Climate change mitigation requires flexibility in energy systems

When Sanna Syri, Professor, Energy Economics at Aalto University, talks about energy systems, she does not mean the electrification of individual family homes. Syri’s research background is in large-scale energy systems – systems covering entire cities, suburbs, countries and continents. Even the Earth as a whole can be viewed as a global energy system.

“Examining the use of energy from the widest perspective possible reveals interesting patterns and opportunities to reach a better balance between energy demand and supply, thus significantly boosting the operation of the entire system. I find the idea of smart demand response management for a large system very interesting,” Syri says.

Syri’s current research topics include climate change mitigation on a large-energy-system scale, electricity markets, the cost-effectiveness of electricity storage, and the future of district heating, which is closely linked to these topics especially in Finland.

Electricity production is increasingly regulated by natural forces and not by human action. As we no longer have any control over the rate of electricity production, production peaks must be balanced by balancing consumption. 

According to Syri, smart demand response management is a topic of interest throughout Europe and a trend that is gaining momentum. In Finland, the district heating networks of big cities, in particular, offer excellent opportunities for large-scale demand response management.  

Professor Syri believes that the district heating systems would be able to adapt to the ongoing development with the help of large enough heat reserves. 

Syri and her team are currently studying a solution in which water is heated either directly with an electrical resistor or a heat pump. Heat could be produced when electricity is cheaper and stored in water in large hot water tanks. 

The transition towards ecological electricity production methods, such as solar and wind power, is accelerating in Europe and throughout the world.