Smart Energy is hot - Smarter E Europe event fuels Hype around Solar and Battery Storage

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By Dominique Bonte | 2Q 2023 | IN-6984

At the smarter E Europe event in Munich, Germany, the assembled green energy ecosystem showcased next-generation photovoltaics, battery energy storage, electric vehicle charging, and energy management solutions. Dominated by both Chinese vendors and an exploding number of startups, the smart energy industry is maturing fast in terms of the number, scale, and quality/reliability of clean energy system deployments. The commercial and industrial segment needs to adopt a more proactive approach.

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smarter E Europe Is Setting the Tone for Smart Energy Future


Energy is hot—Messe Munich burst its seams last week with not a single hotel room available in and far around Munich, taxi lines extending to more than 1-hour waiting times, and a hopelessly traffic-jammed city. Clearly, COVID-19 is now a remote memory with conferences drawing mega crowds. With 85,000+ visitors and 2,400+ exhibitors, smarter E Europe not only is Europe’s largest (smart) energy event, but is also challenging MWC, CES, Hannover Messe, and other events as a mega tech conference.

In fact, smarter E Europe aggregated a conference and four exhibitions under one roof:

  • Intersolar Europe: Photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal technologies, and solar plants
  • ees (electrical energy storage) Europe: Renewable energy storage (including hydrogen and advanced battery technology, stationary electrical energy storage solutions, and battery systems)
  • Power2Drive Europe: Charging infrastructure and e-mobility
  • EM-Power Europe: Energy management and integrated energy solutions (grids, electricity trading, building automation)

At smarter E Europe, the hype around smart energy mainly seemed to crystalize around solar and battery storage as the perfect combination to enable the mandated move to full decarbonization across sectors by 2030/2035 against a background of accelerating electrification. The energy sector is characterized by an overall sense of urgency to meet the ambitious sustainability deadlines. Hesitation about decarbonization time frames has given way to “no time to lose” attitudes about reaching 100% renewable energy generation.

Another fact observed was the dominance of Chinese vendors, accounting for half, if not more of all exhibitors. China is exporting its smart energy tech to Europe, capitalizing on its lead, established by heavily investing in clean energy for more than a decade.

New entrants are flocking to the Holy Grail of solar microgrids enhanced with battery storage, with Huawei as the most remarkable example, occupying more than half of hall C2, in true MWC fashion, showcasing an impressive smart energy portfolio under its recently launched FusionSolar sub-brand, deemphasizing the Huawei brand in Europe (for obvious reasons).

Highlights and Takeaways


While most of the exhibition space was taken up by solar panels and battery storage as the two main technologies, eMobility and Electric Vehicle (EV) charging formed the third, smaller leg of the stool, with both EV Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), such as Skoda and BYD, and public and private charging infrastructure providers like Schneider Electric, ABB, and Enel Way X occupying an entire hall. Solar, storage, and EV charging are increasingly positioned as the holy trinity of smart energy: generating renewable energy, buffered by batteries, to power an electrifying environment with a growing share of green electric energy—a very powerful paradigm framing the essence of smarter E Europe.

smarter E Europe was mainly a solar panel and battery storage hardware show with utilities and energy platform players largely absent, Siemens and EDF being notable exceptions. In terms of market segmentation, smart energy solutions are optimized for and targeting three main segments:

  • Residential/Consumer: Smart home energy solutions
  • Commercial and Industrial (C&I): Widely used jargon across the energy ecosystem referring to the enterprise market; focus on enterprise is somewhat recent and still emerging, while still largely dwarfed by residential solutions
  • Utilities: Focused around large-scale renewable energy smart grid deployments

New smart energy markets highlighted included:

  • Agritech Solar Deployments: Integration of solar panel constructions into both farmland and animal husbandry, not only allowing farmers to power their electric equipment and systems, but also tapping into new revenue streams
  • Mega Government-Led Projects: Floating solar deployments in China and other regions

Solar is coming of age with an entire spectrum of modular construction, management, and maintenance solutions being showcased, including industrial cleaning robots enabling capacity gains of up to 25%, as well as extending the lifetime of solar panels.

Other key energy technology and market trends worth mentioning include:

  • The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to optimize battery management, enabling both higher efficiencies/capacities and longer lifetimes
  • The urgent need for standardized real-time green energy certificates
  • Overall impact on utilities that will have to cope with the inherent unpredictability of energy demand inherited from renewables
  • The need for regulators to focus on implementation directives instead of just mandating goals
  • The dominant role that virtual energy markets and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) will play

Moving toward a Maturing Smart Energy Economy


If anything, it is now becoming overwhelmingly clear that energy decarbonization is in full swing with highly automated factories in China and elsewhere churning out massive amounts of PV panels, battery storage systems, and a whole range of other components, such as inverters, on a scale never seen before. The green economy has arrived, tangible and unstoppable, and irreversibly spiraling into accelerating growth levels. None of the decarbonization goals are questioned anymore; the energy market has taken up the challenge. It has now just become a matter of implementation and massive deployments. In the next decade, green energy will become the norm and standard, to the extent the term “green energy” itself will start sounding like a pleonastic expression—almost all energy will be green. The fate of those resisting this transformation will be to be ignored and left behind in a dying legacy energy environment.

However, some caveats in this success story need highlighting:

  • Clearly, the goldrush on smart energy will unavoidably result in fallout down the road with both consolidation and a growing number of bankruptcies developing in an overhyped market—a genuine déjà vu situation.
  • The enterprise segment (C&I) will have to shake off its red-haired stepchild image by taking a more proactive approach in its own energy transition journey, addressing a wide range of specific needs that cannot be met by consumer or grid-scale solutions; this will be covered in detail in ABI Research’s Smart Energy For Enterprises & Industries Research Service.




Companies Mentioned