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Thursday 11 April 2024 07:33

A pivotal finding of the study, published in Energies, is the integration of decentralized photovoltaic (PV) systems into the Swiss energy grid; this could reduce annual system costs by 10% and elevate self-consumption rates to 68%. The deployment of such systems could reduce the need for grid reinforcement by up to 43%, with distribution networks remaining only in urban districts due to electrification of the buildings and private mobility sectors.

«Our analysis indicates a tangible pathway towards enhancing Switzerland's energy independence while fortifying the grid's resilience. Adopting a strategic approach to local renewable resource utilization can ensure a consistent energy supply throughout the year,» says Jonas Schnidrig, a PhD researcher within the CIRAIG groups at the Institute of Sustainable Energy of the School of Engineering - HES-SO Valais Wallis - and in the EPFL School of Engineering’s Industrial Process and Energy Systems Engineering group (IPESE), led by François Maréchal. 

The authors believe that such strategic integration could mean not only a more secure and stable energy supply for Switzerland, but also a reduction in dependence on energy imports. They argue that optimizing local energy production – especially via solar power in winter – and balancing supply and demand with the help of hydropower and biomass using the gas grid infrastructure, is a sustainable and efficient management model.

Community empowerment

The researchers analyzed the Swiss energy model using the multi-energy and multi-sector modeling framework EnergyScope, as well as the Renewable Energy Hub Optimizer (REHO) decision support tool for sustainable urban energy system planning. They argue that their results highlight the “transformative potential” of decentralized energy systems in catalyzing the development of sustainable local energy communities. Their model also allows for the prioritization of regions for PV deployment, demonstrating the economically optimal operation of the energy system depending on the PV penetration rate.

"Our findings demonstrate a clear advantage in promoting decentralized electricity production and consumption. With an investment of 1260 CHF/year per capita in local energy communities, districts can produce about half of the total energy needs of Switzerland by using around 60% of the available roof surface. This model enhances community empowerment and aligns with the sustainable energy future we envision,” says Maréchal.

Minimal ecological footprint

A significant aspect of the research is its strategic focus on deploying PV systems in urban areas, minimizing ecological impact while maximizing efficiency. This approach suggests a considerable reduction in ecological footprint compared to the potential impact of PV installations in high mountain areas, highlighting a model of responsible and efficient renewable energy development.

«By focusing on PV deployment in built-up areas, we significantly reduce environmental and economic impacts compared to installing PV systems in high alpine areas or intact natural zones. This strategic decision decreases economic constraints and ecological disruption, aligning with our commitment to a sustainable energy planning model,» states Manuele Margni, Professor and researcher at the Institute of Sustainable Energy of the School of Engineering - HES-SO Valais-Wallis. 

The dynamic ecosystem of Campus Energypolis

This research represents another tangible deliverable offered by the unique research and innovation ecosystem that is Campus Energypolis. "Interactions between researchers from EPFL and HES-SO not only offer innovative research and methodologies published in prestigious scientific journals but also address concrete and current issues that enhance the literacy of various stakeholders involved in the societal debate on strategies to achieve a viable, sustainable, and resilient energy transition. This research sheds light on the economic and environmental complementarity and compromise between decentralized and centralized renewable electricity production strategies," notes Manuele Margni.

The full article is available  here.

Authors: Jonas Schnidrig, Celia Luterbacher

Source: EPFL

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