Event: Potentials of the Gas Infrastructure in the Framework of the European Energy Market Design

On Thursday 10th of May 2017, the German Forum for Future Energies (Forum für Zukunftsenergien) organised an event on potentials of the gas infrastructure on the premises of the German Permanent Representation in Brussels. The event gathered around 80 stakeholders from the gas infrastructure and policy makers, and EBA was present.

Dr. Nyomen held a keynote lecture on sector coupling via the (P2G) Power-to-Gas technology to link the heating, electricity, mobility and industry sectors. The question was raised if the electricity sector will be able to fulfill the demands of the beforementioned energy sectors entirely. Given that the European Gas Grid is 2.2 million km of length and operates very well, the gas sector should be part of future energy scenarios. Dr. Nyomen presented the outcome of their study showing two extreme future scenarios: the comparison of “all electric world” and “green gas scenario”. The P2G technology was introduced of being able to couple the electricity and gas sectors to provide gas from excess electricity for the purposes of peak demands. The production of biogas was considered in the introduced scenarios as well, assuming the current amount of biogas will be available for future energy scenarios.

This overview was followed by a plenary session with representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission; Markus Pieper (MEP of EPP), Gesine Meißner (MEP – ALDE). The gas sector was represented by Ralph Bahke (ONTRAS gas transport), Florian Ermacora (EC Section B2), Eva Hennig (Eurogas & Thüga AG) and Christoph Schäfers (Uniper).                 

Mr. Pieper addressed the importance of being open to different technologies as the highest priority is to reach climate goals. The party is not in favour of enforcing energy savings as this might lead to limitations for the industry sector to grow according to their opinion. It is very likely that the electricity demand will rise during the next decades. Replying to worries raised by the industry, he stressed his support for trading of certificates and releasing restrictions that affect energy production and trading.

Mrs. Meißner mentioned biogas as a very important energy provider which has to move from energy crops to waste to become more sustainable. Biogas can also provide flexibility via gas storages whose implementation is costly. Hydrogen and LNG should be used to cover the maritime transport sector to provide a clean infrastructure. She mentioned the importance of a balanced energy mix to find the most suitable technologies for the respective demand.

Mr. Ermacora, representing the opinion of the European Commission, stated the priority of electricity market design with the highest goals of flexibility and energy efficiency. The adjustment of the electricity network might be of higher importance than the enhancement of electricity production.

Mr. Bahke from ONTRAS pleaded against any extreme scenarios but for a reasonable mixed scenario with the implementation of most useful technologies. ONTRAS is operating a gas transmission network (TSO) which needs yearly investments of €100 million for maintenance, extension, reconstruction of the grid. The injection of renewable gases from biogas and P2G plants into their gas grids will allow the ongoing operation of such gas grids. The variety of gas qualities is increasing with the injection of renewable gases and has to be regulated and managed in a reasonable way to make cross-border trading possible.

Mr. Schäfers from Uniper, one of Europe’s leading energy companies, explained that the functionality of P2G plants has been proven by Uniper as they have been operating two pilot plants for several years. They claim the operation is not too far from becoming economic, especially with the usage of the product hydrogen.

Mrs. Hennig was representing the sector for the company Thüga DE, which is a German network of local and regional energy providers. She is also leading a working group on distribution system operators (DSO) at Eurogas. Within their network, Thüga has also been operating P2G plants for several years and inject the produced hydrogen into the grid. In her point of view, the big issue to be addressed is the seasonal and local/regional demand-response discrepancies.

Attendees agreed on the importance of finding a balanced energy mix for the future decades. The amounts of produced energy have to cover local, regional and seasonal demands which is possible by coupling sectors and implementing new technologies such as Power-to-Gas.