A Interview with Luis Hernandez
Mr Hernandez, you are responsible for innovations in the field of decentral energy systems at E.ON. What are you working on exactly?
My team and I believe that the future of energy is decentral with millions of distributed renewable energy generators. We address two main questions: How can we promote citizen involvement via the creation of energy communities? This includes communities that have the power to push forward the energy transition as quickly as possible. And, can we identify all the technical and non-technical hurdles that these communities will encounter and create solutions to ease their path to energy freedom? With these questions in mind, the Swedish village of Simris is where it all started. We wanted to prove that we could run an energy system with 100% generation from renewable sources – together with the local community.
How have things progressed since the Simris pilot?
The know-how created in this pilot phase has allowed us to advance our technical abilities and understanding. Today, we can support electricity networks in connecting more and more renewable energy plants at a much lower cost with up to 90% savings.
In the second phase of the Simris project, supported by the EU as part of the Interflex Program, we focused on community and citizen engagement. Without having the people onboard, the energy transition would take much longer. Since October 2017, Simris’ 150 households are self-reliant and completely off-grid in every fifth week. A peer-to-peer market platform facilitates increased consumer participation. The use of advanced power analytics and machine-learning tools helps to maximize the use of flexibility.
How has your project changed the lives of Simris’ citizens?
We empower the people in Simris to become prosumers by deciding their energy supply sources themselves and how to actively contribute to their local energy community. The citizen awareness has of course increased during the project. They are proud to actively contribute to a project that is empowering customers to fast-track the transition to a sustainable energy system.
Why was Simris chosen as the site for E.ON’s pilot?
We chose Simris to test the viability of producing 100% locally-sourced renewable energy, as the village is one of the windiest and sunniest places in Sweden, and it was already home to a wind turbine and solar farm. There was support from local authorities as well, but it was the extraordinary enthusiasm shown by the inhabitants that convinced us to launch the pilot there.
What’s next for Simris?
In May, we successfully commissioned a second battery at the site and the entire microgrid has already functioned in island mode successfully. Looking forward, we are exploring the possibility of taking Simris to the next level and making it one of the most cybersecure energy communities in Europe. In parallel, the team at E.ON is working on replicating its success by installing similar solutions in other European countries.