26 June 2018


Energy transition will become a race for flexibility

Author: Solarplaza

COPENHAGEN – The energy transition, with power generation shifting to variable renewables, depends on local and international flexibility solutions, both in power generation, storage and consumption. This challenge addresses all stakeholders along the energy value chain, both producers, system operators, investors, corporates, consumers and all other participants.

During the first Energy Flexibility Forum (EFF) in Copenhagen stakeholders from all over Europe agreed in taking up these challenges together, instead of pointing to each other. The  conference and exhibition, organised by Solarplaza, resulted in much needed cross-industry networking and knowledge-sharing for raising awareness and exploring solutions for the sustainable energy transition. That’s why the EFF will have a sequel in 2019.

"The most valuable contribution of this conference was bringing together all the stakeholders and key players in this complex ecosystem, interacting and exploring together what is needed to reach the next level in flexibility,” says Thomas Boersma of Solarplaza. "And although we’ve just started to find an answer, this complex challenge  was viewed from different angles and all attendees realised we share a common problem of which the burden cannot be imposed to others.”

In several European countries the renewable energy share of wind and solar in power generation increased to approximately 30 percent in the past ten years, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) calculated. In Denmark it’s currently even 69 percent. The UK already experienced two days in April 2017 and 2018 when the electricity network has operated for 24 hours without the need of coal-fired power stations. In Germany in October 2017 power prices went negative due to an oversupply of renewables. But there will also be days, weeks or even months without solar or wind power.

That’s why, according to BNEF, power market transformation is a race for flexibility. Mass storage of power in batteries and interconnecting countries and regions, can avoid or reduce curtailment. A situation when there is so much wind and solar, it has to be shut down. That’s why storage has to be deployed in step with renewables. With battery prices keep on falling sharply, storage will be competitive with back-up gas or coal plants.

As electric vehicles (EV’s) will make up a large proportion of the future power demand, using 6 percent of the total global power consumption in 2040, flexible charging becomes crucial, BNEF states. For instance at midday, when solar power generation is high and power consumption is low. EV’s, together with second life batteries, are also crucial as connected storage stations, helping to balance supply and demand on the future grid. According to IHS Markit, Europe has taken the lead in this development, as it is currently conducting approximately 55 percent of all global vehicle to grid (V2G) projects.

Flexibility means providing a wide range of services, helping to match supply and demand of power. The EFF showed many cases and solutions, providing more flexibility. For instance virtual power plants, that manage and match all renewable power sources and consumption patterns with a single control system, acting as a cloud-based power plant. Or the SmartNet pilot of Vodafone and Endesa, which deploys the back-up battery capacity of Vodafone’s radio base stations in Barcelona for the local DSO’s congestion management, in order to meet flexible power demand on the grid and avoid high costly ignition of power plants.
Global food and agricultural company Cargill demonstrated how corporates can adapt and optimize their operations and power demand to flexible energy prices, changing by the hour. This requires demand response management and incentive-based and price-based programs, offering complementary valorisation to energy flexibilities.

International energy company E.ON believes Local Energy Systems, where consumers and producers know and control their energy consumption and generation to match demand and supply, can be the solution for a more sustainable society. At the second day of the EFF conference attendees visited Malmö district Hyllie, where solar panels, smart kitchen appliances and clever storage and heating systems together form a true smart city. It can adapt to weather conditions or to flexible demand and supply of power. 
At the village of Simris, E.ON builds Sweden’s first Local Energy System for an entire community, proving 100 percent renewable and local smart cities with smart grids, managed in the cloud, are not just an abstract idea, but a reality. According to E.ON local balancing means the development of local systems that reduce dependency from the overlying grid. With Ectogrid E.ON designed the world’s first energy system which on a large scale connects and balances the city’s thermal energy flows, both heating and cooling. All building use heat pumps and cooling machines and make energy deposits or withdrawals from the grid. With Ectogrid the energy demands of all the buildings are balanced against each other with the help of cloud management. This leads to a zero emission energy system, with 78.5 percent reduction on supplied energy and 20 percent reduction on customer’s energy bill. The world’s first Ectogrid is now being built at Medicon Village at Lund Sweden.

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