Grid Flexibility for the New Energy World

Utilities should recognise flexibility as a dispatchable energy source if they are to overcome new grid challenges.
Published: Mon 23 Nov 2015

Renewable integration is posing a number of challenges for Distribution System Operators (DSOs). Power fluctuations make it difficult for them to balance supply and demand. The high rate of renewable integration can lead to the overloading of network components and can even have a negative effect on power quality.

We invited experts in the field to our studios at European Utility Week to discuss the challenges and possible solutions to the flexibility issue.

Embracing flexibility management

Abhishek Bahl, Head of European Operations and John McLean, Director, both of AutoGrid, point out that the increase in decentralised generation is forcing utilities to rethink their business models.  

They both agree that utilities should embrace the concept of flexibility management so that they can take advantage of real opportunities and adapt to the new energy economy. They also suggest that utilities incorporate all their resources across the grid and see where these can enable efficiency, increase and improve customer engagement, reduce costs and create new business initiatives.

“Competition in the industry calls for better customer engagement and increased data quantities generated by the electrical ecosystem are creating many opportunities for the utility business.”

Mr Mclean points to a use case in the Netherlands which will create 100MW of flexible capacity for the Dutch balancing market, as well as integrating clean energy more effectively.

He adds that cloud based solutions will better  manage flexible assets at scale and real time, improve customer engagement and optimise usage of assets in terms of grid operations.

The need for incentives and regulatory framework

Renzo Coccioni, Industry and Government Relations Director, Schneider Electric, agrees that flexibility will definitely help to overcome energy fluctuations when it comes to renewable integration.   

He discusses Schneider Electric’s involvement in several demonstration projects and how the company is testing a number of advanced consumer service applications and grid control solutions. He goes on to explain how Schneider Electric is automating the management of the energy bidding process between prosumers, DSOs and aggregators.  

“To make this work in reality, DSOs need incentives so that they can procure flexibility to solve grid constraints. The right regulatory framework is also necessary. The prosumer also needs to be motivated. Incentives will help DSOs to modernize the grid and this calls for governmental incentives and a regulatory framework.”

Optimising the energy value chain

Peter Nemcek, co-founder and Managing Director R&D, cyberGRID GmbH, spoke about  eBadge, an EU funded FP7 project, which was created with the objective of proposing an optimal pan-European Intelligent Balancing mechanism. The 3 year project highlights three points: First, it has proven that the costs of electricity balancing services can be reduced by approximately half by creating a cross-border balancing market. Second, it has paved the way for telecommunications operators to become market facilitators, who liberalise energy data for other market players to exploit. Third, it has demonstrated that virtual power plants (VPPs) can optimise the energy value chain.

The idea behind eBadge is to empower consumers to participate and engage in the future energy market and it supports the consumer’s transition to prosumer.