From smart energy region to smart energy world header

From smart energy region to smart energy world

Frederik Loeckx, Managing Director Flux50

Frederik Loeckx, Managing Director Flux50

Does the Flemish formula for success also work on a global level?

Flanders may only cover a small area on the world map, but our region plays a global role when it comes to smart energy. The transition to an economy that is powered by clean energy is very much underway here. The authorities, companies, research institutions and universities have joined forces to launch projects that focus on smart, sustainable and green energy.
Frederik Loeckx is helping to steer this evolution. As the managing director of Flux50, he has a clear vision for the energy transition, both in Flanders and around the world. Can the lessons learned in Flanders help accelerate the adoption of smart energy around the world? Loeckx starts from a surprising conclusion: there are already plenty of smart energy solutions available. The most important question in Flanders, however, is how to incorporate all these technologies into one global system?

Living labs as a driver of change

“Linking different energy components creates a lot of added value”, says Loeckx. “In Flanders we excel at system thinking: we link components, transforming them into an efficient system. Construction sites, for example, often use diesel generators to power the machines on-site. This is hardly an environmentally-friendly approach. Flemish SMEs from completely different sectors then got together to develop an environmentally-friendly alternative based on electronics, batteries and smart controls, which can be used on construction sites. Maximum energy is thus recovered from cranes, for example.”

“These partners collaborate in living labs that highlight the potential based on physical, tangible solutions. Companies can test their new technology solutions on these sites. To give an example: floating solar panels are tested at a former shipyard and we are using the river’s tidal action for energy extraction.”

Being small has its advantages

Flanders’ leadership position also manifests itself in the available know-how. The output in terms of research, publications and patents is tremendous.

And while this may sound strange, international players consider the region’s small size to be an asset, says Loeckx.

“Flanders is the perfect test market for new smart energy technology. Our region is small but complex, with a complicated state structure, many knowledge institutions and multi-layered legislation. We are thus able to devise complex solutions and test them against a real energy system. This paves the way for a “triple helix” collaboration where companies, knowledge institutions and governments work together. This enables them to optimise products with a reasonable test basis.”

The international approach is a striking leitmotiv in Loeckx’s discourse. “But this makes perfect sense, given our connections with other countries. Our systems are an energy hub for Europe, for both gas and electricity. Flux50 organises international missions with Flemish companies, to mutually share knowledge there.

We are involved in numerous partnerships, such as the International Clean Network, European technology and innovation platforms and the European Digital Innovation Hubs.”

Thor Central - Genk

Thor Central - Genk

Conference venues that are truly unique

Flanders’ leadership position and its international connections combine to turn the region into the ideal venue for a smart energy conference. Loeckx even suggests a specific venue for this. “Our living labs. Here they do so much more than just research and development. The sites also pay attention to training, exhibitions and communication about smart energy. And they also host smart energy conferences.”
Flux50s Managing Director feels that the importance of conferences should not be underestimated. “Our sector need such “meeting points”, where creativity is triggered to develop integrated systems. A conference is the perfect way to combine competences and inform people about the latest industry developments. Bear in mind that the energy sector is a very fragmented industry, with a very diverse group of players. A high-quality conference is the best way to bring different ideas and stakeholders together.”

Moreover, this usually happens in unique locations, Loeckx concludes. “In Flanders, we have succeeded in transforming our energy heritage sites, such as old mines or power plants, into conference venues with all the modern amenities.

Combining authenticity with new functions - another example of this system thinking. Something we truly excel at in Flanders.”

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