In our bid to de-carbonise the energy sector, one hundred and forty-plus years after the innovation of harnessed electricity, sustainability is now an overarching factor in the energy arena. There’s a need to explore new opportunities for most energy suppliers who hope to remain relevant in the future of the energy market.
The Italian energy sphere is mostly constrained by its lack of large geography. Still, it makes up for this with the concurrent expansion of its renewables integration into its generation mix used to create infrastructure to support sustainable energy. It has a net carbon neutrality target it wishes to meet by 2050.
The capacity of Italy’s renewables sector is estimated to reach at least 60GW by 2030, rising from its current 36GW at a 4.5% compound annual growth, exclusive of hydropower. This ability to circumvent obvious constraints has attracted different actors with growing interest in the energy sustainability field. Investments are seeing huge rises; for example, in June 2020, the 7 Seas Med floating wind project valued at €750m began.
Although Italy is making great strides towards sustainability within its energy sector, there is still a lot to be achieved. The International Energy Agency reports that more than 45% of the energy supply in Italy still comes from oil and coal, while importations cover up for further energy demands.
Suppliers have seen this opportunity and are making the best of these potentials by filling the supply gap.
Understanding the Role of Sustainable Energy Suppliers In Italy.
The supply chain of the Italian electricity system makes provision for four elements in the energy market; production, transmission, distribution and sales. Energy companies can work in any of these areas or all these areas, allowing customers to choose their preferred supplier.
Electricity production or generation happens at big power plants which have to be connected to the national transmission network. In Italy, the Gestore dei Servizi Energetici (GSE) is responsible for regulating renewable energy production.
Terna handles the transmission of electricity in Italy. According to Terna, they “occupy the fundamental segment of transmission with a role of Transmission System Operator (TSO) and Independent System Operator (ISO) in a monopoly regime and on the basis of a government concession”.
Various suppliers act as middlemen, buying energy in the wholesale market and selling it to customers. At the same time, there are other suppliers who produce their own forms of energy, such as EnviTec Biogas AG. The market is very competitive.
What pushes these energy suppliers to become ‘sustainable’ is the type of energy in the demand and supply cycle. Let’s explain, suppliers can’t control the exact amount of power customers use, but they can heavily influence the type of power bought by customers.
So, a sustainable energy supplier is so-called because they concentrate on purchasing or producing and selling sustainable energy like biogas, hydropower, solar photovoltaics, etc. This happens when the suppliers match the type and amount of electricity bought by customers to the exact type and amount they buy from the wholesale market or produce themselves.
Now, suppose the electricity the suppliers buy/produce is 100% sustainable. In that case, the electricity the customers will buy and use will also be 100% sustainable, thus influencing the metamorphosis of the energy market within Italy.
The major player in the Italian electricity generation market used to be Enel, which held 28% of the market share in 2011. There was a mandatory sale law for competition regulation which allowed Enel’s share to decline from 49% to the current percentage between 2003 and 2011. This also allowed smaller operators to enter the market and increase their shares exponentially. These competitors are Edison, Eni, E. ON and others.
Distribution is carried out by a handful of operators via concessions from the government, with Enel still having a majority hold of 86% through its distributary network operator DNO.
The Italian electricity market has a high consumption rate requiring dependence on energy imports and higher prices. To solve this, Italy has come up with a regulatory framework in its National Energy Strategy. It includes the liberalisation of supply, distribution, trading of electricity and unbundling of transmission activities.
Within Europe, Italy is one of the primary markets for investors because it provides an ideal climate for technological development as far as the energy sector is concerned. Saipem recently signed a renewable energy deal with Agnes and Qint’X to co-develop a floating solar PV technology with an offshore wind capacity of 450MW in the Italian Adriatic Sea.
The Italian Power Play
In Europe, Italy is one country with a very intriguing habit of setting and beating its own targets on renewable energy. It has entered into several technological collaborations to push further energy advances, such as that with the UAE aptly named InnovitalyUAE. Also, partnerships with Areva to invest in nuclear energy, which is considered clean energy, and its private investments with the solar-power multinational Sonnedix to promote renewable energy sector expansion.
