition, in a young and dynamic team with fresh and open minds. How cool is that!

What makes kerith special for you? The importance of the vision. Designing present and future energy systems that are carbon-neutral, reliable, and still affordable is crucial if humanity is to achieve sustainable ways of living on this planet.

What are you known for among your colleagues? For unfortunately not having been able to meet anyone in the team in person yet.

Global Developments

13th February

HyDeal Ambition to deliver green hydrogen across Europe at the price of fossil fuels

The European initiative “HyDeal-Ambition” aims to offer 3.6Mt of green hydrogen at the price of fossil fuels by 2030 - which is at 1.5€/kg. To achieve this goal, production is scheduled to start in 2022. The technology used is solar-driven electrolysis. A series of projects and partnerships are currently being launched involving several of the 30 participants of HyDeal Ambition, with a first initiative expected within a year in Spain, based on a portfolio of solar sites with a capacity of close to 10 GW.

14th February

Discussion of the February 2021 Texas winter storm

Prolonged frigid temperatures last weekend caused electricity demand in the Texas power grid, or ERCOT, to explode. The extreme cold resulted in more than 30GW of power plant outages, and a situation where demand outstripped supply by 30%. This resulted in millions of Texans being without power, heat, and clean water. 

The linked article uncovers the causes of this extreme weather phenomenon as well as the system failures and proposes solutions for how to improve it.

There also is a podcast episode of Switched On speaking with Anastacia Dialynas, head of US oil research, and Nick Steckler, head of North America power analysis for BNEF. They’re going to tell us about how the state’s power, oil and gas sectors went down at once, and what Texas might consider to ‘build back better’.

15th February

Sunshine record in 2020 due to unusual weather

Not the drop in aerosol emissions in the wake of the first lockdown but dry and cloudless weather was mainly responsible for the unusually high solar irradiance in Western Europe in spring 2020. The results of a study conducted with the support of the University of Cologne are published in the current issue of Nature Communications Earth & Environment.

A large part of Western Europe experienced exceptionally sunny and dry weather from March 23 to the end of May 2020. Extreme sunshine duration was reported in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, coupled with exceptionally deep blue skies. At the same time, these countries had gone into lockdown to counteract the corona pandemic. The theory was that reduced emissions of aerosols from industry and traffic allowed more sunshine to reach the earth’s surface.

20th February

The warmest years since 1880

With a slightly cooler end, the year 2020 secured the rank of second warmest year in the 141-year record, with a global land and ocean surface temperature departure from an average of +0.98°C (+1.76°F). This value is only 0.02°C (0.04°F) shy of tying the record high value of +1.00°C (+1.80°F) set in 2016 and only 0.03°C (0.05°F) above the now third-warmest year on record set in 2019. The seven warmest years in the 1880–2020 record have all occurred since 2014, while the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005. The year 1998 is no longer among the 10 warmest years on record, currently ranking as the 11th warmest year in the 141-year record. The year 2020 marks the 44th consecutive year (since 1977) with global land and ocean temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average.

26th February

Further insights into the system split from the 8th of January

About eight weeks ago, the grid frequency dropped below 49.75 Hz at 14:05:07 (CET), leading to a system split in the following hour. This event emphasizes the importance of accurate energy system planning with special attention to grid stability even more!

In addition to its detailed analysis, which covers more of the consequences of this split, ENTSO-E has also published further insights. 

Local Developments

01st February

People switch their electricity supplier more often

The statistics show the results of the representative survey conducted by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries on the switching behaviour of households on the electricity market in Germany (as of 2021). In October 2020, the cumulative switching rate of households on the German electricity market since liberalization in 1998 was around 48.2 percent.

10th February

PlasmaFuel: Turning CO2 into fuel for ships and aircrafts

A research project at the University of Stuttgart is looking for solutions to find alternative fuels for ships and aircrafts. As part of the new research project “PlasmaFuel” the Universities of Stuttgart and Bayreuth and two industrial partners are trying to develop such an alternative out of carbon dioxide from the air or industrial waste gases. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology with about 1.2 million euros while additional funding comes from the industrial partners. According to a statement from the universities, dirty crude oil in diesel engines used in shipping causes a considerable proportion of greenhouse gas emissions around the world. Passenger and cargo aircraft turbines also contribute their share of high CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Synthetic fuels that do not require fossil raw materials would therefore make a major contribution to achieving climate targets.

10th February

Power Plant Operators sign agreement on phase-out of lignite

On Wednesday, EnBW, RWE and Leag signed the German governments' public agreement on the lignite phase-out among other power plant operators. According to EnBW, the risk of possible claims for damages had previously been eliminated. EnBW’s sole lignite unit in Lippendorf, Saxony, will now be shut down without compensation by the end of 2035 at the latest. The agreement is intended to create planning and legal certainty for the federal government and power plant operators.

19th February

Cooking when the sun shines

Students at Coburg University have developed an app to guide consumers to use electricity in the home at the right time and thus save CO2. “Peak Pick” is the name of the application, which evaluates the season and weather, the Europe-wide electricity market and total consumption.
“When the sun is at its zenith, a particularly large amount of solar power is generated,” they say. ‘Cook at noon when the weather is nice - and eat cold in the evening and save CO2.’ Actually quite easy,' says Sascha Greilinger, a student at Coburg University of Applied Sciences, who discovered the topic for himself years ago and is now consistently pursuing it. After all, not only can greenhouse gases be reduced in this way, but the burden on the power grids can also be eased.

Let’s get scientifical

10th February

Study by the German transmission system operators on the coal phase-out

In July 2020, the Bundestag and Bundesrat decided to phase out coal-fired power generation in Germany by 2038; this is governed by the Coal-fired Power Generation Termination Act (KVBG). The associated serious change in the generation landscape creates new challenges for the transmission system operators. In the KVBG, they were therefore obliged to examine the effects of the phase-out of coal-fired power generation on aspects of system security and system stability in a long-term network analysis.

20th February

Paper: Governance through real-time compliance: the supranationalisation of European external energy policy

Member States have retained core competencies in external energy policy since the beginning of European integration. Even the new ‘energy chapter’ in the Lisbon Treaty safeguards national prerogatives. Contrasting this trend, we show that throughout the past decade this national stronghold has been eroding and replaced by supranational oversight. Reviewing energy-related negotiations of Poland and Lithuania with Russia and a new regulation on intergovernmental agreements, we demonstrate how the Commission gained control over Member States’ external energy relations. We explain the expansion of supranational authority with spillover pressures equipping the Commission with new procedural prerogatives. Central to this development was the institutionalisation a novel supranational instrument we call ‘real-time compliance’. The term denotes the prompt application of soft and coercive means, ensuring compliance of energy agreements between the Member States and third countries with EU rules. This expansion of supranational powers through procedural competences has implications for debates on European energy policy and European integration.