Smart grids integral to Rotterdam’s energy transition

With the transition from fossil to renewable energy our whole energy landscape is becoming more unpredictable. There are many factors that contribute to this phenomenon. Fact is that the demand for (renewable) energy keeps rising and we need to find ways to make our energy system reliable, flexible and future proof. Smart grids and digitisation are vital components in any future solution. Home to energy-intensive industries and large urban centres, the Rotterdam region is the ideal investment destination to unravel the energy challenge.

With Europe’s largest and the world’s smartest port, a large industrial and chemical cluster and an extensive logistical infrastructure, the Rotterdam region is a natural hotbed for many energy transition innovations and has the world watching with interest. The city and region have special programs, subsidy schemes, field labs and accelerators to boost energy transition progress. These includes smart grids solutions. Local government, Port Authority, research and knowledge institutes and companies work closely together, making Rotterdam a relevant and promising environment for anybody who wants to design, develop and deliver their innovative solutions.

Rotterdam’s extensive ecosystem

Special Fieldlabs and accelerators where smart grid solutions are developed and tested include TU Delft’s The Green Village and the ESP Lab, FieldLab Industrial Electrification and the Duurzaamheidsfabriek. Regional universities and research centres are also highly active in the filed of smart grids and electrification, such as Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics, the Convergence, (collaboration of Erasmus University Rotterdam, TU Delft and Erasmus MC), TU Delft’s High Performance Computing Centre, ELSA AI Lab and PowerWeb Institute and QuTech. And then there are various Dutch and regional knowledge platforms and branche organisations powering development, including the IoT Academy, EnergyStorageNL, NEN, Quantum Delft and The Hague Security Delta. And then there’s the extensive network of international start-ups and scaleup companies and corporates that make the Rotterdam region such an exciting and relevant place for new energy developments (see image).

Important role for TU Delft

TU Delft has a central role in these developments. Professor Peter Palensky is Head of the Department Intelligent Electric Power Grids at TU Delft and Scientific Director of the PowerWeb Institute, leading a research group on smart electricity systems at TU Delft. He explains the relevance of innovation coming from the university’s lab: “TU Delft’s Electrical Sustainable Power lab is a world-wide unique place to accelerate the energy transition. It features high tech from the atomic level with new photovoltaic cells in our clean rooms, via power electronic energy conversion and storage, up to high voltage equipment and materials. All that is integrated with supercomputers, digital twins, and virtual labs where students, researchers, and industry can join forces. It is truly electrifying to be part of this, pun intended.”

As no other Peter knows the relevance of smart electric power grids within the energy transition and the role they can play bringing current, oftentimes traditional industrial clusters into the future. “We are now electrifying the last remaining parts of our society: industry, transport, and heating. This makes electricity a backbone. Its sustainability, affordability, and reliability are of critical importance. To make this transition successful, we need smart electric power grids and an overall much more flexible energy system which can accommodate fluctuations in energy supply and demand. At the core of these changes is a large cyber-physical system, which is a very complex thing with lots of digital and physical  aspects constantly interacting. We are in search of new methods and technologies to get control and to make our entire system resilient and reliable. Digital twin technology is one of these methods. We are constructing a digital twin of the national electric power system. A ‘simulation model’ with an interface to reality. By using smart solutions like digital twins we can send actions into the future and see what happens in any given situation. It’s marvellous. We have practically everything under one roof to make the energy system of the future a reality.”

Rotterdam region, a natural hotbed for innovations

It is no coincidence that many relevant innovations come from the greater Rotterdam region, confirms Peter. “We have here, in the Rotterdam region, a fantastic density of knowledge and business. Collaboration is fast and fun, which is both needed to get the required innovation at maximum speed. Our impact to the energy transformation is, however, everything but local: this port city does not only dispatch ships, but also ideas and technology. Top knowledge institutions, global corporations, combined with an international attitude and a great network: This is the perfect ecosystem to make the energy transition reality. “

Frontrunning companies

The greater Rotterdam region houses many frontrunning companies that are active with smart energy solutions, ranging from start-ups and scale-ups to larger corporates and across the entire energy spectrum.

One such company is S4 ENERGY, a specialist in smart energy storage solutions. S4 ENERGY utilised the Smart Energy Systems subsidy of the City of Rotterdam to fully electrically power a crane installation in Rotterdam’s port via their KINEXT flywheel system.

Another great example of the innovative power of Rotterdam based companies is Blockbax. This company has developed a platform for operational visibility and control. With their platform, a central control room can be built where contextual and sensor data can be unified, visualized and analyzed without coding and without high upfront investments. The company has a rapidly growing customer base in industries such as energy, building & infrastructure, and agriculture, where sensor data is vital for making the right decisions at the right time.

A third innovative company from Rotterdam is Last Mile Solutions, who are fully dedicated to helping cities transition to a local ecosystem of renewable energy, providing them with remotely managed digital solutions that help integrate and utilise third party systems for electric mobility, decentralized energy production and storage.

These are just some of the many exciting smart energy solutions that originate in the Rotterdam region. The image on this webpage provides an good overview of the makeup of Rotterdam’s new energy ecosystem, including smart grids and digitalization. For more extensive information on specific companies and their operations, the Up!Rotterdam’s Dealroom platform is a good source.


Header image: Pixabay, geralt

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