This distinct European country wants to significantly reduce its carbon footprint by 80 – 95% relative to its 1995 levels by 2050, hoping to use more sustainable energy within its borders. This gives these sustainable energy suppliers the upper hand in dictating the Italian energy market prices altogether.
Additionally, Italy depends on a lot of net energy import with high energy prices, which bodes well for energy suppliers. In 2012, 82% of the national energy demand was met by net imports while national production from gas, oil and renewables stood at a mere 4.3%, 3.5% and 11.1%, respectively.
However, Italy is one of the countries with the lowest energy intensity levels, meaning final energy use has been declining in recent years with improvements in electricity generation. They also have promising technological advancements evident in one of the world’s most efficient combined-cycle gas turbines parks.
Sustainable energy suppliers are at the top of the food chain in the Italian energy sector because Italy now relies immensely on sustainable energy to meet its set targets. This pushes customers, consumers and prosumers alike to focus on sustainability in energy production and use. The incentives also offered are a good motivator to continuously tow this line.
Q: Tell us an interesting fact about you.
GC: My son Alexander, who is almost three years old, was born exactly one year after the foundation of Hive Power, and I just realised it a few weeks ago.
Q: What are your other interests asides from creating energy solutions?
GC: When I have free time, I usually spend it with my family, which is the best way to distract from work. I also like to play tennis, snowboarding, and like every Italian, playing football!
Q: What is one word that best describes you?
GC: I am curious, and I always try to understand the mechanisms behind what happens in front of my eyes, especially at the societal level. For example, now I am very interested in understanding how the adoption of electric vehicles will evolve in Europe.
Q: How do you see Hive Power in the next two years?
GC: I see Hive Power with a bigger team, working in different geographies, and, very important, bringing on partnerships with some of the major hardware and software providers in the energy and mobility fields. In this field, you can not disrupt the system alone, unless you are Elon Musk.
Q: Pitch Hive power to us in a few sentences.
GC: Hive Power is building a Software as a Service platform to improve how we manage flexibilities. With flexibilities, we mean all the devices that generate or consume electric energy, which could be shifted in time, without affecting the comfort of the users, e.g. the charging of an electric vehicle or the operation of an industrial engine. We call this extensive framework our Flexibility Orchestrator, recalling a now common paradigm used in software engineering. We implemented a layer of digital solutions on top of the orchestration, now available thanks to the ongoing digitalisation, for dynamic pricing of energy, energy communities, and energy analytics for final users.
Q: What is your biggest achievement so far, leading Hive Power?
GC: In the last year, we have proven our market fit with our applications for Flexibility Orchestration used in operation by our customers. In parallel, we are testing future relevant solutions, e.g. V2G, with important industrial partners, helping us shape the first release soon.
Q: How would you describe the company culture of Hive Power?
GC: In Hive Power, I see three central values, which are familiar to the whole team. Integrity, with big respect of our counterparties, like partners, contractors, or customers. The desire for innovation and improvement, which push us to always look for a better solution. The collaboration, well described by the Swiss unofficial motto: Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.
Q: Do you have some books to recommend to readers?
GC: For startuppers, I recommend The Personal MBA, by Josh Kaufman, and The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz. They are great books to learn business lessons on building new ventures. For everyone, I have been impressed by the work of Yuval Noah Harari and Tim Marshall and their ability to summarise history and geography in a limited number of pages.
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There are a host of components needed for a smart grid to function at its utmost capacity. In 2008 the Department of Energy (DOE) in America put together a task force of some of the foremost thinkers and shapers of the smart grid sector, and they agreed on a few defining characteristics of a smart grid that would be able to meet the needs it was created for; this is what they came up with:
- Enable active participation by consumers
- Accommodate all generation and storage options
- Enable new products, new services and new markets
- Provide power quality for the wide range of needs in a digital economy
- Optimise asset use and operating efficiency
- Expect and respond to system disturbance in a self-healing manner
- Operate resiliently against physical and cyber-attacks as well as natural disasters
From the list above, we see that a lot of communication and data management is necessary for the workability of smart grids, and one of the solutions to this crucial communication need is the (AMI)-advanced metering infrastructure. AMI is a foundational component that enables smart grid technology to work cohesively.
The advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is an integrated system made up of smart meters, communication networks and data management systems that allows two-way communication between the utilities provider and customer. This infrastructure is an essential step in the modernisation of grid technologies because it directly includes the customer into the working framework of the smart grid, which increases the added value to the services rendered.
