Towards a reliable, affordable and fair energy system
Dutch history is sometimes described as a struggle against the elements, but is actually connected with the elements. And an alliance of Dutch people with each other. Working together, using elements from our environment as building blocks, we have created the Delta Works and the Flevopolder. TNO helps with applied research into a reliable, affordable and equitable sustainable energy system, all facets of system integration and their interrelationships, to realise the energy transition.
The transition to a fully sustainable energy system in 2050 will entail major technological, economic and societal changes. Fossil sources will then be replaced by renewable ones while supply must be guaranteed and remain affordable for citizens and businesses.
Our activities vary from conducting literature studies to deploying knowledge and laboratories such as the ’Energy storage platform’ to achieve concrete innovations with companies. We work together with and for public authorities, grid operators, energy companies, technology suppliers, industrial end-users, universities, industry associations, NGOs and many other parties involved in the energy transition.
From gas stocks to hydrogen storage
The transition to a sustainable energy system in 2050 requires major changes for our society
Both the generation of energy and its use by households, industry, transport and mobility are undergoing major changes. Gas and coal-fired power stations are giving way to solar panels, onshore and offshore wind turbines, biomass and geothermal energy. And where fossil power stations provide one-to-one electricity and heat, and can absorb peaks in demand, supply from renewable sources is subject to strong fluctuations.
It is not supply but demand that needs to be managed to make the system flexible. For example, we are replacing the usual gas reserves by converting electricity from wind and sun to hydrogen and storing it underground. All this makes the entire energy system more complex.
TNO combines knowledge of energy generation, conversion to other forms or carriers of energy, networks, energy storage and use and all conceivable links between them.
The current energy grids for the transmission and distribution of electricity, heat and gas are not yet ready for a fully sustainable energy supply. The electricity grid is running up against limits and the gas grid must be able to transport hydrogen in order to ensure a secure supply of energy to the various end users. TNO is working with partners on methods to prepare the grids for the future.
The separate markets for electricity, gas and heat are becoming increasingly intertwined, systems are integrating. Buildings can be heated in many different ways: with gas, with electricity, via a heat network or with hybrid combinations.
Well-designed markets ensure that supply and demand are properly matched, low prices, security of supply and sustainability. TNO conducts research into how markets perform and the associated regulatory framework.
Sustainable generation, conversion of electricity to hydrogen or heat, storage and transport are becoming increasingly interconnected and so there is a need for them to be brought into balance with each other. By linking sectors, large amounts of sustainable electricity can be made available for the decarbonisation of the end sectors.
Onshore and offshore windgenerates electricity that at one moment goes directly to the heavy industry that currently runs on gas, but at another time is converted to hydrogen for storage. In this way, sustainably generated energy can be permanently shifted in time to moments when there is demand.
TNO’s extensive expertise can help ensure great flexibility between sustainable energy production and use by industry, households and mobility.
In order to analyse our future energy system, TNO has built a database in which all conceivable technologies, networks, variations in supply and demand, costs and revenues, and numerous other relevant data are stored. Our models can calculate which decisions for the generation, conversion, storage and transport of each form of energy have consequences in different value chains.
For example, we can determine in which cases conversion and storage for a particular energy demand is or is not cost-effective. In the energy system, everything is connected. For example, we help market players and the authorities to choose the right solution routes.
Fair distribution of costs
The success of the energy transition depends on support and acceptance in society. This is also the subject of TNO research. A fair energy system means that costs are shared fairly between citizens and companies. Many households now have little or no access to their energy bills.
We identify potential winners and losers of the transition and make recommendations to take measures for vulnerable groups. We investigate what drives and inhibits citizens to become more sustainable and advise on how citizens can be successfully involved in the energy transition. We are also reviewing legislation and regulations in order to tailor them to both technical and societal innovations.
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