Digital Disruption” blog series: Technologies and application areas with disruptive potential: “The best is the greatest enemy of the good”. Loosely inspired by this old saying by Voltaire, Fraunhofer IAO invites you to join us for a blog series in which our scientists present disruptive trends and technologies and highlight their potential for the economy and society. Discuss with us!

In the current election campaign, disruption has been described as a success story and a jobs miracle or a bureaucratic bone of contention. From a scientific point of view, it is above all one thing: unfinished as long as it is only implemented sustainably in the electricity market. Digitization opens up new avenues in the world of integrated energy.

From a technical point of view, the year 2000, although only 17 years old, must now look like another era (the silicon era): the turn of the year is celebrated with the fear of a computer crash, keyword Y2K. AMD and Intel are fighting for the 1 gigahertz sound barrier, Bluetooth is born and the creation of your own e-mail address is an absolute success. Cell phones with color screens were all the rage, but the batteries ran out after a few hours, smartphones were still a distant future. Music was played on mini-disc players, technology was gone as quickly as the proverbial ephemeral. Germans were stunned by the first season of Big Brother, DSDS and WHO WANTS to Be a MILLIONAIRE and: the German government passed the Renewable Energy Act (EEG), deadline April 1, 2000.

The goal was clear: the energy world must become greener and less CO2. At that time, the energy world was like a garden colony with clearly defined plots of land where the respective “tenants” did not mind. Everyone had their own claim, the business model was clear. No one, or very few, expected the paradigm shift that dictates the challenges of today’s energy world; some executives teased that using photovoltaics in Germany made as much sense as growing pineapples in the Arctic. Despite all the doomsday prophecies: the German term “ENERGIEWENDE” has become a loanword in other languages. Not without reason. Today, more than a third of the electricity fed into the German grid is generated from renewable energies; and before physicists would cry out: transformed.


So the EEG has been a success, at least from the point of view of technology penetration in the market. The costs are passed on to end-users through the EEG tax, with current incremental costs of about 24 billion euros per year. Wind and solar do not send a bill, it comes from the grid operator who collects the fees, but they come and go as they please. The consequences of this development: the increasing shares of renewable energy production require accurate forecasts as well as grid expansion, the market shares of conventional power plants are continuously decreasing due to the low marginal costs of renewable energy competition, and the price level on the wholesale market has been decreasing for years, not only due to the supply of renewable energy, but also due to the utilization of it.

But what is perhaps a bit too complacent as an energy recovery should be described as what it really is: so far, “only” a current recovery. The shares of renewables in the other sectors, heating and transport, are just under 10 and about 5 percent respectively. If the issue of the greenhouse effect is taken seriously and the economic calculations are made with a pencil, the decarbonization of the heating and transport sectors is unavoidable. And not only in Germany.


Given the growing surpluses of renewable power plants and the need to fully digitize the grids, this is a great opportunity that must be seized – within the framework of – you guessed it already – sector coupling. There is, however, another important factor that prompts an integrated view of the energy sectors of electricity, heat and, in particular, mobility: Such are the current developments in the automotive industry. If electromobility really takes on the dimension of massiveness in which it currently finds itself, we will be faced with enormous challenges from a grid perspective, which could not even be met by the massive use of copper – the traditional way of extending the grid. The goal of designing distribution networks down to the last kWh is not appropriate anyway, for reasons of cost and, in particular, implementation. Here too, digitization is the key to the solution.

In our projects c/SELLS, SMARTENERGYHUB and E-MOBILITYSCOUT, we think of these dimensions of the new world of integrated energy and implement them in cooperation with well-known partners. We focus on accurate prognostic algorithms for production and consumption, on integrated energy management with innovative optimization methods, and on the management of charging, charging and disposal of electric vehicles. We are living the smart energy internet of things and working on the smart energy system of the future.

The challenges must be met, and here above all the regulator, i.e. the politicians and the Federal Network Agency, is called upon to finally ensure secure and reliable framework conditions. The key words are, to name but a few: Tariff system, incentive regulation, security of supply, system security, etc., so that you can still drive with power tomorrow!