“electrification Of Industries: Transforming Manufacturing Processes” – Germany’s energy transformation (Energiewende) has a new term: sector coupling. The idea of ​​running energy-intensive heating, transport and industry on renewables instead of fossil fuels would require the implementation of many new technologies and regulations. The jury is still out on which technologies will be best suited to “electrify” the entire economy, as stakeholders offer different solutions. This factsheet explains the meaning of the sector coupling and implementation options under discussion in Germany.

Sector coupling (German: Sektorkoplung) refers to the idea of ​​linking (integrating) energy-consuming sectors – buildings (heating and cooling), transport and industry – with electricity-producing sectors.

“electrification Of Industries: Transforming Manufacturing Processes”

So far, Germany’s energy transformation – moving away from nuclear and fossil fuels and shaping a system powered almost entirely by renewable energy sources – has largely taken place in the electricity sector, where renewables account for 36 percent of gross electricity consumption. Is . Other sectors, notably buildings and transport, are still mainly dependent on fossil fuels, and renewable energy accounts for only 13 percent of Germany’s primary energy consumption (preliminary figures 2017).

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The use of electricity in all energy related processes, be it transportation, heating or manufacturing, will revolutionize the energy world as we know it.

Today, electricity is used to operate technical devices such as machinery and computers. Industry and homes use electricity for lighting, but to keep their homes warm, Germans rely mostly on natural gas and mineral oil heating systems and practically all forms of road transport – cars and trucks alike. Depend on petrol or diesel fuel.

Making electricity the default form of energy in these regions would be a step towards what is sometimes called an “all-electric world” – and could solve many of the problems currently facing electricity generation from renewable sources .

Since the main sources of renewable energy in Germany are wind and solar, these are not always available when energy is needed, so the storage of electricity is a major issue. The interconnection of sectors can help here: a part of the electricity can be used to heat large amounts of water (power-to-heat) for heating homes, thus indirectly electrifying the heating sector. May go. In times of peak power generation, the electricity can be used to produce hydrogen or synthetic gas (power-to-gas). The gas that stores the energy can either be used to fuel vehicles or it can be turned into electricity or heat in times of less sunlight and wind.

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The German government has opted to use renewable electricity in most processes. It considers the use of renewable energy (directly or indirectly, i.e. power-to-x) as the best way to decarbonise the country’s economy, i.e. to make it largely carbon-neutral by 2050. Other alternatives, such as the use of biofuels – such as biodiesel, wood (pellet) burning – transport and heating powered by renewable energy alone, are not considered viable due to the limited ability to grow biomass in large quantities for fuel production.

Electricity access in all energy-hungry regions raises difficult questions, such as how much electricity would be needed if the entire economy were to make electricity the default form of energy, and how to store and distribute energy in the most cost-effective way across the country. will be delivered. practical way.

Replacing electricity generated from coal, natural gas and nuclear plants with electricity derived from wind, solar, biomass, water or geothermal installations.

Status quo (2016/2017) – Households are the largest users of heat in Germany (44%), followed by industry (38%) and commerce, trade and services (18%). The homes are mainly heated (not including hot water) with fossil fuels (47% natural gas, 24% mineral oil, 17% renewable, 2% electricity, 9% district heating). Energy for heating is also used in industry and commerce, trade and the service sector. The total share of renewable energy in the heating sector was 12.9 percent in 2017. Energy use for the cooling processes is negligible – two percent of Germany’s final energy consumption. German households generally do not use air conditioning systems.

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Target – The government’s target for the building construction sector is to reduce heat consumption by 20 per cent by 2020 and greenhouse gas emissions by 67 per cent by 2030.

Technologies to increase the share of renewable energy in the heating sector include the use of biomass (currently two-thirds of renewable energy used to heat homes comes from biomass, for example wood pellets), solar thermal and Geothermal installations, heat pumps, power-to-heat and power-to-gas installations.

Heat pumps are considered an important technology for integrating the heating sector into an electricity-based energy system. These devices use electricity to circulate hot/cold fluids, harnessing heat from outside air, geothermal heat or groundwater. Heat pump installation must go hand in hand with buildings insulation to ensure that less heat is wasted and the whole area becomes more efficient.

