Editorial: System operators step up to RES integration challenge

Technological solutions to allow for more efficient grid optimisation were showcased at CIRED.
Published: Mon 10 Jun 2019

A wide range of technological innovation designed for more efficient grid operation was on display in Madrid last week at the 25th biennial CIRED conference and exhibition.

Spain is a leader in the digitalisation of the distribution grid, having already switched to 100% smart meters and now able to build on that framework to enhance flexibility and increase customer engagement.

The increasing penetration of renewables creates a challenge for network operators to maintain acceptable dynamic properties in the grid, CIRED chairman Emmanuel de Jaeger told Engerati. Synthetic inertia and new technology to manage disturbances and maintain power quality will be required to allow for increased reliance on asynchronous machines, such as variable speed wind turbines and PV solar. Wind energy is the second source of generation in Spain and large new solar farms will be built by next year. Canadian Solar and Solarcentury said last week they will build a 200MW and 300MW system, and Iberdrola is aiming to complete a 500MW project by September 2020 and a 590MW project by 2022.

Spanish TSO Red Electrica de Espana has created a technology company to promote innovation in electricity and telecommunications and will spend €100 million over the next five years on solutions including artificial intelligence, the internet of things, virtualisation, robotization and grids of the future.

The EU’s investments in technological solutions are bearing fruit, with many Horizon 2020 projects starting to deliver promising results for flexibility and energy management. We take a look at initial findings from the Flexitranstore project being tested in Greece and Cyprus, and report on various initiatives being overseen by the French Think Smartgrids association which held a side event at CIRED.

Technology is not the only barrier, however. The combination of more data, political support and private investment creates plenty of opportunity for solution providers in Spain, but it will take time for the specifics to be worked out, Alicia Carrasco, managing director of consultants OlivoENERGY, told Engerati at the CIRED event. Carrasco leads a Spanish association for flexibility providers and aggregators Entra, which advises on legislative and regulatory developments necessary for the energy transition.

 

While smart meters in Spain have the potential to provide unprecedented detail on customer behaviour, there is a major barrier to encouraging change because access tariffs at the low voltage level do not include price discrimination. The regulator is working on the design of a new methodology that should take the existence of smart meters into account, Marina Serrano, president, of Spanish utility association aelēc writes in a Q&A this week.

TSOs and DSOs will be the drivers of change to integrate more renewable, distributed generation and incentivising the customer to play an active role. “The flexibility of networks, specifically at the low voltage level, is one of the main challenges for the next decade. So, network system operators and more especially DSOs must be at the forefront to adequately manage the changing demand and generation patterns,” Serrano says.