Since AMI is a critical infrastructure of the smart grid, it is also deployed with its unique components:
- Smart meters and data concentrators
- Wide-area communication network (WAN)
- Meter data central (MDC) system
- Meter data management (MDM) system
- Home area network (HAN)
This is where meter management systems, or more concise, meter data management systems, come into play.
What is Meter Data Management System And How it Work?
According to OpenEI, “a meter data management system (MDMS) collects and stores meter data from a head-end system and processes that meter data into information that can be used by other utility applications including billing, customer information systems and outage management systems”.
This system is built on the MDC system, whose primary function includes the validation, estimation, and editing (VEE) of meter data that are later passed on to utility systems, even though disruption of meter data flows may occur.
An MDMS is essential to handling the large amounts of data generated through automated metering or the advanced metering infrastructure. It allows loose coupling between systems.
Several automated meter reading (AMR) systems send their data through their respective head-end servers for the VEE routine to fill gaps in their data, creating clean, integrated and bill-ready data sets. Other utility systems like a data warehouse, outage management, or billing also get their data for their specific purposes from MDMS.
Some AMR/AMI systems that provide meter data to MDMS are gas meters, electric meters and water meters. Compared to conventional grid systems, MDMS enables the consumer/customer to view all their consumption data under one structure, with the ability to manage both analogue and interval data to optimise usage and costs.
The Role Of MDMs
Despite its defining role as a data source, the MDMS plays some other functional roles within the larger IT ecosystem. It can be a traffic director, a data repository, a data framing engine, an infrastructure map and an asset management system.
- Traffic director: in this role, the MDMS can connect back-end applications to specific AMR/AMI systems on a dynamic basis; this makes access to data easy and transparent for users.
- Data repository: in this role, MDMS can serve as an intermediary between the back-end applications that request meter information and specific AMR/AMI systems that collect the data. While MDMS is primarily an online transaction processing system, it can act as an interim data repository.
- Data framing engine: in this role, MDMS can assign interval usage data into specific billing determinants to allow billing of complex rates. This comes in handy when customers are on particular incentives such as time-of-day or peak day pricing rate where the pricing varies exponentially.
- Infrastructure map: in this role, MDMS can save a very detailed virtual map of the electric infrastructure components and their interconnections. These components include meters, transformers, distribution circuits, substations and the like. This map is used as a connectivity model to pass that information like outage alarms to outage management systems and other notifications to their respective systems.
- Asset management system: in this role, the infrastructure map that MDMS already has can be augmented with asset data to be used as an asset management system that can come in handy for small-scale utility companies that may be unable to afford a stand-alone asset management system.
There are numerous roles the MDMS can fit into in the ever-evolving smart grid sector. It is, however, worthy to note that there are a few challenges with its deployment, such as data synchronisation, system integration, scalability, system configuration and time synchronisation, which all have to do with the massive amount of data that runs through the MDM system.
Once the amount of data finds a perfect working synergy within the MDMS, these challenges should be a thing of the past.
The Future of MDMS?
The MDMS is meant to provide effective integration with reduced infrastructure complexity that can easily accommodate any change to its numerous parts without affecting the whole system.
In the global energy market, there is growing consumer demand and the rise of the prosumer, driving an increase in the deployment of smart grids, which need working and sustainable components to meet these demands and boost market growth. Like the Hive Platform, which easily plugs to DSO’s MDMs as a data source for our algorithms and smart grid analytics modules.
Other factors like integration of AMI systems with cloud computing and Internet-of-Things (IoT), extensive research and development will drive the global MDMS market further than anticipated.
PARITY is a project that revolves around a central theme described as “Pro-sumer Aware, Transactive Markets for the Valorization of Distributed flexibility enabled by Smart Energy Contracts”. With this definition, it is clear that blockchain technology is involved mainly because smart contracts are in the mix. In this project, Hive Power is responsible for implementing the blockchain Local Flexibility Market.
However, blockchain technology is not the only form of tech involved in PARITY. The IoT also has a significant role to play in this valorization process.
