The so-called “Energy Turn 2.0” is not viable in terms of technology without scores of IT-products: complex control- and distribution-systems, integrated communications- and monitoring devices. Evidently, the Energy Turn and digitalization are interdependent. The approach of the research- and concepting-project EnerDigit is to take a step back from the issues of implementation and instead look at the networking and controlling between industry and energy systems from the perspective of centrality and decentrality.

Project

EnerDigit – The Energy Turn and Digitalization between Centrality and Decentrality: Regional and Corporate-Cultural Perspectives

Renewable energy is predominantly volatile; wind power plants can’t produce electricity without wind, photovoltaics depend on sunlight. Thus, surplus capacity as well as its opposite must be balanced – which not only leads to the recurring switch-off of wind farms but also to fierce debates about the viability of the Energy Turn.

There is, however, a consensus that the infrastructure of the Energy Turn not only consists of power lines, substations, reservoir power stations and others. Rather, the aim is to achieve an intelligent network as well as control mechanism integrating the numerous producers and consumers. Correspondingly, the energy system of the Energy Turn is a socio-technological one.

The so-called “Energy Turn 2.0” is not viable in terms of technology without scores of IT-products: complex control- and distribution-systems, integrated communications- and monitoring devices as well as Smart Grids. Evidently, the Energy Turn and digitalization are interdependent. An intelligent, decentralized and flexible networking of energy systems with systems of production and distribution seems obvious.

The approach of the research- and concepting-project EnerDigit is to take a step back from the issues of implementation and instead look at the networking and controlling between industry and energy systems from the perspective of centrality and decentrality. Co-Creation, smaller company environments via low-emission production techniques (e.g. additive manufacturing), decentralized production as well as new urban (participative) production are hopes attached to the digital and energetic transformation of industry. However, the flip-side of this decentrality is the above mentioned necessity to network and remote-control the production and consumption of energy.

Does this imagery of remote-controlled domestic appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, etc – which is sometimes portrayed as some kind of horror-scenario – necessarily transfer to industrial manufactories? How and by whom will production and consumption be supervised? Who will decide or what algorithm will determine whether manufacturers are allowed to purchase energy and at what price? How intelligent or ‘smart’ are these decisions? First, EnerDigit inquires which centralized and decentralized elements are likely to emerge from the networking and operation of production processes through digitalization and the Energy Turn 2.0. To this end, the rather decentralized and coordinated economic system of Germany will serve as an analogic pattern. Will digitalization and Energy Turn 2.0 result in a similarly decentralized and coordinated economy or will it result in a different economic system? The second step then is to identify sectors and companies which already stand out in terms of high levels of networking against the backdrop of digitalization and Energy Turn 2.0. The aim is to determine palpable candidates for case studies.

The case studies will serve to empirically substantiate the conceptual view on centrality and decentrality. How does networking affect a company and its employees? Will the experiences predominantly be the likes of responsibility and accountability or will there be tendencies of alienation and heteronomy?

In the final step the data will be assessed and utilized to gain approaches to an intelligently managed but nonetheless decentralized and participative transformation of the industrial- and energy sector. One possible approach would be to selectively imbue the system of networked and intelligently controlled production, distribution and consumption with federalistic elements.

Project Management: Dr. Steven Engler (KWI), Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick (WI),  Dr. Stefan Gärtner (IAT),

Project Coordination: Marius Beckamp (IAT)

Project Staff: Dr. Franz Flögel (IAT), Marco Hasselkuss (WI), Sonja Knobbe (KWI), Helena Mölter (WI), Dr.-Ing. Hansjürgen Paul (IAT), Martina Schmitt (WI), Dr. Daniel Vallentin (WI)

Funded By: Ministerium für Wirtschaft, Innovation, Digitalisierung und Energie des Landes NRW (Ministry for the Economy, Innovation, Digitalisation and Energy of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia); Cluster EnergieForschung.NRW (Cluster Energy Research.NRW)

Duration: 01/2018 – 09/2019