The surge in decentralized power generation and the demise of central high-capacity base load power plants these years give rise to ever more challenging grid control. The transformation in our energy supply seems to be of an exponential nature, thus pushing grid operators to come up with solutions, fast!
The organization SolarPlaza is organizing an important summit on 11 –12 June in Copenhagen called the Energy Flexibility Forum that will be a platform for key stakeholders to specify their needs, showcase their solutions, find their renewed roles and collaboratively take on market and regulatory barriers to accelerate the transition towards a flexible energy system. This video explains it nicely:
I asked Thomas Boersma, project manager at SolarPlaza (which organizes many other sustainable energy transition events like this), why it was important to establish this forum for collaboration between the operators in the energy sector at this time:
With the rising share of renewable energy sources, there’s an increasing intermittency in the generation of energy. This makes it increasingly challenging for Transmission System Operators (TSO), Distribution System Operator (DSO) and Balance Responsible Parties (BRP) to balance supply and demand. With the Energy Flexibility Forum we aim to provide the platform where these parties can specify their challenges and need for solutions and where they can meet providers of solutions. Examples of such solutions are Virtual Power Plants, Demand Response, Smart or Bi-directional Charging, Power-to-X and storage.
An article on Virtual Power plants was published on energyflexibilityforum.com on 1 June, in which there is an example of just how urgent the matter of grid energy management is becoming:
At the end of April power producers in the Netherlands had large deviations from their actual demand and consumption versus their forecasts, causing a power shortage on the Dutch grid. This forced TSO Tennet to rapidly buy electricity on foreign markets in order to prevent power failure […] These problems may occur more often in the future, because power generation is shifting from centralized fossil fueled generation to decentralized renewable generation. The growth of variable wind and solar generation and electrification of energy demand will lead to an increasing demand for flexibility.
In the press release I received from Thomas Boersma the same day, the potential scale of the concept of Virtual Power Plants in Europe is highlighted:
With power generation shifting from centralized fossil fueled generation towards decentralized renewable generation, there is an emerging need for energy flexibility on the grid. Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) can combine and manage all solar and wind sources along with energy storage and electric vehicles, with a single control system, acting as a cloud-based power plant, thus enhancing flexibility and grid reliability.
And the press release goes on to speculate that every household in the EU could potentially be part of a multinational VPP:
For the European Union to be fully powered by renewable energy, every house should have PV and battery storage. In a given year, 500 million people in the EU consume around 3,000 TWh, which means the average daily demand is 8.2 TWh. The base load of this would be about 4.1 TWh in batteries which would take 410 million 10kWh batteries. With 220 million households in the EU, that would mean this could be achieved if every household has two 10kWh batteries powered by PV, according to SolarEdge’s calculations.
Take a look at this SolarEdge video that actually explains the whole concept in a clear visual way and how it works to meet these challenges:
We have heard many times that there are specific challenges with handling the rising share of renewables being connected to the grid, and pilot projects on Smart Grids have been running for many years. All that learning by doing is about to be implemented in a very large scale, because renewable energy is growing much faster than most analysts had anticipated.
Lab-time is over. It’s showtime! The technologies are actually ready to support the shift and it will have a tremendous effect on how we buy, sell, produce, and consume power. A lot of technologies are intertwined with each other here: wind, solar, batteries, EVs, etc., and add in every single piece of hardware that uses power, because they will all communicate. Your fridge will know whats going on in terms of energy price and availability, and it will make the smart decision on when to cool your groceries a couple of degrees, instead of just letting an ignorant thermostat handle it.
It’s like the shift from mass-media to inter-media: Printed media, radio, and television is one-way communication on fixed channels in fixed time slots with an inactive audience versus the internet with its fully decentralized structure of senders and receivers — for good and for worse. However, the old way is hardly comparable to the new way, because they are completely different. Core technology capability is the difference. Same with energy — but this time mostly for good.