In simple terms, PARITY hopes to use blockchain technology and IoT to help conventional grids deal with the integration challenges of new RES by engaging end-users who will become effectively aware of prosumers to enable stable energy pricing.
What are the Objectives of PARITY?
The vision of PARITY focuses on implementing local energy sharing that helps with pricing and easing the stress on the grid as well as giving value to its flexibility sources such as EVs, heat pumps and batteries. It is also a new business model that puts prosumers on a pedestal, allowing the opportunity for energy exchange such as P2P energy trading and dynamic pricing.
This guarantees security and automation of operation through blockchain technology, smart contracts, demand-side management and the IoT.
How PARITY Works
Under the initial lab trial for PARITY, a smart contract scenario was created to monitor consumers’ energy consumption via their devices and, in turn, exchange this information with the blockchain, automatically deciding settlements and further actions. The Hosts included:
- IoT Gateways also acting as blockchain nodes
- Light devices
- HVAC devices
- Smart plugs
- Oracles; which served as a link between the physical world and virtual blockchain world
The Internet of Things (IoT) has an ecosystem involved in this project. Within this ecosystem is the IoT Gateway which is deployed on-premises with an Information Management cloud infrastructure that helps with data processing and persistence.
A gateway that enables communication between the Building WSN and the IoT cloud and ambient sensing, control and sub-metering data provision through multiprotocol gateway communicating with a wide variety of off-the-shelf sensors make up part of this ecosystem.
A few other critical elements of this ecosystem are:
- The Information Management cloud normalization.
- Semantic annotation.
- Compression of data and calculation of KPIs.
While within the blockchain ecosystem, PARITY Cosmos sidechain aims to interconnect with the Cosmos blockchain, support the market and smart contract aspect, and facilitate interconnection with other authorized off-chain parties through relevant interfaces.
The Oracles involved in PARITY are responsible for verifying and transmitting real-world events in a trusted and secure way by triggering smart contract transactions and retrieving anonymized data from specific prosumer service legal agreements (SLAs) to be used as key performance indicators to the blockchain smart contracts framework.
The Local Flexibility Market
Local flexibility of PARITY enables multiple uses across the board, like in prosumer apps that include informative billing and automated profiling. The Local Flexibility Market also runs on the Hive blockchain platform, while PARITY Oracles and DER dispatch are part of the multiple-use cases enabled by PARITY.
The Local Market design of PARITY follows a defining structure:
- Market participants which include Distribution System Operators (DSOs), prosumers, aggregators and market operators
- Instruments for providing flexibility such as market-based and control-based instruments (LEM & LFM)
- Market operator
- Local scope of the market
- Coordination between flexibility requesting parties
Two markets are introduced within this concept, the Local Electricity Market (LEM) and the Local Flexibility Market (LFM).
- LEM encourages P2P trading among prosumers and is operated by Local Electricity Market Operator (LEMO)
- LFM, however, activates flexibility for the needs of DSOs. Under this, the Explicit LFM design is a market platform operated by the Local Flexibility Market Operator (LFMO), while Implicit LFM market design is implicitly integrated into the LEM. DSOs can impose varying grid prices, and prosumers can react to this via their trades on the LEM.
The Roles of Stakeholders
Distribution System Operators have a traffic light concept that outlines their response to specific regulations within PARITY called the traffic light concept.
- BLACK means a grid outage, and at this stage, the DSOs disconnect everything in the constrained area for the safety of the grid
- RED means distribution grid is constrained; here, DSOs can override market-based contracts and perform direct load control
- YELLOW means the DSO has forecasted constraint violations; here, Implicit and Explicit LFM are activated
- GREEN means there are no constraint violations, and DSOs perform active grid monitoring
ESCOs (Energy service companies) are also stakeholders in PARITY because they focus on developing and building financing projects that save energy, reduce energy costs, and decrease the cost of maintenance and operation on the customers’ end. They offer improvements in energy efficiency based on a performance contracting method, so compensation for projects is directly linked to actual energy cost savings. In PARITY, ESCOs will enable fair pricing at all ends.
