We took the opportunity to have a chat with Hugo Niesing, consultant, and founder at Resourcefully and site manager of the Amsterdam pilot about the site.
It feels like a long time ago, but in fact a lot has changed in a short span of time. It used to be that energy supply was one-way; from the large processors such as the pumping station, the gas network, and the electricity grid to the individual consumers at the end of the capillaries of the energy nerve system. But now we are in a playing field where everything is turned upside down, due to sustainability, local generation, and the associated electrification. There are solutions that are being experimented with, the role of government, network operators and prosumers are being redefined. New agreements, new structures and new principles have to be sought out.
Concept & Aims:
The RESCHOOL project in Amsterdam is located on the Sporenburg island, in the Eastern Docklands area of Amsterdam, not far from the Central train station and close to the city centre of Amsterdam. This project aims to prove how it is possible to generate and use your ‘own energy’ at the neighbourhood level as much as possible. In this pilot the use of flexibility is a major concept. By encouraging the bulk of your energy consumption to coincide with periods when local generation is available while you prevent consumption peaks. To achieve this, the electricity demand and generation are predicted a day in advance in 15-minute intervals. It is then determined how this can be optimized by smart charging of cars by residents or building managers who participate. In short, the solar generation that you cannot use is used by the cars, boilers, or heat pumps in the neighbourhood.
The idea is quite simple, we want to make sure that the 500 households that receive their electricity through the transformer house make their own energy as much as possible and that they can use this without investing much in copper. That is good for energy independence, the electricity grid, CO2 emissions and the energy bill. It starts with your own connection, where you also use your own generated energy as much as possible, when this is not possible, we look at the building in which you live and the transformer house to which this energy community is all connected.
What to keep in mind:
The number of solar panels in this neighbourhood is relevant, producing a surplus of energy regularly between mid-February until early November. On the other hand, the share of electric vehicles is also growing rapidly. In this residential neighbourhood, most of the residents come home at the end of the afternoon and switch the electric car to the charger (both private and public chargers) until next morning.
If flex charging is to work, we should avoid doing everything at the same time to avoid exceeding our connection power. That also includes everyday activities such as cooking, charging EV vehicles and electrical heating. Certainly, the electric car does not need to be charged between 17 and 20 hours and the charging session can be postponed during the night instead. This can be done individually, if you have your own carport, or collectively on the electricity connection of the building (VVE or building manager) at a parking garage. In the public space the municipality and grid operators already do this.
How does it work:
We aim for more solar panels on the roofs, to align the charging of the cars with the available energy from these panels and to avoid excessive electricity consumption between 5 pm and 8 pm. This means that an energy management system is needed with insight into production, demand, and flexibility. Another important point is to not violate people’s privacy, so cyber-security is crucial. Finally, we also think that it is important to reward the people who work on this.
The residents who participate receive a smart meter, which provides a mobile app to visualize their electricity consumption and generation. They are encouraged to consume as sustainably as possible. With washing machines and dishwashers, for example, but a far larger share of power usage comes from the electric vehicles and heat pumps. This will be realised through a reward system.
To sum up, In short, it is a major challenge to take steps together towards a flexible, smartly operating energy system in which roles and responsibilities and revenue models are changed. But it is necessary to get these kinds of projects off the ground, otherwise we will not see what is needed towards our energy system 2.0!