Three innovation trends in the energy cluster

4. May 2021

The Danish energy cluster is in the midst of a historic transition with new green technologies, business models and supply chains. One thing is certain: It takes a lot of networking, inspiration, new partnerships, shared ambition, and innovative collaboration to solve the specific challenges in this field and achieve Denmark’s climate goals.

For these reasons, on 6 May 2021, we will be spotlighting innovation, new energy technologies, value chains and market opportunities when we invite the entire Danish energy sector to the digital annual meeting of Energy Cluster Denmark. At our annual meeting, you can meet a wide range of Denmark’s leading energy companies, researchers and experts, who will share their perspectives on the sector’s green and technological transformation right now.

Our annual meeting focuses on the value of innovation, which is why we will be opening up the innovation debate at our annual meeting with Ulrik Stridbæk, VP and head of regulatory affairs at Ørsted; Bo Svoldgaard, SVP of innovation and concepts at Vestas; Lars Bonderup Bjørn, CEO of EWII; Niels-Arne Baden, SVP and head of strategy and public affairs at Green Hydrogen Systems A/S; Ole Hansen, head of development, business and JV management at Total Denmark A/S; Ole Hvelplund, CEO of Nature Energy; and Torben Funder-Kristensen, head of public and industry affairs at Danfoss Cooling.

In order to accelerate the green transition and further reduce CO2 emissions, we must develop and scale up energy technology solutions across energy areas and through cross-sector links. This is why innovation trends in the energy sector are crucial.

Here are my thoughts on the innovation trends and cutting-edge topics shaping the energy cluster right now. We’ll be tapping into these at the annual meeting, along with some of the industry’s biggest names. After all, these will be at the heart of achieving the 70% CO2 reduction target by 2030.

Trend #1: Electrification and the big X

Our societies and industries need to be electrified wherever possible, and this places high demands on the electricity grid, energy efficiency improvements and storage technologies. However, we also need to electrify indirectly. We do this by using green power for electrolysis, and by extension, for hydrogen production. This is what we call power-to-X. Hydrogen can be used as fuel, but it can also be refined into other kinds of green fuels for such applications as heavy transport, lorries and ships.

There are already more than 20 PTX projects under way in Denmark, which could result in a major breakthrough if Denmark adopts an ambitious strategy this year. I will be keeping a close eye on Europe’s largest PTX plant, which Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners is preparing to build in Esbjerg.

Trend #2: Breaking down silos

We need to work together across the energy sector. Former specialised silos in the field of energy are being broken down, and companies in areas like energy production can no longer ignore developments in other areas, such as energy storage and energy consumption. Sector links are important not only internally, within the energy sector; but also between the energy sector and the transport sector, in order to secure green fuels for the future. We can expect the upcoming energy islands to be the focal point of creating real sector links here in Denmark.

One of our innovation projects working to support sector coupling is called GridScale. Andel recently announced that it is investing 75 million DKK in Stiesdal’s upcoming GridScale facility, which will demonstrate whether technology for storing renewable energy in hot stone will also work at full scale.

The energy storage system the partners are working on involves pea-sized pieces of crushed stone. When the grid has a surplus of power, the storage system is charged using a specially designed heat pump, which transfers heat from one group of tanks to another. Heat can be stored in the stone-filled tanks for many days. When the grid experiences a greater demand for electricity, heat from the hot tanks is then returned to the cold tanks using a kind of gas turbine, which generates electricity. The energy loss with this solution is low, making it highly efficient.

And this is the way forward, if we are to realise the ambitious goals for even more renewable energy and the electrification of society.

Trend #3: Open innovation as a driver

Finally, there is open innovation. After all, while big companies compete on innovation, nobody has all the knowledge in-house. This is why large companies are increasingly working with innovative entrepreneurs and forming new partnerships with researchers and small and large companies alike. This trend will only continue in the coming years, as it is the key to solving the specific challenges facing the energy sector. Here, the Innovation Fund’s two major missions for the development of a technological roadmap for CCS/U and PTX can kick-start the creation of national partnerships and new value chains.