Risks and Barriers Encountered With PARITY
Obstacles that stand to hinder the fast adoption of PARITY include:
- Administrative barriers like lack of regulation and charging cost rules
- Standardization barriers like diversity and interoperability
- Trust barriers such as emerging technologies, security and privacy
- Technical barriers like networking and reliability
- Cost barriers such as pricing and margins
Pilot Sites And Use Cases
Pilot Sites have been spread across four European countries; Spain, Sweden, Greece and Switzerland. They range from office buildings, residential buildings to fuel stations for EV charging points.
There have been several use cases in PARITY, one of them focused on congestion management by DSO through the operation of LFM to increase DER penetration. The steps taken included detecting the network colour by DSO, activating LFM and mapping DER, which resulted in dynamic activation of flexibility in real-time to eliminate congestion.
PARITY is all about fairness and integration of all platforms and parties involved in the electricity distribution process. The project uses new-age technology to solve conventional and innovative challenges hoping to ease the stress in all quarters and improve sustainability. As Partners in the PARITY project, Hive Power understands the objective all too well and we’re seeking to chart a new course in the grid technologies industry.
Energy sources have metamorphosed throughout the history of technological innovations. The need to meet the demand requirements with supply targets has been top of mind for energy researchers and innovators.
Renewable energy sources have turned out to be the answer to balancing out energy needs worldwide. Carbon neutral sources such as sunlight, wind, geothermal heat and rain are perfect examples of renewable sources, while biomass fuels made from organic and animal matter such as wood, waste from farms and energy crops have a debatable carbon neutral status but still play a significant role in the renewable energy industry.
There are four primary areas where renewables are utilized: electricity production, heating and cooling, off-grid energy needs and transportation. In Germany, renewable energy sources are primarily based on wind, solar and biomass fuels.
Interesting Facts About Renewable Energy In Germany
Germany has gradually been phasing out its use of fossil fuels in the electricity sector, targeting to reduce the emissions used in this sector by nearly 60% by 2030. They are among the early adopters of renewable energy, going as far back as the 1990s.
In 2020, Germany’s gross electricity generation from renewable sources peaked at 251 terawatt-hours bringing it closer to becoming a major contributor to the European Union’s efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
Although wind power is the primary source of renewable energy in Germany, offshore wind farms only recently contributed to this energy sector. On the other hand, Hydropower contributes the least to the energy generation sector in Germany with a steady decline from the 2000s. With the expansion of the wind energy sector, employment has also increased, leading to nearly 121,000 employees as of 2020.
This energy mix works well for Germany as it does not have to rely on only one source of renewables and can function adequately with the options at its disposal.
How Far Germany Has Come In The Renewable Energy Journey.
Energiewende is a compound word used to express Germany’s all-encompassing climate and energy strategy. The term is a combination of two words: energy and transition. It gained popularity after a book with the same name was published in the 1980s, outlining its exact meaning and reasons for adoption. It started as an approach involving energy efficiency, energy security, renewables and nuclear phaseout, with climate change coming in much later into the mix. Its success or failure, however, is constantly measured via carbon emissions counts. Germany has a target of cutting down its present emissions by 80 – 95%, below the levels seen in the 1990s.
Industries in Germany have not had the smoothest ride through this renewables roller coaster, but one sector that has given way for a new one is the coal sector. The structural transformation that took hold of the coal sector saw five times as many employees in the wind energy sector as coal, starting from the 2000s. With further data analysis, it was evident that roughly one in two employees of the energy sector works in renewables, that is almost 700,000 more people in the energy sector as compared to the early days of Energiewende.
Germany has acquired exponential growth in the wind energy sector, which accounted for 23.7 per cent of total electricity generated in 2020. The use of solar PV, which was at one point Europe’s largest solar market and the hydropower stations, which produced 18.7 billion kilowatts in 2020, is also part of this energy sector growth. They also stand as the fifth largest bioenergy capacity globally, with a cumulative installed capacity of biomass plants reaching 9,301 megawatts in 2020.
Favourable Renewable Energy Policies In Germany
In Germany, the market premium scheme is the major support for renewables. This type of scheme is characteristic of several EU countries.
Some support schemes are
- Feed-in-Tariff: this is a policy that guarantees above market price for producers. It works for power plants of up to 100 KW, where the amount of tariff is set by law and paid by the grid operator to the plant operators for 20 years.
