SysFlex – integrating large scale renewables to Europe’s grid

EirGrid is leading the SysFlex project to study the integration of a high level of renewable energies.
Published: Thu 20 Jul 2017

With high levels of renewables recorded on grids such as Germany’s and Ireland’s, it might be assumed that the management of the grid at these levels is well understood.

That, however, is only partially the case. While important knowledge is indeed being gained by system operator during those events, they are of limited duration of at most a few tens of hours and represent a different use case to a grid operating at high levels at all times.

Furthermore, only very few individual countries so far have recorded high renewables penetration, whereas under European Union and national rules all countries are required to transition, increasing to 20% by 2020, 50% by 2030 and 75% by 2050 to meet the 80-95% emission reduction target. Likewise, an interconnected, pan European grid represents a different and more complex use case than a single national grid.

High renewables

In order to investigate this issue further and to develop a roadmap for Europe towards the 50% renewables penetration, the four-year, €26m SysFlex project has been launched with support from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research programme.

Led by the Irish transmission system operator EirGrid, the extent of interest is such that almost every country in western Europe at least and some in eastern Europe, is represented in the 34 strong project consortium.

Participants from 15 countries, which make it one of the largest projects of its type, include TSOs, DSOs, technology providers, research and academic organisations and industry associations. The advisory board includes representatives from as far afield as the Australian Energy Market Operator and Ercot in Texas.

“We are very excited to be leading this, our first H2020 programme,” project manager John Lowry, told Engerati in an interview. “In Ireland, we have been along a path of sizable renewable integration reaching up to 60% non-synchronous penetration, and we want to help to scale up that experience and replicate it across Europe.”

Investigating renewables

The project, which takes its name from the need for greater ‘system flexibility’ in the system as the proportion of renewables increases, is broken down into ten work packages, including six national demonstrations.

“The broad focus is on the interactions of the transmission and distribution systems and how services can be provided to the pan-European system,” Lowry explains.

Issues to be addressed in the work packages include the development of new approaches for system operation with high renewables, market design and regulatory requirements, the integration of new system services and data management.

These will then be applied in the demonstrations. In Germany, Innogy will lead a demonstration on operational optimisation with flexibility services while EDP in Portugal and Enel in Italy will focus on centralised and decentralised flexibilities and their coordination.

In France, EDF, which also takes on the role of project technical coordinator, will demonstrate aggregation approaches and in Finland the DSO Helen Electricity Network plans to leverage smart grid market concepts to aggregate flexibility assets.

In Estonia, Elering will focus on cross-border and data management exchanges.

Technology requirements

“We believe that these demonstrations are not so much about new technologies but about the capabilities of the current technologies and how they are used,” Lowry says. “New technologies are always appearing but what is important is how we use the wind and solar and storage we have to meet the needs of the system. It is effectively a shift from incentivising energy to non-energy in the form of system support services.”  

And the key deliverable of the project will be the roadmap, which Lowry says will bring all the work together to “address all the changes that need to happen” for “replicability and scalability on a pan-European scale.”

At this stage signatures are being put to all the necessary documents with the aim for the project to launch officially on 1 November.

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