GAS, THE FLEXIBLE GREEN ENERGY
[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH : David le Noc, energy efficiency manager with CEGIBAT, the building performance branch of GRDF]
The energy that powers and heats tomorrow’s buildings will be carbon free, devolved, and managed digitally. The revolution is already well under way and gas fully intends to be part of it. We speak to David le Noc, energy efficiency manager with CEGIBAT, the building performance branch of GRDF.
How can gas, a fossil fuel, be part of the energy transition ?
First of all, let’s remind ourselves that gas currently covers almost 20% of total French energy needs. Its main interest lies in its ability to be easily stored and deployed; it therefore helps ensure continuity of supply, especially during winter consumption peaks as a complement to electrical energy. There’s a significant effort under way to reduce gas consumption, notably by the use of condensation boilers and connected gas meters. But the biggest factor is the advent of biomethane. With upsurge in this sector, we can imagine that by 2030, injected green gas will account for 30% of mains gas and by 2050, will cover all gas needs, contributing substantially to a reduction in CO2 emissions (biomethane’s carbon footprint is 90% smaller than that of fossil gas). And its use is not limited to buildings: CNG powered transportation also offers huge potential for addressing global heating concerns.
How can gas and electricity transport grids complement each other ?
Energy complementarity is a natural consequence of the new energy landscape, helping balance out production and consumption. As more and more energy from renewable sources (wind, sun, etc.) is fed into power grids, more and more periods arise when production outpaces demand. That’s where the storage issue comes in. Massive electricity storage is a problem we haven’t cracked yet. So the alternative is to convert the energy produced to another, more readily storable form. That’s the idea behind P2G (power-to-gas) technology, which we are experimenting in Dunkirk with the Grhyd project. Surplus energy from renewable sources is used to produce hydrogen, which can then be either used at source or injected into the existing gas transport and distribution mains as-is or after methanation. This will increase the share of renewables in total energy consumption.
What future role can gas play in energy supplies ?
Gas is and will remain an essential part of the energy transition and central to our energy mix because of its unparalleled flexibility.
That means large scale implementation of flexible systems like hybrid boilers that run on gas or electricity alike, or CHP, converting gas to heat and electricity close to the point of use. We are currently conducting experiments in Nice as part of the European Interflex project for residential and service sector buildings. The region is a grid “dead end” and thus especially sensitive to power consumption spikes, so we have installed specific controls for switching from electricity to gas when the power grid is over-solicited. This demonstration unit will enable fine tuning of the methods for achieving this flexibility. In ten years or so, we expect this type of grid management to become widespread.
A French smart gas grid demonstration unit
Nice Smart Valley is one of five demonstration exercises being conducted in the scope of the European InterFlex project, which sets out to improve local electrical system performance by testing new flexibility and automation solutions. Six partners are involved in this unit: Enedis, GRDF, Engie, EDF, General Electric, and Socomec. There are three experiments, covering flexibility, energy storage, and islanding respectively.