- Tendering: these are competitive mechanisms for allocating financial support to renewable energy sources projects, usually based on the cost of electricity production. For Germany, onshore and offshore wind projects starting from 750 kW, solar projects starting from 750 kW, biomass plants starting from 150 kW and already existing biomass plants must be awarded in a tendering procedure.
Other policies include:
- Training programmes for Installers: Installers are trained in the art of renewables technologies in the framework of craftsmen training.
- Certification Programmes for RES installations: Plants must comply with the technical requirements by acquiring certificates depending on the particular technology to be connected to the grid.
- Exemplary role of public authorities: Public authorities must promote an exemplary role in carrying out their duties on renewable energy.
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects In Germany
According to the European Energy Agency, within the EU, offshore wind energy production is expected to increase up to five times by 2040. In the German Baltic Sea, several projects are meant to be underway with a call for tenders to install renewable energy sources in three zones within the Baltic Sea, sent out by the German government on March 1 2021.
Other projects such as Borkum Riffgrund 3, a 900 MW offshore wind farm, is scheduled for operation in 2025, while the Kaskasi project will be commissioned by 2022.
Expert Projections On Renewable Energy Growth In Germany
Wind energy production could become the most crucial energy source in Europe by 2050, and Germany could produce 36 GW of this energy through offshore wind energy by 2050. However, with the closure of coal-fired power plants, Germany may have to increase this production rate to 50 GW to compensate for those closures. The general plan is to produce 20 GW by 2030 and increase that to 40 GW by 2040.
Despite having several renewable energy sources, Germany is focusing on wind energy to make sure it meets its set targets and the EU and Paris Agreement. These targets are ambitious but necessary in the long run. And we believe that by integrating smart grid technologies and powerful grid data analytics software, Germany is a step closer to achieving its targets more effectively.
One of the more popular analogies used in describing how important some responsibilities are compared to others always goes along with the words “those on the front lines”. In grid operations, these people are saddled with the enormous responsibility of maintaining the balance between input and output. Despite the advances in grid operations and a steady move towards a more self-reliant and sustainable energy sector, the need for trusted operators is still relevant.
What Does a Grid Operator do?
A Grid Operator or System Operator is a manager that ensures the “reliable delivery of electricity to consumers, businesses and industry”. They are the grid managers who track operations from a set of computer consoles within a control centre. They spend most of their time making sure all grid systems function at optimum capacity. The need to anticipate and mitigate situations that could become potentially dangerous or costly is also part of their work purview.
Working as a Grid Operator means constantly improving skills using simulations to practice new situations and guaranteeing that they can quickly respond and restore safe power conditions to the grid in the event of a systems failure.
How DERs are Changing the Scope for Grid Operators.
When it comes to expanding grid operations through new energy sources or distributed energy sources (DERs), there are four main aspects:
- Enabling technologies like utility-scale batteries, EV smart charging and renewable mini-grids
- Business models like peer-to-peer electricity trading and pay-as-you-go models
- Market design such as net billing schemes and innovative ancillary services
- System operations that include the future role of grid operators, virtual power lines and co-operation between transmission and distribution system operators
The future roles of grid operators will have to consider the increase in responsibilities that reflect the need to use a higher number of DERs in grid systems.
DERs are small or medium-sized electricity-producing resources or controllable loads that are connected to a local distribution system. They include distributed generation such as solar panels, small scale energy storage and controllable loads like EVs and demand response.
The conventional scenario of grid networks has mainly been centralised. Their organisation revolves around energy generation, transmission and distribution, with the consumers pinned at the end of the supply chain. In recent years this system has gradually morphed into something toeing the line of a form of decentralised energy distribution. Consumers are becoming part of the process of energy generation, transmission and distribution, leaving grid operators with less of a clear-cut series of responsibilities.
Emerging distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar photovoltaic installations, micro wind turbines, smart home appliances and plug-in electric vehicles are becoming quite active in the energy grid networks. Add this to the new market players such as prosumers, aggregators and more informed consumers, and the result is a new era with new opportunities.
So, for the energy transition to be successful, grid operators will have to develop new incentives, adjust their current roles and adapt their operations to accommodate these new DERs.
Becoming a Grid Operator of the Future – Emerging Roles For Grid Operators
As DERs keep penetrating the existing energy grid networks, the predictability of traditional planning, transmission, and distribution could be negatively affected, creating some blindsides. This is why the conventional roles of grid operators need to change.
