Triggering Local Innovation Processes for the Implementation of Sector Coupling Projects: An Integrated Approach
1.1. Integrated Assessment Approaches for PtX Paths
- PtX paths are increasingly being integrated into large (trans)national and even global energy system models. These can be used to assess the benefits of sector coupling (e.g., an increase in the overall share of renewably produced energy) and how it affects the primary energy consumption and the total production costs at the overall energy system level. From this, policy recommendations on the design of the regulatory framework or the composition of the future generation fleet can be derived. Current examples for this type of studies are [3,6,7,8]. In , possible development paths and options are examined with which the climate protection goals for Germany for 2050 can be achieved. After a technical analysis of the various options, a more in-depth look at the topic of sector coupling follows, on the one hand, by comparing the sector coupling approaches in existing energy system scenarios in Germany and, on the other hand, by performing model calculations with the energy system model REMod-D. In , the PowerFlex energy system model, which previously only focused on the electricity sector, is expanded to include the mapping of the heating and cooling sector. This enabled scenario calculations to be carried out that evaluate the future contribution of sector coupling options such as power-to-gas or power-to-heat to the German energy supply system. In , the focus is on assessing the future contribution of power fuels to decarbonising global energy supplies by 2050. For this, the so called LUT Energy System Transition model  is applied for several scenario calculations. In , the effect of sector coupling respectively the effect of grid reinforcement on the energy supply costs in the European energy system are compared. A variety of other examples of this type of study can be found in . There, this approach is summarised under the term “PtG deployment scenarios at regional and national scale”. Further studies with a focus on the contribution of residential power-to-heat applications for the integration of renewable energies can be found in .
- In addition, there are several studies that examine PtX paths in detail without modelling their integration into the energy system. Often, several PtX paths are evaluated comparatively. Many of these studies focus on technical aspects, with interdisciplinary analyses being carried out additionally at times. Yet, there are no scholarly works that systematically deduce which PtX paths are fundamentally possible and relevant to a specific local implementation context. Instead, all existing pieces on the topic focus on a set of predetermined PtX paths with the aim of investigating and evaluating them more closely. In , the multitude of possible paths are shown in a schematic diagram. Five exemplary paths are then subject to a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis, whose focus lies on technical aspects. In the follow-up project, further paths have been included in the analysis, but its focus remains on technical aspects as well as potential assessments for North Rhine-Westphalia . The studies of  go somewhat further by carrying out a multi-criteria evaluation of the power-to-liquid and power-to-chemicals paths, taking into account various interdisciplinary aspects. In , a review is conducted and, based on it, a morphological analysis specifically for residential energy supply systems. It assesses all possible technologies in the mobility, heating and electricity sectors, including PtX technologies. The results of the morphological analysis are possible configurations of the future residential energy system.
- Thirdly, there are studies that examine individual aspects of one specific PtX path in detail, e.g., technical or economic feasibility or ecological impact. The analysis is usually based on a specific case study. Examples are [16,17,18]. In , a techno-economic analysis of the integration of a power-to-gas approach (electrolyser and methanation) in the production process of a pulp mill is carried out. The study in  develops and applies a two-stage procedure with differently detailed optimisation models as well as a resilience analysis in order to evaluate decarbonisation strategies for entire cities, with special consideration of sector coupling. The study in  is an example of the sector coupling approach that combines steel and chemical industries. It develops and applies an optimisation model for methanol production on the basis of steel-making by-product gases. The evaluation compares the effects that result from an economic target function and those from an ecological target function. A variety of other examples of this type of study can be found in . There, this type of study is summarised under the term “distributed-scale PtG deployment scenarios”.
- The fourth group consists of projects and studies that aim exclusively at the development of business models, that is, they address the implementation only—yet also without applying transdisciplinary approaches. In addition, an (interdisciplinary) evaluation of the respective path also hardly takes place. In this group, studies on the power-to-eMobility use path are a distinct focus, e.g.,  and . An exception is , which gives a comprehensive overview of various PtX paths before exemplary business models are developed that are particularly suitable for municipal utilities.
