How are European grids using new technologies to manage the renewable energy transition?

19 Sep 2016   lucyejwoods

Grid operators and energy distributors across Europe are implementing new schemes to transition to renewable energy.

TenneT, the Transmission System Operator (TSO) for large parts of the German and Dutch grid has begun a 12-month pilot scheme. The pilot will test new technologies that make it easier for the grid to utilise renewable energy.

Meanwhile, energy distributor Enexis has launched a 24-month smart grid pilot called ‘Jouw Energie Moment’. The pilot provides consumers in the Dutch municipality of Zwolle with solar panels, smart meters and smart appliances.

Enexis states the pilot will advise its future development of sustainable, smart grid systems.

Also due to increasing renewable energy supply, the UK’s National Grid ran its first Enhanced Frequency Reserve (EFR) auction earlier this year.

TenneT’s pilot scheme will test new solutions for providing grid frequency services, also known as ‘balancing’ services. Grid frequency balancing is the second-to-second matching of supply and demand to ensure the grid remains stable.

TenneT says the pilot is part of its strategy to transition to using more renewable energy. “It is to gain experience and to adapt our systems and regulations,” a spokesperson said.

As a result of TenneT’s pilot, it is hoped that new technologies will be able to provide frequency balancing services, in an auction called the ‘Primary Reserve’.

Primary Reserve is a service traditionally provided by conventional, thermal (coal and gas) plants. Conventional plants ramp up and down energy production when there are unexpected fluctuations in demand and supply. This is to keep the grid balanced, at a frequency of 50 hertz, on a second-to-second basis. Currently, inertia created by the spinning of huge thermal turbines is what is keeping grid frequency balanced. With less thermal, there is less inertia. To keep adding renewables to the grid, new technology and innovation is required to keep the grid stable.

Sources said they began developing the TenneT pilot projects in July and aim to complete the pilots for presentation to TenneT by October this year.

A spokesperson for TenneT said the TSO is hoping the pilot projects will be able to run alongside conventional power sources in its January 2017, weekly-held Primary Reserve auctions. TenneT hopes to change regulations in 2018 to open up the weekly auctions to non-conventional energy technologies, based on the outcomes of the pilot.

The four companies will be paid the weekly market-set price for any Primary Reserve services they deliver, however, they will be paid per 100KW, instead of per MW, like conventional energy bidders.

French utility Engie, Dutch telecommunications company KPN, and start-ups Peeeks and Senfal have 12 month contracts to work alongside TenneT. The four companies are using renewable energy, battery storage and Demand Side Response (DSR) to deliver grid frequency balancing services, in less than four seconds.

DSR aggregates non-essential energy use (such as refrigeration, heating or air conditioning) into a pool of reserve demand. This demand can then be turned on and off quickly to balance the grid when there is an unexpected mismatch of supply and demand.

Peeeks CEO David Beijer said it is piloting DSR services, by aggregating ice rinks and cold storage facilities. Beijer said the aim of the pilot is to make DSR commercially viable to bid in future Primary Reserve auctions.

A spokesperson for KPN said it intends to pilot “battery backup power facilities”.

TenneT said it is also looking for new technologies – such as batteries – to take part in its backup power auction, the ‘Reserve Capacity’ auction. TenneT intends to meet with interested parties this autumn.

The UK’s similar, frequency balancing auction, the EFR, asks for balancing services to be delivered to the grid in less than one second – oppose to four seconds required in TenneT’s pilot. There are only a few technologies that can deliver this, such as batteries and DSR.

Grid operators and distributors are seeking these solutions as many renewable energy projects are currently competing for limited grid capacity, across Europe. In Belgium, offshore wind farm developments have been delayed for five years due to a lack of grid upgrades, and UK solar farms have been denied grid connection due to a lack of renewable energy-capable grid infrastructure.

The first market moves by TenneT, Enexis and National Grid will aid in removing infrastructure and technology barriers that are preventing the quick transition from high carbon energy generation, to renewable energy.


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