We can sum up the conventional roles of grid operators in:
- Connection and disconnection of DERs
- Planning, maintenance and management of networks
- Management of supply outages
- Energy billing
However, these grid operators could have access to the flexibility of DER integration for the benefit of the distribution grid and consumers alike. Here are a few roles they could take up with proper adaptation:
- With an appropriate regulatory framework, the grid operators could begin operating DERs
- They could act as neutral market facilitators, providing high-end price signals to the market players who own flexible assets
- They could take on an active role in system operations in addition to their network operations roles, procuring flexibility services such as voltage support and congestion management
- They could be in charge of peak load management through DERs
- They could provide reactive power support to TSOs
Conventional roles still play a considerable part in sustaining grid networks. Integrating these new roles will help with much-needed regulations and increase economic advantages for asset holders.
Regulatory Mechanisms That Could Help
Most of these regulations are still in their early stages of development and are given as a guideline more than anything else.
Two of such regulations are:
- Connection agreements for end consumers that are not firm – These are connection agreements that state that DSOs will reduce network fees during peak hours if consumers agree to have constrained power supply during that period.
- Bilateral flexibility contracts – In this sense, DER owners and operators agree to provide local system services like voltage control to the grid operators.
The new Responsibilities and Their Impact
These new responsibilities will significantly affect how power grids operate in the future, and we can highlight some key benefits:
- Increasing flexibility in distribution networks – Through this, grid operators could get flexibility services from assets that are already connected to their distribution network. Using these services will further help the integration of renewables into the distribution network. One advantage of this benefit is the extra revenue stream it introduces with the help of incentives which further improves the flexibility of the distribution network.
- Using DERs to avoid or reduce network investments – This allows the grid operators to have numerous options at their disposal during peak demand periods or periods of network congestion. They can decide between reinforcing the grid, offering non-firm access to their consumers or use the flexibility services provided by the DERs.
- Leveraging data to increase renewable energy penetration – Here, grid operators can play the role of the consumer data manager, collecting and storing data related to electricity consumption, billing and location, as well as types of DERs. These can then be used to better forecast demand which would help with better planning and distribution.
The potential impacts of these changes are projected to be immense. Grid operators are not necessarily a defunct part of grid operations but will have to leverage the new and the old to create a working framework for future operations.
Smart grids are the future innovations when it comes to sustainable energy distribution. This also involves a huge amount of data that needs processing at a constant rate. Data management here is essential to the proper running and stability of smart grids and their functionality.
What Is Data Management?
The term ‘Data Management’ refers to the process or practice of collecting, compiling and using information securely and efficiently while saving costs. This activity aims to enable the analysis of information when needed to make sense of the very vast quantities of data at our disposal today. However, data management is streamlined to just the information required to run the grids effectively when it has to do with intelligent grid systems.
Another reason for proper data management in grid systems is for corrective actions to be taken when the need presents itself so that grid participators can maximize benefits within the energy sector. The scope of data management is vast but can be understood within the following factors:
- To create, access, and update data across a differing data tier
- Store data across numerous platforms
- Provide high availability and disaster recovery
- Use data in a growing variety of apps, analytics, and algorithms
- Ensure the privacy and security of data
- Archive and destroy data following retention schedules and compliance requirements
To get the most out of data management, organizations and administrators need data management systems that are peculiar to their requirements. The point is to find the necessary information for analysis.
Data Management In Smart Grid Systems
Smart grids come with their peculiar advantages and changes that involve the information and communication technologies systems sector. These new changes include:
- New forms of information flow coming from the electricity grid
- New players like decentralized producers of renewable energies, prosumers and involved consumers
- New uses linked with DERs such as electric vehicles and connected houses
- New communicating equipment such as smart meters, sensors and remote-control points
These changes will bring a huge amount of information to grid operators and administrators due to the many variables involved in energy production, distribution and consumption. Smart grids are seen as a concrete solution to the concurrent changes hitting the electrical energy sector, and they help with the efficient integration of the entire network. So, because smart grids ensure high integration of the electric grid from production to consumption, large amounts of data are expected to pass through.
