DES ’23 Key Takeaways: Facing the Energy Sector’s Digitalisation Challenges

The long-awaited regional flagship event, Digital Energy Summit ’23, has concluded, featuring discussions among experts in energy and digital solutions, focusing on the key challenges of digitalisation in the energy sector and effective strategies to tackle them.

The topics covered this year included artificial intelligence, flexibility, smart grids, data analytics, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), cyber security, smart metering, and interoperability.

In her welcome address, our director and moderator of the event, Mojca Černelč Koprivnikar, underscored the importance of international cooperation and exchange of experiences in the broader global arena. She emphasized the pivotal role played by innovative and daring stakeholders as the driving force for future development.

The Development of the Energy Sector through Digitalisation
Uroš Salobir, Director of Strategic Innovation at ELES, presented the European Union’s Digital Energy Action Plan, outlining its implications for the energy sector’s activities in digitalisation. Salobir highlighted the document’s focus on greater integration in the transmission and distribution of electricity, aiming to find comprehensive digitalisation solutions. He outlined three key future directions: redefining network resilience and robustness, promoting network flexibility, and digitalising network management. Salobir stressed the importance of addressing both past and current challenges alongside preparing for future hurdles.

Dr. Emilija Stojmenova Duh

Transitioning from Passive to Dynamic Distribution Networks
Dr. Luka V. Strezoski from the University of Novi Sad discussed the evolution of future distribution networks, emphasizing the need for a paradigm shift in their approach. Strezoski highlighted that these networks, once passive entities merely transferring energy to users, have evolved considerably in the past two decades. With the introduction of renewable energy sources, networks now demand increased complexity and dynamism. He stressed the need for intelligent and centralised network management, pointing out active management systems as crucial for monitoring, control, and optimisation of networks, enabling flexibility in energy sources and deferral of capital investments.

Ilias Iakovidis

Network Stabilisation Solutions
Dr. Jodi Verboomen of Siemens Energy discussed the significance of network stabilisation, addressing various risk factors and their corresponding solutions. He pointed out voltage fluctuations, frequency instability due to a lack of inertia, frequency drops during disturbances, short circuits, unbalanced loads causing congestion, and network inefficiencies. Siemens Energy offers solutions encompassing static and mobile devices to control network load and ensure network stabilisation.

TSOs DSOs roundtable

Modern Tools for Informed Investment Decisions
Luka Smajila from KTH Royal Institute of Technology elaborated on decision-making in introducing renewable energy sources and energy storage. He highlighted the volatility in the electricity market despite stabilisation efforts, coupled with the retreat of traditional sources and poorly maintained transmission infrastructure. Smajila emphasised the need for decisions backed by analyses of economic, environmental, and safety factors. New models and solutions aim to provide better understanding of business decisions regarding energy storage and identify new business models, customers, and stakeholders.

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Balancing Production and Consumption through a Flexibility Platform
Alexander Kofink from the Austrian company Cybergrid presented a flexibility platform designed to align energy needs with production, addressing the current lack of coordination between needs and production. Flexibility system solutions encompass frequency services, intraday balancing, control domain error avoidance, negative pricing, local balancing, and fair use.

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Optimising Energy Sources and Long-term Electricity Leasing Contracts

Jan Bohinec from Gen-I presented strategies for optimising resources and implementing electricity lease contracts. Highlighting the advantages of long-term contracts, he emphasized their role in facilitating long-term planning, mitigating volatile prices, promoting sustainability, reducing costs, and efficiently utilizing energy resources. These contracts specifically cater to the burgeoning utilization of renewable energy sources in the region, with wind and solar capacities projected to triple by 2030.

While the adoption of renewable energy has surged, its inherent instability impacts current market prices, necessitating a balance. To address market fluctuations, the company advocates for solutions such as energy storage, localized renewable resource production, and adaptable energy leasing contracts. Accurate production forecasting remains crucial to managing disparities between projected and actual output. To this end, Gen-I implemented algorithmic trading in 2020, enabling their presence across nine markets and conducting 600,000 transactions daily.

