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Energy system of the future

No one knows exactly what the future will be like, but one thing is certain: the energy system will be very different to the one we have today. With the further development of hydrogen, green gas, heat grids, CCUS and solar and wind energy, the number of energy sources in the mix is increasing significantly. One of the questions that Gasunie is working on is how we can make all these energy sources work together intelligently. Only a smart energy system can deliver the stability and flexibility we will need in the future.

Flexible energy system and the energy transition

The more energy we harvest from the sun and wind, the more dependent we become on the weather. At times when the wind refuses to blow and the sun stays hidden, energy will have to come from another source, like green gas for example. And when there is plenty of sun or wind, we need to store the surplus energy for later. It has been seen that batteries are not the most effective solution. We can, however, convert energy into hydrogen and store it in that form for times when there is not enough green energy to meet the demand. Within a reliable, flexible energy system, harvesting energy from ‘molecules’ forms an indispensable buffer for green electricity.

Realistically, energy derived from molecules is an indispensable component of the energy mix: electricity is not the most suitable alternative in all situations, and the electricity grid can never become large enough to meet the full demand at all times. It is expected that by 2050 50% of the energy supply will come from molecules, mainly renewable gases and hot water. With this in mind, we are taking measures now to ensure that in the future the required infrastructure for the transport and storage of all these molecules is in place.

Examples in a flexible energy system

In a smart, flexible energy system, we need to be able to switch between various forms of energy and energy systems, like between gas and electricity. In such a system we also need to be able to store and convert energy. There are already several working examples of this smart and flexible technology:

  • Take the hybrid (or dual fuel) heat pump for example. This micro-scale smart energy system combines a traditional gas boiler with an electric heat pump. The heat pump provides most of the heating in the home, while the gas boiler provides the hot water as well as extra heat on the really cold days. 
  • Power-to-gas technology uses renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen by means of electrolysis. The resulting hydrogen gas is used to store energy. We can store the hydrogen, and it is relatively easy and cost-effective for us to transport the gas over long distances.