New services such as flexibility are at the core of the delivery of a distributed, variable renewables, prosumer-based energy system. With the changes occurring primarily at the distribution level, the distribution system operator (DSO) is set to become the main provider and such services to be a key distinctor and the basis for their competition. The question, however, is how these might be best delivered, given the large numbers of players and datasets involved and the range of services that can be envisaged.
In order to investigate this issue, a major initiative named Flexiciency was launched in 2015 in Europe under the leadership of Enel Distribuzione drawing together DSOs, research centres, IT solution providers and other parties across 10 EU states. The project, which was supported from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, included five national and two cross-border demonstrations. Now four years on, it has concluded. So what are some of the findings?
The core thesis of the project was that the creation of novel innovative services could be accelerated with the development of an open Europe-wide market place comprising a central register of data and services of market players – named B2B services – and enabling interactions between them in a standardised way. The market place is not intended as a data hub, however. The data stored is only sufficient to identify the market players and the types of service and data exchanged and actual data exchange between players takes place outside the platform.
In the project the market place was developed using an open architecture, with a ‘connection testing area’ to allow small companies to enter with relatively little effort on the IT side. Service providers are able to publish a detailed description of their B2B services. Service requesters, on the other hand, negotiate a B2B data service subscription and once the subscription is finalised, the B2B integration process is initiated.
A project goal was to provide tools that enable quick integration between the market players, including automation of the B2B integration process via an API interface.
The demonstrations led by the respective DSOs were key for the development and testing of elements of the platform and took place in Italy, France, Spain, Sweden and Austria.
The Italian demo led by E-Distribuzione was focussed on showing that the availability and accessibility of historical and close to real-time metering data can contribute to the provision of innovative services in the retail electricity market. In particular, advanced monitoring and local energy control services were demonstrated on a sample of about 1,000 low voltage customers.
The French demo led by Enedis was mainly dedicated to demonstrating cross-border interactions using the market place as a contact point. Two kinds of businesses were focussed on, demand response reduction through an aggregator and green energy use through management organisations.
The Spanish demo led by Endesa demonstrated the delivery of three types of services – energy monitoring services in municipal buildings, energy control services in the smart grid and flexibility services provided to the DSO by a microgrid service provider. Through the market place, enablement of interaction between the different players was validated.
The Swedish demo led by Vattenfall developed a platform, Energy Check, to build customer-oriented applications linked to energy usage and energy efficiency drawing on smart meter data. Pilots involving 2,500 customers demonstrated a decrease in overall electricity consumption and higher awareness of how to change consumption patterns.
The Austrian demo led by Verbund demonstrated the provision of energy efficiency services to residential and small business customers and the B2B data exchange of metering data in the market place. Achievements include the development of a power meters with real-time data acquisition and multiple mobile apps for advanced energy monitoring services.
While these were intended primarily as demonstrators on a national basis, during the implementation two further cross-border demos were implemented. There were between Austria and Sweden, demonstrating cross-border provision of energy efficiency services to residential customers; and Austria and Italy and Spain testing interoperability across the respective demonstrations.
“The concept and architecture proposed in Flexiciency has now been demonstrated with thousands of final customers,” says Silvia De Francisci, Head of Field Operation Technologies and Innovation and the Italian demo leader at E-Distribuzione
Recommendations and next steps
As with all such projects the end should be the start of the next phase and while the next steps are still to be set out, further refinements of the market place are necessary towards an intended wider adoption at EU level, according to the project report. In particular some aspects of the company authentication process need to be further addressed, particularly around ensuring the accuracy and truthfulness of data provided during market place registration.
Among the findings was that standardisation of data exchange formats is key for data provision and supports a reduced time to market. The market place also is considered to be consistent with ongoing initiatives to establish data hubs at regional and national levels. One model proposed is that acting as an extra layer it might simplify harmonisation across countries by establishing a link among existing data management systems. The platform also is considered as a possible mechanism for regulating third party access to smart meter data through such data hubs.
“We believe that Flexiciency was a timely and relevant project and fully integrates into the European policy framework for the energy transition,” commented Florian Gonzalez, Senior Projects Officer at E.DSO, on behalf of DSOs. “It addresses key trends including digitalisation, market services and smart energy systems.”