Market Insights

The Smarter E Europe 2019 Consolidated its Status as Europe’s Largest Energy Trade Fair

July 10, 2019 by Roland R. Ackerman

Innovation Platform for the New Energy World In mid-May and in 10 halls of the exhibition grounds, Munich hosted four trade fairs with a common mission:

Innovation Platform for the New Energy World

In mid-May and in 10 halls of the exhibition grounds, Munich hosted four trade fairs with a common mission: to achieve a clean and modern energy industry. After three successful days, “The smarter E Europe”, the innovation platform for the new energy world, draws a positive balance.


From 15 to 17 May 2019, a total of four energy trade fairs took place on the innovation platform: At Intersolar Europe, the world’s largest trade fair for the solar industry, the goal was “Connecting Solar Business!” The ees Europe focused on batteries and energy storage systems, the Power2Drive Europe showed the interaction of electric vehicles and environmentally friendly energy supply, and the EM-Power covered the intelligent use of energy in industry and buildings. With a total of 1,354 exhibitors (+15%), 100,000 square metres (1,076,000 square ft, +16%) of exhibition space and around 50,000 visitors (+8%) from 162 countries, The smarter E Europe – just one year after its premiere – proved to be Europe’s largest energy platform.

The focus was consistently on the core themes of a sustainable energy sector – from renewable energies to decentralisation, digitisation and sector coupling. Particular attention was paid to intelligent and networked energy systems. In addition, numerous innovative technologies, new business models and forward-looking projects were presented at the accompanying conferences and trade fair forums.


ees Europe: Trends in batteries and energy storage systems

More than 450 suppliers of energy storage technology and energy storage systems were represented at Europe’s largest and most international exhibition for batteries and energy storage systems ees (electrical energy storage) and the parallel exhibitions. ees Europe also offered a comprehensive accompanying program – from the ees Europe Conference and a range of forums to free, expert-led exhibition tours on a variety of different topics to the presentation of the renowned ees Award. With additional events in San Diego, Bangalore and São Paulo, ees is represented on four continents.On May 14 and 15, the ees Europe Conference, highlighting and consolidating current industry issues, offered an in-depth program on international storage markets and introduced lucrative business models. Numerous sessions explored the technologies of the future. For example, the session “Quality Assurance for Products and Projects – Safety, Reliability and Performance” addressed key questions in the field of quality assurance for stationary battery storage units. The session was led by Dr. Matthias Vetter, Head of Department for Electrical Energy Storage at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany and Chairman of the ees Europe Conference.


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Vetter stated: “When it comes to achieving a wide-reaching and sustainable market penetration of stationary battery storage systems in the widest possible range of applications – PV battery-based storage units in private, commercial and industrial environments, battery systems for providing primary balancing power, battery storage systems integrated in solar parks and wind farms – the topics of safety and reliability are paramount and create the basis required. But efficiency and effectiveness also have to be addressed for worthwhile application.” The session shone a light on all these topics from a technical and economic perspective, described the current status of standards and presented exemplary results from professional practice. Specialists explained how to guarantee the safety and reliability as well as the efficiency and effectiveness of battery systems. Existing and future standards for certification were also up for discussion.

Main topics of the conference were

  • Hydrogen production from renewable electricity for energy storage and grid balancing
  • Status of power-to-gas and other multi-sector hydrogen activities
  • Hydrogen storage and distribution
  • Power-to-gas as a facilitator of sector coupling
  • Energy and industrial policy aspects – current status in Germany and other EU-States
  • Fuel cell systems for CHP and power for industrial, commercial, residential scales and small applications, and
  • Latest trends – road/non-road vehicles propulsion

In the ees Forum, held under the motto “Innovating energy storage!”, the ees Award finalists’ contributions were introduced and current topics and developments were discussed in sessions such as “Long-term Profitable Energy Storage Technologies,” “Monetizing Solar & Storage,” “Business Models for Commercial Storage Facilities,” “Alternatives to Li-Ion Battery Systems,” “Specialized Distributors for Storage Systems,” “Energy Storage Market Overview” and “Pitches from Start-ups.”

