Small and medium-sized enterprises in Germany form the backbone of the German industry and are indispensable for the success of the economy. More than 2.5 million companies with less than 500 employees are assigned to this category, which is 99.5% of all companies in Germany. The share in net value added of 53.5% and a share of 17% in total export revenues also illustrate the important position of these companies. In view of the energy transition, there is still a huge potential for reducing energy consumption and introducing intelligent energy solutions.
The federal state of Saxony-Anhalt is the ideal test environment for new ways of using energy. Compared to other federal states in Germany, Saxony-Anhalt has a relatively large area in terms of its population of just under 2.3 million. Due to this low population density, a large number of sustainable energy projects have been realised in the past, as there is sufficient space available for wind farms and solar plants. Saxony-Anhalt already has a 53% share of renewables in gross electricity generation, and in total exports large quantities of sustainably generated electricity.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation, together with the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences, is now researching ways in which volatile renewable energies can still be used locally in industrial companies. This has two particular advantages: The resident companies reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and the transmission grids are burdened less, which means cost savings for TSOs and end users. The aim of the project is to develop solutions for the flexibilisation of energy consumption in medium-sized companies in order to increase the use of volatile renewable energies. To this end, suitable methods, algorithms and business models are to be developed.
On the generation side, the research project deals with the economic potential of the models, the availability of energy market data for the integration of different actors and the development of specific applications. On the consumer side, the focus will be on socio-cultural aspects. The readiness for flexibilisation measures with their effects on possible workflows will be examined and the benefits for customers, society and other stakeholders evaluated.
The project partner of the research institutions is a medium-sized furniture manufacturer whose production will get linked to the locally available energy. For example, the drying systems and boilers could be controlled by the grid operator, depending on how much excess wind and solar power is currently generated.
The Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy is supporting research in the RELflex project from 2018-2021 with € 500,000.