Vattenfall, on 
the role of the smart solutions to become fossil free  

Can you reflect on your relationship with Alfen?

I think that Vattenfall’s and Alfen’s cultures fit perfectly for this journey, which is not always smooth sailing, and it’s great that we can work and learn together and use that to improve. It is that approach that led to Alfen winning our battery projects in Haringvliet and Uppsala.

We are very happy with the relationship. It’s a professional and innovative collaboration and, in my experience, Alfen feels like one of the most adaptive partners to work with.

Alfen provides a large share of Vattenfall’s charging infrastructure and we have a long, positive history
now of delivering battery storage projects together. While Alfen is a solid company with a strong track record, it lacks some of the large overheads of big corporates and so can be quicker to market and holds a strong position as an agile systems integrator and we need exactly that.

There are many smart energy innovations but I’m
going to focus on those that are available and can make a difference now, like Alfen’s, because I have seen lots
of innovation, in the storage market in particular, and quite a lot of it hasn’t been successful. By contrast,
Alfen is successfully innovating in multiple markets
with several cultural differences and that’s great!

Can you talk about smart solutions and how Alfen’s solutions such as battery energy storage and EV charge points are supporting your journey?

You really need a fixed amount of local stationary storage for frequency control or deferring use of energy. I’m sure that there will be some specific use cases for vehicle-to-grid, for peak shaving perhaps, but they will be limited in the short to medium-term. Ultimately it will require a very high volume of vehicles and a grid than can cope with them all.

This is a subject that a lot of people have been talking about for quite some time now and it’s pretty complex.
A key revenue stream for V2G would be frequency control but the revenues aren’t great; they are estimated to be around 100 euros per car, per year and possibly lower,
yet everyone in the chain wants to make some money. Additionally, there is the risk that the capacity won’t be there when it is required.

Does vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology cannibalise storage?

The goal is that our own operations, as well as those of our suppliers and customers, become carbon neutral and by ‘one generation,’ we mean 30 years so by 2050. We have already divested from lignite, which reduced our CO2 by over 60 million tons p.a. within one year, and are working towards phasing out coal and gas. 

Perhaps most importantly, we are focused on electrification because it is the key to getting fossil free, like Sweden already is due to hydropower. We are helping our large business customers in particular to move towards it. It’s not just about wind and solar generation but also about looking at high energy processes. For example, we are working with a large steel customer to replace the high temperature gas heating system, used to heat their furnaces, with green hydrogen.

Electrification of transport is also important to us. Our ambition is to become a top 3 player in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business e-mobility and Alfen is a big partner / supplier that we are working with in that respect.

So our fossil free journey is already underway. We are very strong in wind and we keep pushing. At the same time we are continuing to develop more solar and have big ambitions.

They are achieved through a combination of sole development, joint development agreements, and by investing in other assets. We are also planning to further push renewables by building and packaging renewable assets and selling them to investors. We want to play a bigger role in enabling clean energy without necessarily owning and operating all our projects.

We see huge potential for battery energy storage as it is needed at both the production and consumption ends. It works well co-located with solar PV, in so-called hybrid parks like we are constructing right now in Haringvliet with the battery storage system delivered by Alfen. Energy generated during the day is stored in the battery for use at night. Wind is slightly more complex because its patterns aren’t so straightforward. We are confident that the Dutch SDE++ subsidy scheme, which stimulates renewables deployment, will begin to stimulate storage from 2021 onwards because it will be vital to grid stability, grid flexibility and the avoidance of excessive price fluctuations. Without storage, price fluctuations lead to negative energy prices, something which we have already seen happening in the market, and this is obviously not good for our business and renewables business cases in general. 

Vattenfall’s slogan is: ‘fossil free living within a generation.’ 
How are you going to do that? What does the roadmap look like?

We see huge potential for battery storage as it is needed at both the production and consumption ends "

I studied mechanical engineering with a focus on renewables before I joined Vattenfall 10 years ago. I was initially part of its energy storage research and development team but, as the market matured, it rapidly became a business development challenge and, ultimately, a full business unit in its own right - so I feel like I have been on the full battery journey so far. 

In my current role, I have overall responsibility for batteries related to wind and solar projects and we already have systems installed in Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany and are actively looking to expand. The strongest opportunities to date have been in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands because they have the most developed markets, particularly for ancillary services.

Can you start by telling us a little about your role? 

Founded in 1909, Vattenfall is a Swedish state-owned multinational energy company whose name in Swedish means waterfall, in accordance with its hydroelectric roots. These days, the company also generates and sells energy from nuclear, coal, natural gas, wind, solar, biomass and waste and has a clear roadmap to enable fossil free living within one generation. Renewable energy now accounts for over 35% of its business and it is the second largest offshore wind energy producer in the world. It also offers battery storage, electric vehicle charging solutions, solar panels, heat pumps and smart meters and, in some places, acts as an aggregator or grid operator.

Sebastian Gerhard is Vattenfall’s Batteries Director. We spoke to him about his role, Vattenfall’s broader approach to smart energy and how this relates to its ambition to achieve ‘fossil free living within one generation’. 

An interview with Sebastian Gerhard,
Director Batteries at Vattenfall