1.2. Resulting Research Approach of PtX Use Paths in Wuppertal
2. Overview of Methods
2.1. Step 1 in Brief: Identification of Relevant PtX Paths
2.2. Step 2 in Brief: Interdisciplinary Analysis of Identified PtX Paths
2.3. Step 3 in Brief: Transdisciplinary Collaboration
2.4. Step 4 in Brief: Development of a Business Model and Roadmap
3. Step 1 in Depth: Identification of Relevant PtX Paths
3.1. Generation of Ideas and Gate 1
3.2. Stage 1 and Gate 2
4. Step 2 in Depth: Interdisciplinary Analysis of Identified PtX Paths
4.1. Applicable Criteria
- Overview/General: This group initially contains a description of the respective path, links information about example projects in Germany and provides information about existing funding opportunities. Moreover, a structured essence of the most important criteria of the other groups is given in the form of a SWOT analysis. In some cases, assessments of the path are additionally taken from the literature.
- Technology: This group includes criteria that provide information on the required technical components as well as their dimensions and properties (e.g., efficiency and TRL).
- Structural aspects: Important criteria in this group are the space required or land use for the technological components of the path and the required infrastructure. Another criterion deals with the necessary security requirements.
- Requirements for information and communication technology (ICT): This group focuses on ICT and infrastructure requirements derived from it. IT includes both systems for monitoring or user interfaces and systems for control/automation.
- Economy: Criteria applied for this group are based on market and technology assessments. These include the addressed stakeholders, potential business models and the associated risks, including entrepreneurial risks. Furthermore, these include the feasibility of the applied technology, potential substitutes on the market and the overall market situation.
- Law and regulation: The criteria for this group focus on the general legal frameworks as well as path-specific frameworks. They include the framework that deals with data collection and notification obligation and building law and safety-related and fee-related framework conditions (including subsidies). Additionally, tax advantages and disadvantages and potential funding opportunities for the potential PtX paths are considered.
- Sustainability: Since social and economic aspects are considered separately, ecological sustainability criteria are in focus here. An important criterion is the contribution to climate protection targets and other emission targets. It aims at assessing greenhouse gas savings in comparison to a (use path dependent) reference technology for the entire life cycle, e.g., on basis of the life cycle assessment method standardised by DIN EN ISO 14040  and 14044 . Pre-chain emissions, e.g., from plant construction or resource extraction, should be taken into account as far as possible. If other emissions, such as NOx or particulate matter, are relevant, they should also be taken into account. Furthermore, energy and resource efficiency play an important role in assessing sustainability. The avoided (or possibly increased) primary energy use compared to the reference technology or practice must be analysed. In addition, the contribution of the technology field to resource efficiency can be analysed and also indicated as a min-max consideration in comparison with the reference technology; the cumulative resource expenditure (allocating the share of energy resources) is the basis for this evaluation. Other environmental impacts, such as noise emissions, air pollution control, effects on flora and fauna and estimates of space requirements and land use, should be added, at least qualitatively.
- Energy system serviceability: As one important goal of sector coupling is to integrate more renewable energies in the energy system, it is of great importance to evaluate which contribution can be made by which PtX path (e.g., in terms of flexibility delivery) and which effects on other sectors (heat, gas, electricity, mobility) can be monitored.
- Relation to megatrends: A new technology’s eligibility is decisively determined by its capacity to align with contemporary societal development, which can be analytically grasped by the concept of megatrends. As these are of high complexity, it is often not possible to determine distinct effects of megatrends on the respective technology (such as, broadly speaking, promotion, hindrance or mediation of certain impacts). Essentially, we synthesised respective elaborations of foresight consulting agencies, which yielded 13 megatrends. Thus, while we did not quantify or otherwise approximate their actual occurrence, the megatrends considered proved influential in contemporary public discourse. Irrespective of their actual outcomes, they can be assumed to (at least to a certain degree) exert influence on public and private actors’ decisions as they are perceived as far-reaching developments necessitating adequate and timely reactions. The following megatrends were included in our analysis: digitalisation, gender shift, globalisation, health, individualisation, mobility, neo-ecology, new work, security, social inequality, socio-demographic change, ubiquity of knowledge and urbanisation. Popular scientific information on these megatrends (as provided by the foresight consulting agencies identified as most influential in German public discourse) can be found online [36,37]. For recent academic reviews that have yielded a range of similar megatrends, see  as well as .
- Acceptance: While acceptance is often understood as the populations’ active support of a technology and/or a given project (and this is, without question, desirable) , here, we understand non-opposition as a minimum requirement for the realisation of a project. Consequently, we focused on factors that are prone to causing rejection, protest and conflict, such as the involvement of technologies that are perceived as bearing risks to human health or property value.
