TrafoSW: Municipal utilities as local players in the energy transition

How the change in the energy system is leading to new activities and business areas for municipal utilities

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Advancing the energy transition

How can municipal utilities realign themselves to take on a role in implementing the energy and, above all, the heat transition? This question was the focus of the "TrafoSW" project.

Project aims: Developing approaches to solutions for the transformation of municipal utilities

How can municipal utilities realign themselves to play a role in the implementation of the energy transition and especially the heat transition? This question was the focus of the project "TrafoSW – Transformation of municipal utilities as local players of the energy transition". The goal of the researchers: the conception of models for the development and evaluation of techno-economic solutions as well as the activation of municipal utilities. Based on the characteristics and the techno-economic orientation of today's municipal utilities, the aim was to show which approaches will be promising for municipal utilities in the future, how framework conditions and trends will affect them, and how promising solution approaches can be chosen, evaluated, and economically optimized.

Benefits: Successfully advancing the energy transition

A growing share of renewable energies and higher energy efficiency – these are the key ingredients of a successful energy transition. As a result, the energy system is becoming more complex and dynamic. Energy supply, for example, is increasingly decentralized, while at the same time flexibility is gaining importance. This transformation of the energy system also requires a transformation of municipal utilities, because many of their traditional business areas will break away in the future. Electricity no longer has to come from the local municipal utility, leading to an increased willingness of customers to choose a different supplier. New providers with innovative energy services lead to increased competition. For municipal utilities, this means that they need both new areas of responsibility and new business models, and they must implement both with the help of new technological solutions.

Results: Three concepts for photovoltaics and battery storage, neighborhood development and virtual power plants

The comparative assessment and analysis of development needs has shown that even with the challenges for the future already being known for some years, municipal utilities still continue to face the task of developing their core business away from the pure sale of electricity, heat and gas and toward new products. The main problem here is the complexity resulting from the multitude of technological solutions in interaction with the local framework conditions as well as the future boundary conditions in the energy markets and the energy system.

In the project, currently discussed technological business areas were identified and characterized, from which future fields of activity and solution approaches for municipal utilities can arise. In addition to the typification of municipal utilities and the development of framework conditions and trends, three specific solution approaches were selected in cooperation with an associated municipal utility in each case and these were evaluated on a model basis. Based on the detailed investigations, concepts were created that show how municipal utilities can transform themselves by means of new technologies and activities, and which prerequisites they must fulfill to do so.

The selected technological topics are "Photovoltaics and Battery Storage", "Neighborhood Concepts" and "Virtual Power Plants". Within these topic areas, various concepts were considered for selected scenarios. The results of the modeling show that neighborhood solutions and virtual power plants can be technically promising and ecologically advantageous. The issue of grid fees and surcharges in particular currently makes the implementation of economic projects a major challenge. Legislation is therefore required to support the local energy transition by providing suitable framework conditions.

Project partners

  • RheinEnergie Trading GmbH
  • Stadtwerke Soest
  • Stadtwerke Troisdorf

Duration: August 2017 to January 2020
Funding code: 03ET1518A