Expert interview
Helfried Brunner, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology

DI Helfried Brunner AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Foto: AIT
Helfried Brunner
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Photo: AIT

You are actively involved in the Austrian strategy finding process Smart Grids 2.0 and have been in charge of the work on the Strategic Research Agenda. What is your opinion on developments so far in the field of smart grid technologies in Austria?
Previous strategic work, combined with a pro-innovation aid system, has provided an excellent basis for initiatives in which industry, electricity suppliers, infrastructure operators and researchers all participate, making Austria an international pioneer – both in the development of technologies e.g. to increase distribution grids‘ capacity to cope with renewables, and in the development of services that underlie the process.

What will the next steps be toward implementing a sustainable energy system?
The current focus is on developing methods and strategies for the individual energy domains (power, gas and heat), with increasing attention to the interfaces between them (hybrid networks). That will be the basis for the next step: exploring tomorrow‘s energy system across all domains (an interdisciplinary, integrated and systemic task). And then the focus will shift to further developing the energy system (integrated in real life) using the experience gathered.

In which areas is there the most need of research?
Apart from developing individual technologies and system solutions further, one central aspect is reducing planning uncertainty when these are put to work in the highly cross-linked energy system. So we need simple methods and tools, to equip both infrastructure operators and industry for evaluating when and which solution is most suitable where.

How are Austria‘s activities in the field of smart grids tied in internationally?
The Austrian activities in the field of smart grids are not seen as separate from international initiatives. Tying in goes both ways: the discussions and developments in individual international initiatives, such as those of the International Energy Agency or the European Research Alliance, play a part in the Austrian developments and the international cross-linking of our own activities, such as the participation of Austrian pilot projects in international research programmes, ensures that the strategies developed here find their way into international initiatives.