4.2. Structure and Functionality of the Evaluation Tool
5. Step 3 in Depth: Transdisciplinary Collaboration
5.1. Theoretical Background
- Capacity/competence building: Integrating knowledge from different scientific disciplines and representatives from different stakeholder groups and decision makers on concrete social, regional and technological processes of adapting to changing environments
- Consensus building: Reducing uncertainty, gathering state-of-the-art knowledge, informing relevant stakeholders and organising discourses
- Analytic mediation: Scientists operating and assisting as facilitators in problem definition, constraining uncertainty and creating processes to generate solutions
- Legitimisation: Scientists providing knowledge to legitimise political action programs
- In , transdisciplinary research approaches are summarised:
- Ensure that the essential knowledge from all relevant disciplines and actor groups related to the problem is incorporated.
- Create knowledge beyond problem analysis, as goals, norms and visions need to provide guidance for transition and intervention strategies.
- Promise to increase legitimacy, ownership and accountability for the problem, as well as for the solution options.
5.2. Building Blocks of Transdisciplinary Cooperation
5.2.2. Use Path Selection
5.2.3. Scientific Analysis to Identify Potential Customers for the PtX Path Power-to-eMobility
- Industries whose key products/services suggest a daily and intensive use of passenger cars
- Industries whose day-to-day routine suggests daily use of passenger cars only if the enterprises reach a certain size
- Industries in which regular usage of passenger cars depends largely on the presence of specific auxiliary activities within the firms (but not the key product or service)
5.2.4. Analysis of Suitable Companies from the WSW Customers for the PtX Path Power-to-eMobility
- Delivery and services for which the car trips themselves are the object of the business purpose: This group included transportation of people who are handicapped, nursing services and delivery services. Here, the vehicles are at the main location only for a short time and move to many locations throughout the day. Some of the vehicles might be taken home by employees after work. Especially in this situation, one would be confronted with inhomogeneous circumstances concerning the charging requirements.
- Companies in the manufacturing sector and service providers where car trips just serve the purpose of getting to the site of operation or to the respective client: This group included, for example, well-known tool and device manufacturers as well as insurance companies. Here, the vehicles (pool vehicles) typically stay longer at the main location and move to a few, but more distant, locations during the day.
5.2.5. End-User Integration
6. Step 4 in Depth: Development of a Business Model and a Roadmap for the Selected PtX Path
6.1. Business Model Canvas
6.2. Development of a Roadmap for the Implementation of the Business Model
7. Critical Discussion
7.1. Critical Discussion on the Integrated Approach
- Due to the breadth of the developed approach, the steps for path identification and path characterisation have a comparatively high level of abstraction. The project presented aimed, e.g., at all possible sector coupling paths across the board. In projects that are more specific from the start, the same methodology for systematic PtX path identification could be carried out within a path group. For example, a large number of other paths can be subsumed in our rough path power-to-H2-to-industry if all specific energy conversion technologies are differentiated as possible path components. Due to technological progress and changing framework conditions, we think it is important not to start from ready-made paths but to check from time to time in a systematic and creative way whether new relevant paths should be taken into account.
- From time to time, basic technology components as path modules have to be updated (not only new developed technologies added but also the properties of respective technology components updated, e.g., progress TRL or efficiencies). In addition, the precise design of the criteria or their limit values of gate 1 can be discussed. Both could lead to further potentially interesting PtX paths.
- Likewise, the supplementary bottom-up analysis of existing implementation projects should be updated from time to time. In our analysis, while a multitude of existing implementation projects could be found for some paths, for other paths, there were only two or three suitable projects. Partly, this is because some paths are still so innovative that there are actually few projects. Sometimes, however, little is published, especially when it comes to company-driven projects. Mechanisms have to be found here by science addressing how this practical knowledge can also be harnessed. The importance of this was confirmed again during the implementation of another research project on the power-to-cold sector coupling path . A review that is helpful in this regard but was only published after the end of our project is in .
- The number of criteria and broad coverage of various disciplines are very good, but more quantitative than qualitative criteria could be selected. Especially quantified results for economic criteria seem to be an important improvement as decisions of companies are mostly based on economic benchmarks.
- For a broader applicability of the evaluation tool in a transdisciplinary process, it should be made more interactive and thus more (end-)user-friendly. The revision should go hand in hand with the improvements in the transdisciplinary design.