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Discussion: Enhancing Network Strength through Digitalisation
Dr. Uroš Kerin, the Assistant Director of Asset and Project Management at ELES, moderated a round table discussion with Klemens Reich from APG, Dr. Goran Levanić from HOPS, and Dr. Chris Heyde from Siemens. Their conversation revolved around how transmission system operators could leverage digitalisation to empower all grid stakeholders. They unanimously acknowledged the network’s increasing load, highlighting the necessity to implement mechanisms for redistributing the load throughout the day to boost consumption while ensuring the network remains unburdened.

Emphasising the need for active involvement, they highlighted the role of individuals in ensuring smooth network operations. They also touched upon major power outages, predominantly attributed to extreme weather conditions rather than network capacity constraints in Europe.

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Building Integration in the Energy Network
Gusts Kossovics from the European Association for Building Automation and Control emphasized that buildings are also part of the future network and will help make the network more flexible and efficient. He presented European legislation according to which buildings will be decarbonized, green and more energy efficient by 2050. Countries such as Slovenia must translate these EU directives and integrate them into their laws. The ambitious plan calculates 64 Mt CO2 annually and 36 billion EUR of savings. If we invest 1 euro in the renovation of buildings today, it will save us 9 euros in energy in the future. He also pointed out certain facts that represent a problem and a lower interest for the building owners to invest in the renovation of the building. One of these is, for example, that the maintenance bills are paid by the tenants and not by the owners themselves.

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Innovative Infrastructure: New Tariff System and Digitalisation
Peter Kosin from INEA introduced a novel 7-tariff system designed to regulate energy flow more efficiently through the network, offering users opportunities for cheaper electricity. This system adjusts electricity consumption in companies based on specific working hours, contributing to reduced network loads.

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Dara Dobrijević from BE-terna discussed empowering infrastructure managers, often overlooked despite their vital role in society. BE-terna’s digital system enables personalized optimisation of infrastructure operations.

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Jožek Gruškovnjak from the Swiss company SAP highlighted challenges in digitalisation, emphasizing the struggle many companies face in correctly analyzing vast data. Adapting people and processes to digitization, focusing on vision, strategy, and planning are crucial for a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly future.
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Regulation Driving New Solutions’ Benefits
Jan Kostevc from the ACER agency discussed the influential role of energy regulators in advancing digital progress. He stressed the crucial need for power networks to prioritise efficiency, achievable through the implementation of smart solutions.

Traditionally, increased investment was seen as beneficial for companies. However, with the emergence of digitalisation, this classic approach ceased to be effective. ACER and other regulatory bodies now advocate for considering the advantages of specific services, not just their costs.

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SAP – Cloud Solutions Empowering Infrastructure Management
Filip Kowalski introduced SAP, a company specialising in infrastructure management software, and highlighted the challenges infrastructure managers face, particularly in navigating the new supply chain and adhering to operational regulations. The company’s strategic goals revolve around four key pillars: enterprise cloud transformation, holistic enterprise resource management, delivering an informed user experience, and managing the energy transition for sustainable operations. These solutions are already being adopted by global stakeholders in the energy industry, enhancing their services.

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Examples of Digital Solutions’ Application in Energy
The final session of the event, moderated by Gorazd Ažman from ELES, was dedicated to presenting various use cases. These were showcased by Franc Drobnič from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana, Tadej Šinkovec from Elektro Ljubljana, Lev Prislan, David Vidmar, and Dr. Rok Lacko from GEN-I, Dr. Andrej Bregar from Informatika, Gašper Lakota from Petrol, Roman Tomažič from the Consumers’ Association of Slovenia, Uršula Krisper from Elektro Ljubljana, and Erica Svetec from the Croatian Green Energy Cooperative.

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Heartfelt thanks to our speakers, sponsors, partners, and participants for your invaluable contributions that made our event a resounding success. Your insights, support, and active participation were instrumental in making it an engaging and fruitful experience for everyone involved.

We look forward to reconnecting with you all next year for another inspiring gathering!

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