Europe is clearly moving towards more variable renewables. In order to make the best use of our energy generation capacity, Hybrid Plants and Clean Energy Hubs are a necessity.

On 14 November during POWERGEN EUROPE in Paris, a discussion on the opportunities and challenges for the implementation of Clean Energy Hubs and Hybrid Power Plants has been organized by Energy Technologies Europe. Below our top picks from the event.

Martin Pogoreutz, President of Energy Technologies Europe

We will need to match the increasingly volatile energy supplies with the needs of European consumers and this is exactly what Clean Energy Hubs are designed to do. By taking electricity out of the grid when too much is generated, and turning this electricity into fuels, heating and cooling we make the best use of our available energy. When the energy is not enough, then stored energy and energy from dispatchable clean energy sources are turned into electricity and heat. (Video of the presentation available here).

Jens Reich, Director of Energy Technologies at STEAG

In Fenne, Germany, the plans for such systems are already advanced. Jens Reich presented the story of an old coal plant that will be switched to and supply district heating to make a first big step in the decarbonisation process. But this is not where it stops, it will also provide electricity and low-carbon hydrogen to a nearby steel mill resulting in a simultaneous drop in the emissions of the normally carbon intensive steel production. Next to that, plans are being made for the inclusion of an electric boiler to heat the nearby houses and businesses when the prices of electricity drop below the conventional heating prices. (Video of the presentation available here).

Geert Laagland, Director of engineering at Vattenfall

Another noteworthy project is a project by Vattenfal which is turning a gas power plant into a hydrogen power plant with the help of the engineering of MHPS Europe. By running a power plant on hydrogen instead of natural gas tonnes, all direct CO2 emissions can be avoided. Furthermore, it does help kick-start the hydrogen economy that is needed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. (Video of the presentation available here).

Olivier Wragg, Commercial Director of European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC)

On the island of Orkney in Scotland, EMEC is developing another Clean Energy Hub in the form of a virtual power plant that involves wind, energy from the sea, hydrogen and electric vehicles thanks to the ReFLEX Project. Here, renewable electricity coming from windmills and marine energy sources is stored in electricity vehicles and converted into hydrogen. The hydrogen can later be turned into heat and electricity through a fuel cell provided by Doosan while the electric vehicles can also feed electricity back into the grid during peak hours. (Video of the presentation available here).

These examples demonstrate that much of the technologies for clean energy hubs are already there. However, many of them still need to be demonstrated on a large scale and under different circumstances which requires funding and commitment. The implementation of Clean Energy Hubs is still a great opportunity to help the struggle to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5 °C.