Europe Needs a Solid Smart Grid - Quickly

Smart grid implementation in Europe is key to ensuring network safety, reliability, efficiency and sustainability.
Published: Thu 04 Sep 2014

The European Commission announced earlier this year that 27% of generation must come from renewable sources by 2030. This requires swift, major steps by players in the European electricity sector in speeding development and implementation of the smart grid so that these renewables can be integrated into the networks without hindering overall reliability of supply.

Although there are a number of smart grid trial projects ongoing in EU member states, actual major smart grid rollouts remain small in number, explains Jeff Ray, CEO of Ventyx (an ABB Company), who will be attending the European Utility Week conference. He says that the European Commission has sped up the clock, and utilities must now move quickly towards implementing a solid smart grid.

“More work needs to be done to ensure the necessary development of electrical networks and ultimately the successful delivery of the EU’s carbon reduction targets. For example, distribution network operators, whose business is strongly regulated, need a regulatory environment that incentivizes them to invest in innovative smart grid technologies. Europe will be more successful in smart grid initiatives when EU countries develop cross-border agreements that allow unfettered flow and distribution of renewable power,” explains Ray.

Smart grid is critical for the European region

According to the European Wind Energy Association, in 2013 EU member states had an installed wind generation capacity of 117,289MW. This is expected to increase to meet the EU Commission’s 2030 sustainability target. To connect this quantity of intermittent generation without harming grid stability, distribution network operators will need to release additional capacity on their networks and implement advanced grid balancing mechanisms.

EU member states have committed to rolling out close to 200 million smart electric meters. By 2020, it is expected that almost 72% of European consumers will have a smart electric meter. These smart meters can be used not only to provide more accurate billing for customers but can also be leveraged by distribution network operators for improved outage management processes, power quality and demand response programs, each of which will allow for increased network reliability.

Ray points out that an increasing number of European islands are looking to harness their natural energy sources to make their networks both greener and more self-sufficient. This has led to the trialing and implementation of virtual power plants to ensure self-sufficiency. Addressing the intermittency of the renewable resources from islands and offshore wind farms is critical in order to deliver the large quantities of power to the onshore load centers.

Vattenfall Island distribution network case study

Ray points to the Vattenfall project as a fantastic case study for island distribution network operators in particular as it demonstrates how renewables can be integrated smoothly onto the network and how a virtual power plant can be leveraged to beef up network resiliency.

Vattenfall looked to create a virtual power plant on the island of Gotland. The goals were to increase the use of renewable energy sources, improve power quality, decrease dependence on energy from the mainland and create added cost-savings for customers over conventional grid technology.

In the first phase of the project, Ventyx’s distribution system optimization solution was used to simulate in a lab environment how renewable generation could be integrated and balanced leading to increased network resiliency.

Fortum Stockholm Royal Seaport asset health case study

Another interesting renewable project is the Stockholm Royal Seaport, Europe’s first large-scale urban smart grid. Fortum, a leading provider of sustainable energy in the Nordics, Baltics, Poland and Russia, is using Ventyx Asset Health software to study the benefits of predictive maintenance strategies for its sub-transmission and distribution assets.

“The Stockholm Royal Seaport project showed us the possibilities when creating a system essentially from the ground up. Since there is a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built, like distribution transformers, control room software, and consumer equipment, we were able to work with Fortum to explore the full range of benefits to an integrative approach. A project of this scope is not often possible with utility smart grid projects,” explains Ray.

Fortum may be able to achieve a higher level of physical and financial asset optimization by using the combination of a fleet-wide view of grid asset health with ABB and Ventyx’s distribution management and control systems. By adding the Ventyx Asset Health solution, Fortum can gain visibility into the condition of critical assets, prioritize maintenance activities and support repair, refurbish and renew decisions across the fleet.

Says Ray, “So while we are just getting started on the implementation, we have already learned a lot about how these systems interact and how to continuously add more value.”

Helping the utility of tomorrow

Ventyx provides leading-edge, big data analytics IT solutions that combine with operators’ operational technology (OT) to enable distribution and transmission network operators to better meet their regulators’ requirements, improve their asset maintenance and operation, increase real-time visibility into their networks, implement successful demand response programs and improve their outage management processes.

According to Ray, during another Proof of Concept phase with E.ON - Ventyx learned a lot about control room operations, which allowed for improvements in decision support tools and the user experience. “We learned how stressful it is to operate the grid when problems occur, and have been able to develop ways to empower operators to focus clearly on the most urgent issues and understand available options for solutions.”

Ray adds, “In summary, we help utilities improve the physical, financial and environmental performance of their business by managing utility assets across their entire lifecycle.”

Ventyx plans to present their Asset Health Center, Energy Portfolio Management, Distribution System Optimization and Outage Lifecycle Management solutions at the European Utility Week conference.