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Smart Grids: the key enabler for a cleaner and decentralised energy transition

smart grids

Smart grids are at the forefront of the energy transition, playing a leading role in the shift towards cleaner and more sustainable energy sources. They enable the seamless integration of renewable energy into our power grid, making it more efficient and effective. Using advanced digital technologies, smart grids manage the flow of electricity and information between power generators, consumers/prosumers, and the grid itself. This brings numerous benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting the use of electric vehicles and smart homes, and even lowering consumer bills. By embracing smart grids, we can create a resilient energy system that supports a greener future for all.

Smart grids, cornerstone of ETIP SNET and BRIDGE event

This has been the cornerstone of the ETIP SNET and BRIDGE – Key Results and Steps Forward event that Brussels witnessed last week, where the two European Commission’s initiatives at the forefront of Smart energy systems research and innovation (R&I) showcased their progress and prospects. The event encompassed a presentation and panel discussion with high-level EC officials from CINEA and DG ENER, the ETIP SNET Chairmanship, and the BRIDGE Working Group. Several key stakeholders in the energy field gathered at the event to champion the energy transition.

ETIP SNET: Guiding R&I activities to support Europe’s energy transition

We are all aware of the challenges we encounter on a daily basis in ensuring the energy transition could become a real historical achievement. We collectively recognise the magnitude of this endeavour and its complexity. By bringing together a multitude of stakeholders and experts from the energy sector, the European Technology and Innovation Platform for Smart Networks for Energy Transition (ETIP SNET) assists the EC in identifying R&I priorities to support Europe’s energy transition towards low carbon-neutral energy. The ETIP SNET fosters extensive collaboration among its various and diverse stakeholders, leading to significant advancements in renewable energy integration, grid optimisation, and innovative energy management systems. As Vincent Berrutto, Head of Unit at DG ENER Unit B5 – Innovation, Research, Competitiveness, and Digitalisation, stated, this has been possible thanks to the work done by the Secretariat that supports and coordinates the activities of both the ETIP SNET and BRIDGE.

BRIDGE: Foster cooperation among Horizon projects in the energy domain

Another fertile soil from where to harvest precious experience and information for a better energy future is the sibling EC initiative BRIDGE, which brings together various Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe projects in smart grids, energy storage, islands, and digitalisation. BRIDGE pursues a structured approach to address cross-cutting challenges encountered in the project demonstration phase, which may constitute an obstacle to innovation. The initiative is among the most robust pillars at the European Commission’s disposal to implement the roadmaps and actions drawn by the ETIP SNET. It started with 17 projects, now unites 98, and is set to continue expanding. As Robert Goodchild, Head of Unit at CINEA’s Energy Research & Innovation Fund, claimed, the initiative plays a leading role in assisting the projects’ coordinators to achieve their objectives.

Driving Change: Catalysts for a Resilient Future

Throughout the event, speakers outlined that the contributions and scope of the two initiatives continue evolving and serve as a guiding light for our endeavours. Step by step, they help expand our focus to include emerging energy sectors, recognising the ever-increasing importance of integrating renewables and actively involving consumers and prosumers in this transformative process. Nonetheless, while significant progress has been made, much work is still ahead of us.

Only by continuing to collaborate, engage in meaningful dialogue, and foster exchanges among the various stakeholders part of the two initiatives can we effectively address the challenges associated with the energy transition. We must unite the efforts of industries, universities, research centres, and other key players in this journey. Indeed, it is only through collective action and cooperation that we can navigate the complex path toward a sustainable energy future. Here lies the very critical contribution that the two EC initiatives can give.

We must remain committed to ongoing collaboration, open dialogue, and knowledge sharing as we forge ahead, driven by a shared vision of achieving a successful energy transition. Together, we can overcome obstacles and create a positive impact that will benefit present and future generations.

The role of Zabala Innovation

Zabala Innovation is the coordinator of the Secretariat that daily supports the ETIP SNET and BRIDGE. The Secretariat supports the two initiatives’ activities and manages – under the guidance of the European Commission – around 650 stakeholders from industries, research centres and universities in identifying R&I needs, obstacles and opportunities toward energy transition.

The ETIP SNET and BRIDGE actively engage with policymakers and regulatory bodies at the European level. They provide a collective voice for the energy sector, advocating for favourable policies and regulations that support the development and deployment of smart energy systems. Zabala Innovation stakeholders and clients can benefit from the platforms’ policy influence by gaining insights into the policy and regulatory landscape, contributing to policy discussions, and shaping the future of the industry.

Still, the contribution of Zabala Innovation’s European project team goes well beyond the Secretariat and also encompasses projects part of BRIDGE and two other innovation platforms.

Zabala Innovation is the leader of the communication and dissemination work package of the projects BeFlexible and DATA CELLAR and is a partner in the project EUNIVERSAL. BeFlexible is a project led by Iberdrola seeking to increase the participation of prosumers to increase the flexibility of the electricity system, while DATA CELLAR aims to create a federated energy dataspace that will support the creation, development and management of Local Energy Communities in the EU. EUNIVERSAL seeks to develop a universal approach to using flexibility by DSO and their interaction with the new flexibility markets, enabled through a Universal Market Enabling Interface (UMEI) – a unique approach to foster interoperability across Europe.

Still, we are also members of the consortia supporting the innovation platforms Batteries Europe and ETIP Hydropower. In the former, Zabala Innovation leads the activities related to the Organisational support of the Platform and directly supports specific workimg groups and also assists the coordinator (EIT InnoEnergy) in the activities associated with the legal, administrative and financial tasks of project management. In the latter, the company leads key tasks such as raising public awareness in the ETIP Communication Working Group, promoting innovation and best practices for the industry, and implementing the dissemination, exploitation, and communication strategy.

Are you willing to know more about the ETIP SNET and BRIDGE? The two EC initiatives issue regular newsletters to which you can subscribe here and here.