Inter­view with Michael Lehmann of MIT­NETZ Strom

The third edi­tion of our mag­a­zine Reimag­ine Ener­gy focus­es on e-mobil­i­ty, a key pil­lar of a net-zero econ­o­my. We spoke to Michael Lehmann of MIT­NETZ Strom about the oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges of e-mobil­i­ty for region­al grid man­age­ment and cus­tomers.

MIT­NETZ Strom is the largest region­al dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work oper­a­tor in east­ern Ger­many and is respon­si­ble for the plan­ning, oper­a­tion and com­mer­cial­iza­tion of the grid. In its imme­di­ate grid area, ener­gy gen­er­a­tion from renew­ables exceeds ener­gy demand, mak­ing grid reg­u­la­tion com­plex.

We see e-mobil­i­ty and sta­tion­ary ener­gy stor­age as an oppor­tu­ni­ty, because flex­i­ble bat­tery stor­age sys­tems allow wind and solar pow­er to be used local­ly in our grid.”

Michael Lehmann, Head of Process and IT Man­age­ment at Meter2Cash at MIT­NETZ Strom

Michael Lehmann Back­ground

Dieses Bild hat ein leeres Alt-Attribut. Der Dateiname ist Michael-Lehmann_MITNETZ.png

PhD in the field of fuel cell research at Jülich Research Cen­tre in 1999
Worked with the envi­aM group since 1997, cur­rent­ly with MIT­NETZ Strom IT-man­ag­er for mar­ket process­es Help­ing to shape mar­ket process­es for the Ger­man elec­tric­i­ty and gas mar­kets Lead­ing project Net­zFlex, togeth­er with Kiwigrid

What is the new Net­zFlex project?

Due to our large share of renew­able ener­gy in the grid, we reg­u­lar­ly have sig­nif­i­cant sur­plus­es of elec­tric­i­ty that we must deliv­er to the trans­mis­sion grid instead of con­sum­ing local­ly. We are talk­ing about 5 bil­lion kWh per year. That amount of elec­tric­i­ty could sup­ply around 1.7 mil­lion EVs with local­ly gen­er­at­ed green elec­tric­i­ty all year round. 

There­fore, we see e-mobil­i­ty and sta­tion­ary ener­gy stor­age as an oppor­tu­ni­ty, because flex­i­ble bat­tery stor­age sys­tems allow wind and solar pow­er to be used local­ly in our grid. The effect is twofold. More clean elec­tric­i­ty is used sen­si­bly, while at the same time our grids and trans­mis­sion sys­tems are relieved. With Net­zFlex we want to real­ize this poten­tial.”

How does the new Net­zFlex tar­iff work?

We have cre­at­ed a tar­iff that is an incen­tive for cus­tomers with flex­i­ble con­sumers, such as EVs, to use local and green elec­tric­i­ty. For exam­ple, there is a low-cost tar­iff in times of high wind or solar pow­er gen­er­a­tion, and a cor­re­spond­ing­ly high tar­iff when the grid is sub­ject to high demand and no renew­able ener­gy is avail­able. The tar­iff times are pub­lished the day before, so that smart con­sumers can opti­mize their demand. With Kiwigrid, we have devel­oped the Net­zFlex API for this pur­pose. It pro­vides cus­tomers with impor­tant grid infor­ma­tion such as the CO2 foot­print of their elec­tric­i­ty and the tar­iffs for the fol­low­ing day. At the same time, the inter­face pro­vides an intel­li­gent reser­va­tion sys­tem for flex­i­ble con­sumers to ensure opti­mal uti­liza­tion of the local grids. This will sta­bi­lize the grid and help cus­tomers make bet­ter use of renew­able ener­gy.”

Why did you decide to intro­duce Net­zFlex?

In the past, many net­work oper­a­tors have used direct con­troller inter­ven­tions to access cus­tomers’ devices, such as heat pumps for exam­ple. This pro­tect­ed the local grids and cre­at­ed an incen­tive to use the inflex­i­ble base load elec­tric­i­ty from lig­nite and nuclear ener­gy. We now have a sit­u­a­tion in which we must rebal­ance gen­er­a­tion and con­sump­tion. The big dif­fer­ence, how­ev­er, is that grid oper­a­tors such as our­selves no longer want to con­trol things from our side. It is point­less, for instance, to access a wall box for an EV when the cus­tomer is just charg­ing from their solar bat­tery. We want to leave the deci­sions to the cus­tomers. And that means leav­ing it to their smart devices to make the right deci­sions.”

Why now?

First­ly, the tech­nol­o­gy is avail­able now. We can car­ry out mea­sure­ments in low volt­age and use inter­faces to smart devices. 

Also, in 2020 leg­is­la­tion will cre­ate the legal frame­work for flex­i­ble con­sumers in low volt­age, such as EVs and heat pumps. With our project, we want to show where the jour­ney is head­ed and make sure that the legal frame­work is open to such inno­va­tions.”

How effec­tive is the reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work? What incen­tives should be cre­at­ed?

At present, many things are pos­si­ble and some net­work oper­a­tors are very cre­ative in design­ing the net­works of the future. But we must ensure, not least in the inter­ests of our cus­tomers, that the tech­nol­o­gy is used in a cus­tomer-ori­ent­ed and prag­mat­ic man­ner. In this respect, the Act on the Dig­i­ti­za­tion of the Ener­gy Tran­si­tion is not per­fect. Improve­ments will be nec­es­sary.

How­ev­er, the great­est chal­lenge for the reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work is yet to come. When EVs will be able to trans­port and feed back elec­tric­i­ty to the grid on a large scale – Vehi­cle to Grid tech­nol­o­gy – then many things will no longer work as they do today. We are look­ing for­ward to these excit­ing times!”

What ben­e­fits do you hope to gain from offer­ing Net­zFlex?

The elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of trans­port and heat is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for us as grid oper­a­tors. We are hap­py to trans­port the nec­es­sary ener­gy via our net­works. The chal­lenge, how­ev­er, will be to use exist­ing net­works wher­ev­er pos­si­ble and only expand net­works in excep­tion­al cas­es. Net­zFlex is one of our most impor­tant approach­es in this respect and we are con­vinced that it will ensure very effi­cient grid oper­a­tion.”

Down­load Reimag­ine Ener­gy: The e-mobil­i­ty edi­tion for free to gain access to:

Full inter­view with Michael Lehmann Plans, hur­dles and con­cerns dur­ing the mar­ket launch and how they were over­come

Fur­ther inter­views
Elmar Möller of Tech­niSat talks about enter­ing the ener­gy mar­ket as a con­sumer elec­tron­ics com­pa­ny
Hans Krüger, Direc­tor Prod­ucts at Kiwigrid, talks about the smart meter roll­out in Ger­many, the remain­ing chal­lenges and the poten­tial of val­ue-added ser­vices

Fur­ther arti­cles about e-mobil­i­ty trends and the Ger­man smart meter roll­out