In 2008, as part of the "Green IT Pioneer Germany" initiative, the German Ministry of Trade and Industry launched a technology initiative to maintain and optimize energy supply security, economic efficiency, and environmental compatibility, with the motto "E-Energy—ICT-Based Energy Systems of the Future." With the expectation that information and communication technology ("ICT") will play a leading role in the future in creating an "energy internet," local consortiums consisting of major industry players, utility companies, and municipalities, as well as significant research facilities, were asked to present their ideas.
Six model regions, each with very different approaches to content and goals, were selected to develop and test the core elements of the energy internet. Projects in these regions include the following, among others.
eTelligence—Intelligence for Energy, Markets, and Grids. Based in Cuxhaven, a new energy marketplace will be established, where consumers and electricity providers can buy and sell not only electricity (even in small quantities), but also idle power, grid relief, or other services. For example, cold storage houses might be cooled below the temperature necessary for normal use to build reserves, which could be used when electricity is scarce, expensive, or not available (e.g., due to wind calm). The goal of this project is to integrate small and large participants to ensure that the circumstances of no individual energy provider, such as a large peripheral wind energy plant, will endanger the security of the overall energy supply.
MEREGIO—The Minimum Emission Region Project. This project aims to establish a test region, mainly in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, that will try to reduce its carbon footprint as much as possible by intelligently combining technical energy management with innovative ICT. Energy suppliers, as well as consumers, within this region will be equipped with intelligent information and communication technology (such as smart devices/grids) to facilitate efficient energy generation and consumption. Furthermore, the project will implement variable energy price tariffs to create incentives for careful and sustainable consumption of valuable energy resources. One significant component will be the development of a "minimum emission" certificate program, which ultimately will provide regions with a way to display their energy-saving efforts in a public and highly visible manner.
RegModHarz—Regenerative Model Region of Harz. This project targets the development and combination of renewable energy resources on a day-to-day basis by making several renewable energy sources readily available in the region (including wind parks, photovoltaic plants, and hydro-electric power plants). Complete, real-time data on power generation, storage, and consumption will allow forecasting based on experience and, at the same time, provide an opportunity to optimize the use of renewable energy sources. The ultimate goal of the project, however, is to demonstrate the feasibility of providing a stable and reliable day-to-day supply of energy generated from renewable energy sources to the greatest extent possible.
The "energy internet," comprising market as well as operational technologies, will include intelligent power generation, usage, grids, and storage, all of which will need to be connected by intelligent steering technology with real-time interconnections. By promoting the shift away from consumer-oriented power generation (with electricity always available, even at peak demand times) to a system that will, by necessity, be increasingly based on renewable energy sources (with potentially more volatile availability), these initiatives mark a significant step in the direction of generation-oriented power consumption.