The Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab is a free open data tool for monitoring energy consumption in Europe. The tool provides detailed data on electricity generation, demand, and pricing for 27 European Union countries and the UK. The tool can be used not only for analyzing past and current trends in the European energy markets, but also for exploring future scenarios in energy consumption, for instance by modeling how systems could operate with higher shares of renewables. Using this innovative tool, it becomes easier for governments, legislators, businesses, and citizens to pinpoint problem areas in the energy market and identify where to focus efforts to stimulate the implementation and development of renewable energy. The Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab has been created by the Finnish company Wärtsilä, an international company providing innovative and sustainable solutions for the marine and energy markets. With this tool, Wärtsilä helps promote more affordable and clean energy across Europe, ultimately striving for a 100% renewable energy future.
Hanken School of Economics
The Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab allows users to examine the energy consumption of Europe – by individual countries, by groups of countries, or by the whole continent at once. The data underlying the tool is updated on a weekly basis, combining data from the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E) in a single platform, and covering the demand and price for electricity generated from gas, coal, nuclear, and renewable power sources. The intuitive and clean design of the tool makes it easy to use and explore, allowing anybody to learn more about the European energy market and plan for a future with more renewable energy.
The tool plays a vital role in increasing awareness about the urgent need for more renewable energy in Europe and worldwide, thereby helping accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The impacts of the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab are thus wide-ranging, and the tool contributes to several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), most notably the goals of affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), industry, innovation, and infrastructure (SDG 9), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), and climate action (SDG 13). The tool is used by a wide range of international organizations, including the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and World Economic Forum, and won Wärtsilä’s internal Sustainability Award in 2021.
The idea for the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab was conceived at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when – as the Director for Growth and Development in Europe and Asia at Wärtsilä, Ville Rimali, puts it – “we noticed that [the pandemic] could actually be a glimpse of the future, because suddenly there were more renewables in the power system when the [total energy] load decreased significantly.” While energy demand decreased during the pandemic, as national lockdowns became commonplace across Europe, the share of renewable energy on the continent increased substantially. So, as Rimali adds, the development of the tool was intended “to illustrate what is happening during COVID-19, because the same could actually happen again in a couple of years” when renewable energy becomes more widespread in Europe and globally (cf. SDG 7.2).
The Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab can, in other words, be used not only to react to on-going changes in energy markets but can also be used to anticipate and prepare for the transition from non-renewable power systems to power systems based more on renewable energy. According to Rimali, Wärtsilä wanted “to increase the understanding that power systems with a high share of renewables are possible, and they work” – and together we should therefore “drive the world towards more renewable-based power systems” (cf. SDG 13.3).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab has importantly served to illustrate that power systems with a high share of renewables do work in practice and do represent achievable targets. Indeed, on certain days during the pandemic, the share of renewables in some European countries reached more than 80 per cent (including Denmark, Portugal, Lithuania, Norway, and Austria). On May 11th 2020, the share reached as much as 99.8 per cent in Austria. However, the tool has also shown that the share of renewables is very volatile (for example, the share in Denmark was 80.5 on May 11th 2020, but five days later the share had decreased to 29 per cent on May 20th), encouraging more research into how the share can be maintained at a steadier level.
Furthermore, Rimali notes that the tool is now used by Wärtsilä to actively educate policymakers about the needs for more renewable energy, and it is also employed by external companies to adapt to the changes in the energy markets. In a Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab Report published in November 2020, Wärtsilä even argues that “[s]peeding up the transition to renewable energy does not need to cost more” in European countries like the United Kingdom, “[i]n fact, it can cost less.” On a global scale, IRENA and World Economic Forum estimate that 23 billion USD could potentially be saved annually if coal-based energy were to be replaced by solar or wind energy.
The Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab allows businesses to monitor European energy markets on a continuous basis, and thereby helps them gain insights into energy consumption across the continent. The tool also helps businesses adapt to current tendencies in the markets that could otherwise be difficult to discern on a company-individual basis. More importantly, the tool can be used to analyze and predict future tendencies in energy consumption, allowing businesses to prepare for new energy trends, crises or opportunities. As Rimali observes, the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab clearly shows that more and more coal power plants are closing down, leaving gaps in power systems to be filled by businesses engaged in greener alternatives, and at the same time improving air and life quality in cities around Europe and the world (cf. SDG 11.6).
Likewise, the tool shows how much the share of renewable energy can change from day to day in the power grid, and this volatility highlights a need for hybrid solutions that can be used to ease the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, for instance improved energy storage and optimization technology that can compensate the intermittency of the availability of renewables, many of which Wärtsilä is offering. Evidently, the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab can be used to identify a wide range of new markets for renewable energy and related technologies, providing businesses various opportunities for sustainable growth (cf. SDG 9.2). According to Wärtsilä, it is estimated that more than 11 trillion USD will be invested in new power generation alone in the next three decades.
According to Rimali, society is receiving the biggest benefits from the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab, arguing that “policymakers can use this [tool] for their long-term capacity expansion plans” for renewable energy (cf. SDG 9.4). In other words, the tool helps policymakers – and businesses – to pinpoint where to focus efforts and investments targeted at building more renewable-based power systems. In turn, more renewable-based power systems will result in lower carbon dioxide emissions, thereby helping combat global warming (cf. SDG 13). The Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab shows that significant disparities exist among European countries when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, and the tool can provide insights into not only which countries need to lower their emissions at a higher rate, but also into which countries that can serve as an inspiration for others (cf. SDG 7).
By making data on energy demand and pricing easily available to everybody, the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab also helps increase competition in energy markets, leading to more innovation in the energy sector and more affordable energy (cf. SDG 9.2). This is likely to improve energy utilization, resulting in more sustainable consumption and production, and ultimately more energy efficient cities and infrastructure (cf. SDG 11).
Ville Rimali, Director of Growth & Development in Africa & Europe
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Business Website: https://www.wartsila.com/
Year Founded: 1834
Number of Employees: 10000+
Wärtsilä is an international company that provides innovative and sustainable solutions for the marine and energy markets. The company was founded in 1834 in Finland and today has approximately 18,000 employees. The company currently has operations in more than 200 locations that are in more than 70 countries.