Marc Borrett, CEO at Reactive Technologies, says that new technological advances will disrupt the way businesses interact with their energy and the way grid operators manage their systems by making them smarter
The global energy sector has been undergoing a significant shift in recent years from large, centralised conventional power sources, such as coal power stations, to decentralised, renewable generation, such as wind and solar. Renewables are experiencing exponential growth; globally there is now 305GW of solar power capacity, up from around 50GW in 2010 and virtually nothing at the turn of the millennium.
The rising proportion of renewables in the energy mix, alongside flexibility for the demand side, is driving the biggest transformation in the power industry since its inception. However, it is not without its challenges.
This shift to a lower carbon energy system is causing a host of new technical quandaries for grid operators, the most pressing of which is how to maintain grid stability, and therefore security of supply, as the energy mix becomes more distributed and intermittent in nature.
Previously grid operators had relied on fossil fuel power stations to provide grid stability as their turbines injected inertia into the network, which contributed to maintaining system resilience in the face of a disturbance, such as a fault.
Conversely, renewable generation by its nature is unable to produce inertia, and therefore does not positively contribute to grid stability. As a result, as more renewables come into play, energy systems are becoming more volatile making safe and cost-effective grid operation increasingly challenging.
In addition, this will also have an impact on end users, such as industrial and commercial customers, who could experience increased energy prices and decreased security of supply.
Grid operators are therefore proactively looking for new tools to accurately measure grid inertia – which until now could only be estimated – to give them better visibility into the workings of their network. Akin to finding the energy industry’s equivalent of the Higgs Boson particle, inertia was successfully measured for the first time ever during a recent innovation project with the UK’s National Grid and Reactive Technologies where the latter’s unique grid measurement and insight platform GridMetrix was proven to directly and continuously measure grid inertia, among other critical data points.
Having this level of real-time visibility of grid inertia means grid operators can detect network events almost immediately so they can quickly dispatch reserve services, enabling them to rectify grid imbalance safely, cost-effectively and quickly. This allows grid operators to also design faster, higher value demand-side response (DSR) mechanisms, which will benefit businesses who participate – by responding to short-term changes in demand by increasing or decreasing electrical consumption or generation.
This is a low-cost and carbon-friendly way of balancing the electricity system and would help to absorb more renewable generation. It also opens up significant opportunities for businesses to turn energy system risks into commercial opportunities through participation of DSR programmes, support a greener environment, and drive their own corporate social responsibility goals.
While DSR in itself is not a new concept, it will increasingly become a more important tool for grid operators to call upon to help them maintain system balance and integrate more renewable generation. Recent incidents demonstrate how DSR is becoming critical across Europe, as supply margins continue to tighten. In the summer of 2016 in the UK, a partial outage from the interconnector between the UK and France knocked 0.5GW from the UK’s available supplies, which combined with unplanned nuclear plant shutdowns and a continued heatwave saw the National Grid close to having to issue an emergency alert to call for more power. Also, in France, prolonged maintenance of nuclear power plants caused a number of very close calls in 2016 where demand nearly outstripped supply.
Should this situation repeat itself, the consequences of system imbalance would otherwise be a source of consternation for the French transmission system operator, RTE, as without demand flexibility from the industrial and commercial sectors, it would struggle to maintain grid balance.
New technologies are starting to break down barriers for DSR adoption and make it easier for businesses to adopt, opening up new ways of turning energy system risks into commercial opportunities. By combining a deep understanding of the grid and experience extracting flexibility from businesses, Reactive’s DSR and optimisation platform Tradenergy allows businesses to access the highest value energy opportunities while contributing to grid balance.
Through Reactive’s DSR portfolio, businesses can enter the highest value, system-critical, load-balancing services. Creating an automated, fully integrated energy management system, where a business’s energy (consumption, generation and storage) can be optimised round the clock, gives businesses access to brand new revenue streams and cost-saving opportunities.
One company already benefitting from the technology is Carrefour Hypermarchés in France, which is now able to deliver demand flexibility to RTE. Reactive has optimised the supermarket giant’s assets from more than 70 sites across France to deliver load flexibility from HVACs and food chillers.
This means it can participate in the first year of France’s Capacity Market, which provides balancing services back to RTE, all without impacting their day-to-day operations nor affecting food quality, which is of paramount importance.
Carrefour’s electrical assets are connected via secure, Cloud-based integrated energy management and DSR platform Tradenergy, which manages them within a comprehensive flexibility portfolio and intelligently optimises them across multiple energy revenue mechanisms. The platform delivers accurate, reliable and safe control of Carrefour’s energy consumption in real-time in line with specific, pre-set food safety parameters.
Tradenergy provides Carrefour with a single stop energy optimisation solution that extracts full value across a range of opportunities and is built to adapt to any new energy mechanisms that may arise in future, ensuring it will always be fit for purpose.
The transition to a low carbon energy future can’t rely on siloed thinking. It needs to be about bringing everything together – from grids to end users (such as businesses) and generators themselves. New technological advances will positively disrupt the way businesses interact with their energy and the way grid operators manage their systems by making them smarter.
The implications of creating flexibility among industrial and commercial customers will be significant.
Firstly, because DSR consumes no fossil fuels in its process, it is the cheapest and lowest carbon option for balancing the network.
Secondly, it will enable renewable generators to operate much nearer their full capacity, helping them maximise their earning potential in a non-subsidy regulatory landscape.
Thirdly, it will empower businesses to become active players in the energy system where they can directly contribute to a greener future, maximise the earning potential of their electrical assets and better manage their energy bills.
For further information on DSR and mission critical sites, download MCP’s white paper here
Mission critical sites and DSR: turned on or turned off? discusses the revenues available for assets entered into demand response schemes, the type of schemes available, the barriers to entry along with a host of market views about the challenges and opportunities, changes in legislation and the technology requirements.