Distributed energy resources and digital technologies are proliferating at a remarkable pace in the energy sector as costs have plunged, but stakeholders need to collaborate to ensure they work together effectively in a cohesive system. Innogrid is an ideal place to do this, says Torsten Knop, innogy’s head of European regulation/projects, who will speak at the event.
“You can rarely get so much insight in such a condensed form on how system operators work. It’s an extremely exciting time, as never has so much changed in the fundamental role of what we do. It’s a voyage for all participants, but I think the market role that will change the most is that of the distribution system operator.”
Utilities and operators are faced with an array of solutions for challenges such as how to integrate intermittent renewables in rural areas with less load or how to deal with periods of high simultaneous demand. But their usefulness depends on the interaction between third parties and the extent to which flexibility sources can be harmonized with active system management.
At Innogrid, several exhibitors at will showcase results from R&D projects in this arena. For example Linux Foundation Energy (LF Energy), will present its initiative which is focussed on growing and sustaining “open source” in the energy and electricity sectors, in partnership with French TSO RTE, ENTSO-E and others.
“Right now, while we are far from plug-and-play, the history of growing and sustaining an open source ecosystem in the energy sector shows that shared digital “plumbing” holds the key to interoperability.
“For example, if you look at the scaling of the Internet, it is clear that operating systems like the Linux OS made hardware agnostic and enabled the abstraction of complexity. We need an analogous power systems operating system for electricity if we are to meet global challenges,” said LF Energy executive director Shuli Goodman.
A panel of CEOs from network operators will also provide insights into collaborative innovation projects and lessons learned, including projects from Swissgrid, Elia Group, Alliander and Eon.
“With the energy transition and the digitalisation of the electricity sector underway, it is clear that consumers will play an active role in the future power system.” Chris Peeters, CEO of Elia Group tells Engerati.
“They are calling for energy services that deliver more value and comfort. This trend has been very much underestimated by many market players. However, we believe that we are on the verge of a new era where energy as a service will break through dramatically.”
Peeters says this prospect is what drove the creation of the cross-sector “ecosystem” IO.Energy (Internet of Energy). A collaborative initiative from Elia Group along with the Belgian distribution system operator and over 60 companies from different sectors.
By bringing the combined innovative efforts of this group together and applying “open, real-time communication and novel digital tools,” Peeters says we are close to a reality in which “consumers will be able to value their flexibility and data to help the system, while keeping their comfort and reducing their energy bill.”
In the run-up to Innogrid ENTSO-E and E.DSO detailed different options and recommendations for active system management in a report produced together with other system operator groups CEDEC, Eurelectric and GEODE. DSOs and TSOs are considering platforms to mitigate grid congestion, but so far only the Netherlands has a system in place. The report ‘An integrated approach to active system management’ sets out different options and recommends each member state creates a working group with industry input to examine solutions and then shares results at the EU level to identify synergies.
The groups also recommend that congestion should be solved through a market-based allocation of flexibility services where possible and cost-efficient, not compulsory limitation procedures. Digital platforms can provide this capability as they will allow flexible sources to bid in and be automatically matched where they can provide value.
Beyond this focus on collaboration and progress on building a new kind of energy ecosystem, Innogrid will also bring the industry up to speed on critical underpinning issues such as commercial frameworks for the operation of energy storage and “sector coupling”.
Storage costs are rapidly declining but technology is not the only concern: the regulatory frameworks, network tariffs and net-metering can all have an impact on battery sales and deployment, says Fons Jansen, Strategy Advisor Smart Grids & Europe at Enexis, who is one of the session leads.
These blockers to rollout of a key enabling technology system are becoming ever more problematic as the challenge of maintaining system inertia in a decentralised and decarbonised grid grows. Germany, with its high reliance on renewables, now even has a word for when power output is low because it’s dark and not windy: ‘dunkelflaute’.
In a bid to ward off more cases of ‘dunkleflaute’ Germany is pushing ahead with projects to prove the case for electrolysis as a solution – using it to make hydrogen from renewables when there is an excess during the summer and storing it for use in power generation in the winter.
But such processes, while technically feasible are currently eyewateringly expensive, posing a quandary of increasing system operation costs in an environment where renewables will drive marginal electricity prices towards zero.
In the face of this challenge, Jansen says: “If the network is not able to develop the energy transition will fail. A lot of innovation is necessary, and people not involved in projects could be encouraged to inspire themselves. This is why in bringing TSOs and DSOs together Innogrid is one of the most important events of the year.”
Find out more about the conference and its wide range of expert speakers on issues relating to the digital transformation of the power system here: https://www.innogrid2020.eu/