Another power-to-heat solution uses excess electricity (for example from wind or solar in times of very high renewable energy generation) to heat a sufficient amount of water, which is then fed into the district heating network (which already present in several German cities).

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Synthetic gases generated in power-to-gas installations, which use electricity to create hydrogen (electrolysis) and add CO2 to create methane (= natural gas), are also used in the heating sector instead of fossil natural gas. May go.

Status quo (2017) – 94.8 percent of the total energy used in Germany’s transport sector comes from fossil fuels. The contribution of renewable sources is only 5.2 percent (mainly biodiesel).

Target – The government wants to reduce final energy consumption in the transport sector by 10 percent by 2020 (2050: -40%) and greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

Key technologies to decarbonize the transport sector include the use of compressed natural gas (CNG), biofuels, batteries, hydrogen or synthetic fuels.

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In addition to the use of natural gas and biofuels, all of these technologies will be part of interconnection with the electricity system, either directly (electrically charged batteries) or indirectly, in power-to-gas (hydrogen or synthetic natural gas) . or power-to-liquid (liquid synthetic fuel produced in the same process as power-to-gas) applications. Aviation, shipping and road freight transport would be candidates for power-to-X technologies rather than battery-based engines.

In the area of ​​personal mobility, public transport, car-sharing, cycling, walking and, ultimately, automated driving are projected to play an increasing role in the development of the electric-based, new mobility concept in Germany.

Status quo (2016) – Industrial processes are responsible for 28 percent of Germany’s final energy consumption. Most of the energy requirement of the industry is met by gas (35%), hard coal (14%), and electricity (32%). Only 4 percent comes from renewable sources. Three quarters of the energy required in the industry sector is used for heat processing, and the rest for running engines and machinery. 38 percent of all emissions come from processes that are not related to energy use, but from the manufacture of cement, chalk, or steel, for example, or from other chemical processes.

Target – The government wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the industry sector by 50 percent by 2030.

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Technologies – The industry sector has to be made more energy efficient, and the technologies used to reach this goal depend on specific manufacturing processes and recycling strategies.

Depending on whether an industrial process requires gases, mineral oil, chemicals, heat or electricity, all power-to-x technologies applied in other sectors can also be used to electrify the industry sector. Is.

However, the government recognizes that not all industrial and agricultural processes can be fully decarbonised. Therefore, if Germany achieves its planned 80–95 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2050, the remaining 5–20 percent of CO2 emissions (10 percent = 125 million tons of CO2 equivalent) will likely come from these regions. To reach carbon neutrality anyway, greenhouse gas emissions from industry can be captured and used, or stored (CCU/CCS), or offset by CO2 sinks.

A key question the researchers are trying to answer by modeling Germany’s future economic, social and energy systems is how much electricity would be needed if all energy-using sectors were electrified. The results of these scenarios range from 462 to 3,000 terawatt-hours (Twh) per year.

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In 2016, the country’s annual final energy consumption was 2542 TWh, and electricity consumption totaled 516 TWh. In 2015, heating/cooling and hot water services alone used 748 TWh.

Meanwhile, US energy company ExxonMobil estimates that Germany’s energy consumption will fall by about 30 percent, and that even two-thirds of cars will run on fossil fuels in 2040, with e-cars accounting for only a fifth of the vehicle fleet that year. .

In 2010, the government set a target to reduce primary energy consumption by 50 percent and electricity consumption by 25 percent by 2050 compared to 2008 levels. Fraunhofer ISI said in a 2018 study that taking into account the power requirement of electric cars alone, but also of the heating and industry sectors – always depending on efficiency gains – these power consumption targets may have to be revised.

The amount of electricity required will also depend on the technologies chosen to electrify each area. The amount of energy lost when converting one form of energy to another (for example in power-to-gas processes or when charging a battery) – known as energy conversion efficiency – is unique to each process. Is. using power to make hydrogen (electrolysis) and

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