- With regard to megatrends, operationalising pervasive societal developments (in order to measure them) is generally demanding, as their dynamics might not be fully apprehensible (yet) and are prone to change. In addition, hypotheses concerning the future cannot be tested, as data can only be evaluated retrospectively. As a means used in consulting offered to corporations, the included megatrends, both in their selection and in their content-wise focus, are likely biased by an overemphasis of economic aspects (and, thus, simplified). However, as the objective of our joint analytical efforts was to identify PtX paths most promising for commercial implementation, this does not pose a methodical shortcoming here. By including such (undoubtedly rather fuzzy) concepts in our analysis, we seek to encourage integrated, anticipatory thinking. With a range of megatrends based on normative assumptions and claims rather than empirical evidence, it can be stated that while some megatrends clearly contribute to this aim, others have emerged as too diffuse and arbitrary to deliver valuable additional insights.
- Early involvement of relevant stakeholder groups on the user side offers potential for improvement in the locally specific selection of use paths. The transdisciplinary cooperation with our central practice partner (in our case study, the WSW) turned out to be very good: there was valuable input from practice for the scientific development of the overall approach. Conversely, science was able to provide valuable information and expertise for the implementation of a local implementation project for the selected sector coupling path. However, the identification and involvement/activation of possible end users (i.e., the future customers or partners of the central practitioner) turned out to be difficult in our case study. Improvement could lie in approaching an extended group of local actors directly after the path selection, also beyond the announced customer groups of the practice partner. In this way, a broader perspective on the business model to be aimed at can be obtained, even if the negotiation process with the interests of the practice partner becomes lengthier as a result. A more in-depth critical examination of the transdisciplinary approach can be found in Section 7.2.
- The sectoral analysis was performed using data from the Markus Database Company register. Here, information is aggregated for economic entities on the company level. Therefore, further delineation of the results by more detailed criteria (such as employees per local branch or location) was not possible for larger companies comprising multiple locations. Here, data that are more detailed would allow for a more precise analysis and better results.
- Especially for other grid-bound PtX paths (e.g., local heat systems and hydrogen use paths), the spatial approach allows integration of the existing infrastructure (grids, pipelines) into the analysis early on to further delineate users within possible reach of this infrastructure.
- Business Model Canvas is a powerful method to create new business models. Primarily, it is a design method and subordinately an analysis method. We used it to analyse the value proposition in the context of the PtX path power-to-eMobility in order to identify white spots on the supply side and develop new products. The analysis and development were oriented just on the customer’s demand perspective. Quantitative economic experience values were not taken into account, which could comprehend the results.
- The provided and described method must be adjusted each time it is used for other questions and problems. The result quality depends more on the analytical skills of a team and less on the data input or the accuracy of the method application.
7.2. Impact Analysis of the Transdisciplinary Building Blocks
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Path No.||Path Label||Steps within the Paths|
|1||Power-to-H2-to-mobility||Power generation from renewable energies |
→ (hydrogen storage)
|→ Hydrogen dispenser |
→ Fuel cell vehicle
|2||Power-to-gas||→ Gas network|
→ Decentral/central heat supply
|3||Power-to-H2-to-industry||→ Industry/chemical production|
|4||Power-to-eMobility||Power generation from renewable energies |
→ (battery storage)
|→ Battery charging station → electric vehicle|
|5||Power-to-heat||→ Electric heat pump/boiler |
→ General heat storage tank
→ Decentral/central heat supply decentral/central
|6||Power-to-cold||→ Compression chiller → (general cold storage) |
→ Decentral/central cold supply
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Kanngießer, A.; Venjakob, J.; Hicking, J.; Kockel, C.; Drewing, E.; Beckamp, M.; Jaeger, S. Triggering Local Innovation Processes for the Implementation of Sector Coupling Projects: An Integrated Approach. Energies 2021, 14, 1358. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14051358
Kanngießer A, Venjakob J, Hicking J, Kockel C, Drewing E, Beckamp M, Jaeger S. Triggering Local Innovation Processes for the Implementation of Sector Coupling Projects: An Integrated Approach. Energies. 2021; 14(5):1358. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14051358Chicago/Turabian Style
Kanngießer, Annedore, Johannes Venjakob, Jan Hicking, Christina Kockel, Emily Drewing, Marius Beckamp, and Stefan Jaeger. 2021. "Triggering Local Innovation Processes for the Implementation of Sector Coupling Projects: An Integrated Approach" Energies 14, no. 5: 1358. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14051358