The PV and Battery Production Forum, in another hall, was held in close cooperation with PEM (Chair of Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components) at RWTH Aachen University. Here, the spotlight was on battery production as a trend in technology, automation and process innovation. Christoph Schön from PEM explained, “The discussion explored current innovations which are extremely important for sustainable production in Europe. These range from energy-efficient processing technologies – such as the use of lasers – to a strong machine and plant construction sector with solutions for automated module and pack production to the next generation of battery technologies.”


Intersolar Europe 2019: Multitalented inverters

Intersolar Europe 2019 offered unmissable opportunities to exchange ideas with the global market leaders for inverters, presenting innovative solutions and systems which open up entirely new fields of application and help to make the goals and visions of professional users and prosumers a reality. These innovations can also be combined with a whole range of battery systems that were on show at the parallel event ees Europe. In addition, attendees at the two-day Intersolar Europe Conference explored all about the latest developments, from innovations in string inverters to central inverters and PV power plant concepts, at the side event “Power Electronics for Photovoltaics and Battery Systems.”

Thanks to digitalization and the greater needs of the market, inverters are becoming increasingly versatile. From storage devices to electric cars, heating elements to smart home applications and monitoring systems, a variety of components can be seamlessly integrated using inverters. With this wide scope of application, inverters are currently undergoing a highly dynamic innovation process, and have already become real all-rounders. The main trends are for easily installed and modular hybrid inverters, solutions for retrofitting, and string inverters with a high power density for large-scale PV plants which feed into the grid.

Converting direct current solar power into alternating current as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible – this was the task of inverters until just a few years ago. Since then, they have become multitalented. In addition to converting electricity, they are now used to analyze and control solar strings and solar batteries as well as power-to-heat and smart home solutions. They include interfaces for digital communication and are connected to energy management systems which also incorporate electric vehicles, for example. One factor driving this development is the advance of digitalization. This is accompanied by a change in the needs of a new generation of users who produce and use their own power from renewable sources. These prosumers store the solar energy that they produce until they require it for any of a wide range of applications. Modern inverters must be able to meet the needs of this generation.

“It used to be that people would simply feed solar power into the grid and earn money from the feed-in tariff. Today, this tariff is only 10 to 12 € per kWh, while the electricity purchase price is 30 euro cents. For this reason, it is becoming more economical in some cases to install batteries at home” explained Prof. Dr. Bruno Burger, who is responsible for the energy data platform Energy Charts at Fraunhofer ISE. Batteries make it possible to store the cheap, self-generated electricity for consumption later when solar power is not available. Inverter technology is evolving with this trend. “There used to only be feed-in inverters. Now, we have inverters which can be connected to the photovoltaic installation and the batteries.” Also popular are new storage systems with integrated hybrid inverters, which are particularly suitable for retrofitting existing photovoltaic installations. This is an increasingly important consideration – not least as the EEG feed-in tariffs will gradually expire for older solar installations starting from 2021. The new systems can be connected directly to the household network, independent of the solar installation, and are compatible with batteries from a range of manufacturers. They can be used as an emergency power backup and automatically inform users of any errors via apps or portals.

There have also been innovations in string inverters for large-scale PV installations which feed into the grid. Manufacturers are increasingly designing larger string converters for 1,500VDC with a high power density. The higher voltages from the module array allow for lower currents, reducing the cost of cabling and cooling. The trend here is toward devices which offer increased outputs while remaining compact and efficient. They can often be connected to several solar strings at the same time, and installation tends to take place entirely online via apps and the internal wireless network.


