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TMC Employeneur Sander Vaeck wins Encon Energy Prize 2015

An electricity network that is solely powered by renewable energy? According to TMC employeneur Sander Vaeck, it’s a necessity in order to reach the goals the EU has set for themselves to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050. His thesis on how to best set up such a network in Belgium has won the Encon Energy Prize 2015: 2,500 Euros plus a job offer to join Encon. Unfortunately for Encon, Sander already joined TMC Belgium in September of this year. Belgium minister of Education Hilde Crevits presented the prize to Sander last Tuesday.

Energy storage is key

“Besides making sure that we can produce enough renewable energy, storing that energy is the main issue to solve when we are trying to create a sustainable electricity network. Renewable energy is variable and unpredictable and so we have to be able to store it to even-out any fluctuations in availability. Consequently, the future power system will face a stochastic and unpredictable nature for both electricity demand and generation. And so the need arises for short-term, medium-term and seasonal storage, so that we can deliver operational flexibility. The big questions facing us right now are: in what ratio do we need all of these storage facilities? What investments do we need to make to set up such a renewable electricity network? And how should they be used My thesis brings forward possible answer to these questions.

Generation expansion planning models

“In my thesis, I simulated the network using models called Generation Expansion Planning Models. That’s a domain that already existed. The groundbreaking element in my model is the extra detailed technical preconditions. For example, the model integrates ramping constraints, minimum up- and downtimes of power plants and storage units. The model also continuously calculates the required operational reserves. An important element in this is the power-to-gas stations, where electricity is transformed to synthetic methane gas that can be injected under the ground like natural gas for seasonal storage. The results of the model showed that we need to increase our solar power capacity to 15 gigawatts and our wind power capacity to 20 gigawatts. Solar power in Belgium at the moment has a power capacity of 2.9 gigawatts, and wind is at 1.9 gigawatts. Energy storage also plays a very important role, and multiple types of storage are necessary, with batteries for short-term storage, pumped hydro storage for the medium-long storage, and power-to-gas for the seasonal storage.”

TMC and beyond

Sander is now in talks with several clients for his first project for TMC Belgium. “I am looking forward to working for TMC and my first client. My ambition is to continue in the energy sector and to keep working on studies that focus on renewable energy. The power-to-gas principle is very interesting because it can not only make the electricity energy cycle renewable but also the whole energy system. That’s very exiting, and I’m convinced the vision of my thesis is fully achievable.

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