‘In the old days, it was all about supply and demand. Today redistribution is key’

Erhverv 11. January 2023

Chief Business Development Officer of DIN Forsyning Claus A. Nielsen feels ‘blessed with infrastructure’ and he dreams of turning Esbjerg and its surrounding area into a giant battery. ‘In future energy systems it will become more important to be able to redistribute energy than to produce it,’ he says. Photo: Christer Holte.

Editor:

Uffe Lundgaard

Head of Investment and International Relations

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When the world’s energy providers need to educate themselves on green energy conversion and connecting different sectors, they look to Denmark and often to Danmarks Energimetropol. Because, in two areas Esbjerg is far ahead of the game – both nationally and internationally: we have the ability to create a joint energy and supply system; a system which is based mainly on sustainable energy.

– The key elements are joint sectors, efficiency improvement and increased integration of sustainable energy sources, and it is about daring to walk new paths and help shape the innovation, that makes it all possible, says Chief Business Development Officer of DIN Forsyning, Claus A. Nielsen:

– In the old days it was about supply and demand. Today it’s more about being able to redistribute production. The task as a supplier has been turned upside down and the ability to absorb that change is key to succeeding in converting to green energy. And we have come very far with that here in Esbjerg, he says.

“The ability to absorb that change is key to succeeding in converting to green energy. And we have come very far with that here in Esbjerg”

Claus A. Nielsen

Chief Business Development Officer, DIN Forsyning

A new kind of mentality

Previously, supplier infrastructure was geared for specific processes such as producing heat and electricity by burning something at a heat and power station.

– As suppliers in a new sector-conjoined reality, we first and foremost need to provide flexibility to the electric power system, says Claus Nielsen:

We need to be able to turn on the heat pump, when electricity is abundant, so that, for instance during a stormy weekend, we can produce heat and store it in the system in order to utilise energy, instead of powering down windmills.

Claus A. Nielsen

Chief Business Development Officer, DIN Forsyning

– In that way the system is transformed into a huge battery, where we use the weekend’s windy conditions to provide heat for schools, shops, and businesses on Monday morning and thereby exploit the system’s capacity and flexibility like a battery, he says:

– In the old days, power plants produced energy – now we use heat pumps, that consume electricity. That is a new kind of mentality.

On the shoulders of past heroes

The idea is largely based on exploiting the inherited treasure hiding under the Danish cul-de-sacs. In the last 50 to 60 years, a connected energy system has become a uniquely Danish discipline and core competence and in modern energy systems, that is a gift that keeps on giving:

– Denmark has been blessed with a first class energy and supplier infrastructure which we mostly take for granted and don’t appreciate nearly enough. Many of the new breakthroughs that happen in the energy and supply network today are possible, because we were very thorough and prioritised long-term solutions in the past.

– Us being able to tour Europe, talking about convertion to green energy on top of an existing heat supply, is possible because conjoining sectors and green energy conversion on a large scale like this demands an efficient and flexible infrastructure – and we have that in Denmark, says Claus Nielsen.

Our infrastructure needs to be diversified

A coherent and connected infrastructure makes the all important conjoining of sectors possible. The increased green energy production of North Sea windmills makes a more diversified utilisation of energy necessary – we need more potential consumers of energy.

Therefore, DIN Forsyning has invested in creating Denmark’s largest seawater heat pump with a capacity of 50 MW. This pump uses the power produced by ocean winds, to extract heat from seawater and heat it to the 65 degrees celsius needed by district heating customers; not unlike, for example, geothermal heat pumps.

– There are 2400 MW-hours in a storage tank via the seawater heat pump, which equals what 250 oceanic windmills produce in one hour. We are able to burn off an extra 60MW every hour. That provides flexibility, says Claus Nielsen.

Flexibility is key:

– We think of infrastructure as something that has many different uses. Our strategy is to make investments that have multible purposes. So when we invest in heating pipes, they need to provide flexibility for the electrical system, heating for people at home, and cooling for businesses, the Chief Business Development Officer states.

An energy exchange market

Another focus lies on increasing efficiency; on making handling and consuming smarter – for example by letting surplus heat from businesses become part of district heating, and using treated waste water as a water source for PtX-stations.

It can also be about sorting 160,000 tons of mixed plastic waste yearly for repurposing, like the Norwegian business Quantafuel does:

“which makes us an energy exchange market -a sort of Ebay for energy supply.”

Claus A. Nielsen

Chief Business Development Officer, DIN Forsyning

– If we can help transform our collected plastic waste into new oil, which can be used for new plastic, we have already come far, especially if the heat from that process can be utilised, says Claus A. Nielsen.

The cooperation between public suppliers of energy and private businesses is an important part of the joint calculus: For example, when Cocio needs to get rid of excess processorial heat, that can be done with the help of coolers driven by the public energy supplier. The heat removed will not be wasted – it ends up in the district heating system.

– What makes this idea so clever is, that we can deliver cooling where it’s needed – without using electricity.  At the same time, we can move heat, where that is needed, which makes us an energy exchange market -a sort of Ebay for energy supply, says Claus A. Nielsen.

A potential business adventure

It’s not just clever, it’s very clever, because when Claus cools process-oriented businesses using the cul-de-sac, the heating becomes very affordable for the citizens of Esbjerg.

– I am paid by businesses to cool them down and people want that heat at the cul-de-sacs. So I provide a solution both ways, but I really just redistribute energy. That means that total costs go down, making both things more affordable, says Claus Nielsen.

And that is not just beneficial to the cul-de-sac.

– A connected energy system means that it can become more energy efficient to produce a ton of ammonia in Esbjerg, than in many other locations, because we are able to both provide green electricity and redistribute surplus heat within the system. That provides the required conditions for a potential business adventure, says Claus A. Nielsen:

– And the posibilities are endless. As a business, we can trade temperature differences, but also water needs by swapping waste water from one location with the waste water treatment capacity from another location, by exploring the well developed infrastructure, that we have been blessed with in Esbjerg, Varde, and Nordby, he says.

– One of the things that surprise foreign visitors the most, when they come here to see our facilities, is that we have managed to integrate sustainable energy efficiently within the system, while keeping security of supply at 99+ percent. That surprises foreign guests, says Claus A. Nielsen.

 

We have managed to integrate sustainable energy efficiently within the system, while keeping security of supply at 99+ percent. That surprises foreign guests.

Claus A. Nielsen

Chief Business Development Officer, DIN Forsyning