Today was the second day of the SmarterE Europe conference and the last of our international faculty program. We began the day attending morning conference sessions on the topics of solar energy, energy storage, electric mobility, and smart grids. An additional track was also added to the morning events highlighting the energy-water nexus.
In the afternoon, our attention was commanded by the amazing exhibition, that featured over 4000 exhibitors, filling 11 different halls, and a large outdoor area dedicated to electric vehicle test drives. Our delegation was provided with a guided tour through the exhibits, facilitated by Hans Christoph Neidlein, our personal translator and guide, who moderated our meetings with featured energy storage companies, Varta, Senec, BYD, TesVolt, Intilion, and Eaton. We were impressed with the sheer number of companies working in this area, and the variety of innovative energy storage products that we saw, ranging from the residential to the utility and transmission grid scale. Of the companies that we spoke with during the afternoon, only a third of them had a current presence in North America. However, all of the companies indicated their desire to enter this marketplace, and many had plans to introduce products certified to meet U.S. standards in the upcoming year.
Our day was capped off by a reception with the organizers of the SmarterE conference and a discussion with the founder of the event Markus Elsässer. Markus shared with us some background on the SmarterE conference, and how over the past 30 years it has grown from a small gathering of manufacturers and contractors to become the largest event of any kind in the energy industry. Markus observed that just a couple weeks before our arrival, on April 22, Germany set a new record with renewable energy providing 77% of the nation’s electricity over a 24 hour period; and, for a portion of the middle of the day during peak sunlight, all of the country’s electricity was provided by renewable energy. Markus then engaged us in a forward looking discussion about what the next 30 years might hold, now that renewable energy is the cheapest source of new electricity. It seems clear that renewable energy has established its position as the dominant player in the German energy market, and other countries are likely to soon follow suit. Markus concluded our visit with an invitation to attend the 2020 Smarter E conference, which will feature a special track added to specifically target educators and students.
We finished our evening with a group dinner at Hans im Glück, a sustainable burger restaurant that provided a unique setting for our group to debrief and reflect on our experiences abroad. Despite the somewhat frenetic pace of the past two weeks, there was still a palpable energy among the group. Participants were eager to relate ideas that they had to share the new information on renewable energy and energy storage with others. It will be rewarding to see how each of us integrates this knowledge into our instruction back home in the U.S.. After an extended dinner that many of us wished did not have to end, we returned to the hotel and exchanged a round of goodbyes, as we hustled off to our rooms to pack for our early morning departures and prepare for the journey home.