Transition to clean energy

Energy transition
Sustainability

The challenge

Transition to clean energy

Develop solutions that reduce dependency on scarce materials by optimizing circularity in instrument transformers, while fostering cooperation within the energy sector.

The why

Why is this challenge important?

A worldwide transition to a clean energy system requires the use of critical materials on an unprecedented scale. A shortage of these materials is already perceptible today: at current levels, the global supply of these materials is insufficient and risks to hamper the feasibility of achieving net-zero targets by 2050. Raw materials are considered ‘critical’ when they are crucial to multiple sectors of the economy and are subject to extraction limitations that pose a considerable risk of a disruption in supply. Raw material scarcity affects TenneT, as well as other key players in the energy industry, mainly through supply chain disruptions and increases in procurement prices and volatility – suffice it to mention that costs for virgin copper and aluminium represent around 20% of total grid investment, and prices of these raw materials have increased respectively by 61% and 76% in 2019-2022. In the near future, many assets in our grid will be built, replaced or dismantled.

As a result, our demand for critical materials will grow to enable the grid buildout. However, materials in our old assets could be efficiently reused at the end of their lifetime, hence reducing dependency on scarce materials. Instrument transformers (voltage and current) are a key example of this process, as such assets are reaching the end of their lifetime and several transformers in our stations are already being dismantled this year. As a conservative estimate, approximately 6,000 of instrument transformers will be dismantled in the Netherlands in the upcoming years. Transformers have a high potential for circularity at end-of-life, with about three quarters of the material compatible with an entirely circular process: hence, this is a promising case to apply more sustainable practices, potentially to be extended to our entire asset base.

Nevertheless, identifying the best, high-value reuse options for materials or waste products is hampered by (i) the current lack of transparency on waste streams’ treatment and processing, (ii) reluctancy in product substitution and use of recycled materials due to scepticism about technical performance and (iii) limited steering in (cross-)sectoral and/or international cooperation, with lack of attention to joint solutions. Finding a solution to overcome these hurdles is of key importance to reduce dependency on critical materials and, ultimately, to ensure the feasibility of the energy transition.

The solution

What outcome are we looking for?

For this challenge, we are seeking innovative solutions to optimize circularity in instrument transformers, while fostering cooperation within the energy sector. Please note we see instrument transformers as a promising (and urgent) case to apply more sustainable practices, potentially to be extended to our entire asset base.

Hence, we aim for an adaptive solution that brings tangible outcomes to the case of transformers, while setting the groundwork for material efficiency strategies to be extended to our entire asset-base. You will receive some background information about our current practices, the electricity grid and its assets, before and during the day of the challenge.

Expectations

What do we expect from the participants?

Creative, out of the box thinking.

Participants

We are looking for:
Students in Technology, Business, Economics and Environmental science.

Rewards

  • Gain experience
  • Enhance your CV
  • Connect with like-minded people
  • Receive a certificate of participation

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Timeline

Open for Registration

Open for Registration

08/09/22

Deadline Registration

Deadline Registration

17/10/22

Sprintday

Sprintday

19/10/22

About us

TenneT

TenneT supplies the electricity on which all devices and systems that consume electricity run. Fortunately, we do everything we can to ensure that the light stays on. The availability of our network is no less than 99.99%. TenneT is therefore one of the best grid operators in the world.

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