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The climate-positive city – how Trondheim is shaping the future with ABB Ability™ OPTIMAX®

Is it possible to produce more green energy than we consume? Can peer to peer trading of energy contribute to reduced energy consumption and need for investment in infrastructure? The Norwegian university city of Trondheim aims to demonstrate that this is possible in selected urban districts. The technology partner for the climate-friendly smart grid of the future is ABB and its intelligent energy management and optimization solution ABB Ability™ OPTIMAX®.

Today, over half the world’s population lives in cities, and the trend is rising. This global wave of urbanization has far-reaching consequences. With high demand for water, materials and energy for commerce, industry, daily living and transport, urban centres consume resources disproportionately to the rest of the population. Concurrently, cities account for about three quarters of global carbon dioxide emissions, which shows that the energy transition should most definitely be a municipal priority.

Pioneering the Smart City

Trondheim in Norway recognised this at an early stage. As part of the EU-funded Horizon 2020 project +CityxChange, Trondheim, the country’s third-largest municipality, was recognised as one of two European cities pioneering energy solutions for the climate-friendly city of tomorrow. In addition, five  other cities in other EU countries are looking into adapting the results. For this purpose, the city built so-called Positive Energy Blocks (PEB) in its Brattøra and Sluppen neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods have a variety of buildings and facilities, including office complexes, small industrial plants, charging hubs for cars and buses, residential flats and Norway’s largest energy-plus house[1]. What makes these neighbourhoods special is that their total annual energy consumption from local power plants is lower than that of comparable neighbourhoods thanks to photovoltaic systems, heat pumps and waste heat.

To make this possible, the buildings and systems of the operators are networked with each other. At the heart of the Trondheim smart grid is ABB Ability™ OPTIMAX®. With the intelligent energy management solution and its predictive planning, the multi-directional energy flows in the two PEBs can be automatically measured, monitored in real time and controlled in a resource-saving manner. The learning system knows the consumption of the participating companies, takes weather forecasts into account and knows how much electricity is available on a daily basis. Surplus energy produced is stored or, since July 2022, sold via the city’s newly developed local trading platform.

“Trondheim’s peer-to-peer trading is innovative. Instead of curtailing energy use, the city administration, the connected companies, facilities and car-park operators can make unused green energy available to other market participants in the neighbourhood,” said Sleman Saliba, who leads Energy Management and Optimization at ABB. “If, for example, a building needs two kilowatts less than usual within the next hour, OPTIMAX® sends a corresponding message to the trading platform, matching supply to demand. “If the energy is available and an agreement is formed, the building in question reduces its consumption. OPTIMAX® then distributes the freed capacity to the facilities that won the bid, completely automatically and in real time. Currently, sellers only receive compensation for their energy. In the next phase, pricing can be set individually.”

“By offering state of the art energy optimization and integration through OPTIMAX® and a prototype of bi-directional EV chargers, ABB leads the way towards an integrated future of local energy and flexibility markets,” said Marius Lauvland, project manager at +CityxChange

According to the platform operator ANEO, formerly Trønderenergi, about 118 million kilowatts were sold via the digital marketplace between July 2022 and May 2023. From Saliba’s perspective, this is a real win, not only environmentally, but also financially, “Local energy markets like the one in Trondheim reduce the need to expand the power grid, and thus enable a cost-optimized energy transition. At the same time, they accelerate the transformation towards a climate-positive smart city of the future.”

As part of the +CityxChange initiative, seven European cities are experimenting with how to establish climate-positive neighbourhoods and local energy markets using innovative technologies. The project is funded by the European Union. A total of 32 companies and organisations – including ABB Norway – are involved in the initiative, which is led by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

[1] A house that produces more energy from renewable energy sources over the course of a year than it imports from external sources.