Power2Drive: EV and PV ensure sustainable eMobility

The combination of solar energy and electric vehicles enables new, pioneering use concepts for private households and companies alike. One asset of eMobility is how perfectly it can be combined with renewable energy. Electric vehicles can be driven and charging stations can be fed with electricity from PV systems. Ideally, electric vehicles are charged with solar power directly from the owner’s roof. Electric vehicles are notably more efficient than vehicles with combus-tion engines. A PV system with a capacity of three kilowatts peak in a single-family home in Germany can provide enough power annually to operate an electric car for around 18,000 km (annual average in Germany: 14,000 km) emission free. This will be of particular interest for all those PV system owners who will lose their eligibility for EEG subsidies in 2021 or later, once their installations are more than 20 years old. For them, completely new business models such as the operation of solar filling stations are also in the works, with many suppliers having already developed the necessary software.


Avoiding grid congestion

Fraunhofer ISE has developed a household energy management system that optimizes electric vehicle charging to maximize the supply of self-generated power from photovoltaic installations. The system develops and monitors charging schedules, taking into account yield forecasts and the household load. In a field test, this intelligent, fore-sighted control technology enabled the photovoltaic system to provide 86 percent of the charging power needed on a sunny day. Without the charging algorithm, it would have only achieved 46 percent.

With eMobility, grid congestion can be prevented for the most part through intelligent coordination of renewable energies and storage systems. A current study conducted at the TU Braunschweig has shown that, by employing solar installations connected to battery storage systems, around 60 percent of all homes connected to the power grid in neighbourhoods of private one- and two-family houses can be supplied by their own 11 kW charging stations for electric cars. This significantly relieves stress on the normal power grid. As of now, most new solar power systems are being installed with a battery storage system, according to the German Solar Association (BSW-Solar).

The EV and PV combination was also central focus of this year’s Power2Drive Europe Conference and the Power2Drive Forum. EMobility is headed for a breakthrough. In the coming years, a large number of vehicle models from various manufacturers will enter the market, accompanied by a major expansion of charging infrastructure, making new approaches such as sector coupling financially attractive. “Our mobility of the future has no other option but to become carbon neutral as quickly as possible. Aside from efficient electric drive mechanisms and smaller, lighter electric vehicles, this also requires the most direct possible use of renewable electrical energy”, commented Thomic Ruschmeyer, Chairman of German Association for Solar Mobility (BSM).

The topic “Nascent eMobility Markets: Insight, Analysis and Areas of Opportunity” went into details of select eMobility markets, identifying the regions displaying particular potential, the most important influential factors and provided insight into future forecasts.


EM-Power: Sector coupling and smart metering

Beyond the use of sun and wind to generate electricity, climate-friendly alternatives to fossil fuels need to catch on in the heating and transportation sectors as well. Using renewable electricity in these sectors and coupling them as much as possible holds vast potential. EM-Power put the spotlight on professional energy customers.

“Sector coupling not only protects the climate, but paves the way for new technologies to enter the market, boosting the energy sector’s overall innovative power as a result,” said Robert Busch, CEO of the German Association of Energy Market Innovators (bne). “However, sector coupling requires a sound legal framework, which no longer impedes the use of green power in the heating and transportation sectors. Here, top priority must be given to reforming the taxation and levy system and introducing a national carbon price.”

Increased sector coupling allows excess solar power to be used more efficiently and more flexibly in terms of time and place in the form of heat, cooling and driving power. Electric heat pumps and decentralized heat/power-generation units combine the electricity and heating sectors (power-to-heat), while electric vehicles connect the electricity and transportation sectors. At EM-Power exhibitors presented the sector coupling solutions already available on the market at their booths and at the Compact Energy Forum alike.

Smart metering is the buzzword of the hour and a major step forward for the industry, because smart metering systems that can also transfer the data they capture are a key factor in smart energy use. And they hold enormous potential – both for developing a clean energy industry and for energy customers who want smart ways to manage their energy consumption. Smart metering systems make a vital contribution to the energy transition. They enable connection, communication and automation between the people, devices and systems involved, and ensure that all of this is done at the necessary speed. Free – i.e. non-certified – metering systems already offer a wide range of functions and provide consumers and businesses with attractive solutions for self-generation, tenant power models, neigh-bourhood concepts and e-mobility.