"Smart East" in Karlsruhe

Energy transition through digitalization

Time is pressing for the energy transition, as the gas crisis makes very clear. But not only will fossil fuels become scarcer, electricity consumption will also increase, as electrification will be increasingly used for both heating and mobility in the future. Even if the future topics of digitalization and climate protection are often about the carbon footprint of digital infrastructure, as data centers, networks and end devices require rapidly increasing amounts of electricity and raw materials, digitalization is also an integral part of the solution to the problem of the energy supply of the future. Because the energy transition cannot work without digital technologiesexplain Dr. Christoph Schlenzig and Manuel Lösch from the “Smart East” real-world laboratory project in Karlsruhe.

Today, around half of the electricity supply in Germany from renewable energies. The remainder, however, is still fed by sources, such as nuclear power or gas. In the winter months in particular, a lot of Electricity generated by gas. And that will be in short supply. The Federal Ministry for Economy and Climate Protection(BMWK) therefore raised the alert level of the emergency plan for gas in Germany on June 23, 2022. and the EU has also reacted by introducing the gas emergency plan. has come into force. It is clear that this is not enough for an energy turnaround, to pay attention to production alone. It is also about using the supply technology and infrastructure to the changes.

This is where the research and development of the “Smart East” real-world laboratory project founded in Karlsruhe in 2020 comes in. The project was initiated by Dr. Christoph Schlenzig – founder, former managing director and advisory board member of Seven2one Informationssysteme GmbH – and Manuel Lösch – head of department at the FZI Research Center for Information Technology. It is testing the design of the energy systems of the future in an existing residential and commercial district in the east of Karlsruhe.

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Guests at the InnovationFestival 2021 @karlsruhe.digital: Dr. Christoph Schlenzig and Manuel Lösch.

Institutions from the energy and technology sector are leading research into the possibilities of a smart, energy-optimized and climate-friendly neighbourhood. Along the “Haid-und-Neu-Straße” innovation axis, the lighthouse project will see business models designed in research put into practice and tested under real conditions. The quarter includes Hoepfner Burg, the House of Living Labs, as well as a multi-generational house and a start-up center.

Climate protection, digitalization, participation and new business models

The existing buildings are to be energy-optimized and therefore more energy-efficient. Climate protection is just as much a part of the real-world laboratory’s fields of action as the digitalization of the energy infrastructure, the participation of all relevant target groups and the exploration of new business models through the restructuring of the energy supply. Smart East” is being scientifically supported by the FZI Research Center for Information Technology and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), which are among the partners in the project consortium alongside Stadtwerke Karlsruhe and Seven2One Informationssysteme GmbH.

The aim of the real-world laboratory is to in 2023, together with the owners, system operators, tenants and the local energy supplier, the buildings in the neighborhood energetically and informational networking, establishing a neighborhood energy management system and potential for a climate-friendly energy supply. Smart East focuses on strengthening local energy generation. “Electricity should be there be consumed where it is produced and then consumed when it is there. is” explains Manuel Lösch. This relieves the strain on the networks and also allows the dynamic energy prices. This is because intelligent technology makes it possible, the power consumption not only to the load situation and the charging situation, but also to the prices of external providers.

Energy transition from below

“To put it in a nutshell, Smart East has Role model character. It should become a blueprint for other districts, municipalities and cities,” says Manuel Lösch. And Christoph Schlenzig is also back after confident at the halfway point of the project. “It a lot has already been achieved”. In the meantime, the infrastructure and the digitized energy consumption of the six buildings can be recorded in real time become.

Smart East is recognized as a place of opportunity.
Smart East is recognized as a place of opportunity. Photo: Smart East.

That the Findings from the “Smart East” project to be applied to other business parks in future are transferable and can therefore make a contribution to the energy transition, is already clear for Schlenzig and Lösch. The project results on residential areas because of the completely different However, this is only possible to a limited extent. This is also due to the bureaucratic specifications, says Schlenzig. Tenant electricity billing is too complex. “At the But we don’t want to get involved in private households either; we see the chances of neighborhood level and we are exploring this in our project,” explains Lösch.

And that locally sourced energy can be converted directly is demonstrated by the real laboratory. “Our According to estimates, 70 percent of the electricity from the PV systems can be used directly by are consumed in the offices,” emphasizes Schlenzing. The greatest potential also lies in the remaining 30 percent sustainably and close to the neighborhood, the Project managers on the topic of electromobility.50 Charging stations for Electric cars will soon be installed, naturally equipped with a Energy management. “Electromobility is on the rise and the demand for charging points will increase,” says Schlenzig. For this reason, the project has so far focused heavily on this area, explains Lösch.

Future prospects: profitable business models with renewable energies

“Now we want to synchronize with the grid operators and look for opportunities to earn money on the energy market,” announces Schlenzing. Energy suppliers have long recognized that selling kilowatts is not a viable model for the future, as energy is increasingly being generated decentrally. “There has been a rethink among energy suppliers, who are increasingly developing perspectives towards the management of decentralized energy systems. So instead of simply supplying energy, services will become increasingly important in the future.”

The project has recently produced its first spin-off. “InnoCharge helps energy suppliers and neighborhood operators to offer affordable and green charging for electric cars,” explains Lösch. The software package makes it possible to increase profitability in electricity sales and effectively reduce ancillary costs through charging processes. “The sales potential is enormous, because for every electric vehicle there is an additional electricity requirement in the order of a multi-person household,” says Lösch. “Business models with renewable energies are profitable and by no means a subsidy juggernaut, as Smart East shows”.

Photos: Smart East.