This data is not sorted as in conventional grids that would, for example, have one meter reading total consumption in a month. With a feature such as a smart meter that could be set to send consumer readings every 15 minutes, smart grids get larger amounts of data per time set, which means more information to sort through, with higher analysis thresholds. This is why data management is required; intelligent grids need to deal with high-velocity data, storage capacity and advanced data analytics.
There are two main data systems linked with smart grids that we will discuss here; Communication systems and Information systems.
Communication systems in smart grid data management
Communication is a crucial factor in any relationship, even between computer components. In smart grids, maintaining that connection so that data can be relayed between components is essential. This system needs to be secure and capable of high bandwidth and speed. Three types of networks fall under this system, Home Area Networks (HANs), Business Area Networks (BANs) and Neighbourhood Area Networks (NANs). These network types can further be classified into two broad categories, which are wired and wireless technologies.
Information systems in smart grid data management
These are components of the smart grids that communicate together for scalability and flexibility of the grid. They control and load data from the field then use it to extract values and understand the condition of the lines, equipment, energy use etc. There are several components within the information system such as:
- Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) is a safe and reliable system of software and hardware elements used for monitoring control within the grid. The system controls energy distribution processes, monitors and collects real-time data, keeps records of events and interacts with devices through a human-machine interface. SCADA can also be applied in industrial sectors like energy, oil and gas, transportation and recycling. These systems are essential because they help to maintain efficiency, process data more intelligent and mitigate downtime with system issues.
- Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) helps with cost and time efficiency by compiling data about energy consumption and production. AMI creates two-way communication meters between consumers and utility operators that enable high-frequency data collection of energy consumption within intelligent grids. This gives utility operators the ability to modify the different service level parameters for customers and gather data on usage frequencies and fluctuations.
- Outage management system (OMS) is vital in minimizing the effects and diagnosing the causes of power outages, and improving the system’s availability and reliability. This system is capable of restoring network models after an outage has occurred. They are also capable of tracking, displaying and grouping outages.
- Customer information system (CIS) is needed to develop and understand the relationship between the utilities and consumers. It is a complete customer relationship management system that assists in obtaining customer information efficiently. It helps to provide quality services to consumers by utilizing their collected data.
- Geographic information system (GIS) is considered a visualization tool to gather information about the grid, consumers and technologies. It captures, stores, checks and displays seemingly unrelated data concerning positions on Earth’s surface, which helps to solve real-world problems through understanding spatial patterns.
- Demand response management system (DRMS) gives the utilities the ability to create automated, flexible and integrated platforms to manage demand response solutions efficiently and speedily. It is the critical link between the demand response side of the grid and the utility operators. It helps with the integration of the much-needed two-way communication between consumers and grid operators.
Daki, H., El Hannani, A., Aqqal, A. et al. Big Data management in smart grid: concepts, requirements and implementation. J Big Data 4, 13 (2017).
Data management systems maintain the effectiveness of smart grids, lower costs where necessary, increase response time, and reduce the cumbersome nature of data collection by managing them efficiently. Just as the future is catching up with far-reaching innovations, the Hive Power platform makes various technical options available, especially with robust data analytics and management tools.
When was the last time you received a costly electricity bill, and you wondered what you could do to spend less? Shall I run the washing machine on a different program? Maybe the dishwasher? What about my new plasma TV? And that cute ornamental fountain in the backyard that runs days and nights, how much does it cost me?
Energy prosumers are not exposed to the details of their electricity usage. They often don’t know the difference between switching all lights off and reducing the time using a hairdryer. They rely on professional operators to decide whether or not to invest in a photovoltaic system or an electric heat pump. This contributes to generating a feeling of impotence and non-importance when actively taking part in the fight against climate change.
A survey of 400 homes in Michigan found that the average resident wrongly believed that she/he could save twice as much money by reducing lighting than using less hot water. Building contractors report that it is easier to sell a new home with visible solar collectors on the roof than with a passive solar design, added insulation, and other less-visible features, even though the latter would save energy more cost-effectively. But because these features are invisible to human eyes, people are less likely to believe in their energy-saving potential.
Prosumers have zero visibility of what happens behind the curtains of their monthly energy bill. There is an apparent disconnection between how electricity is made and how it is socially perceived.
In a bid to provide a solution to these challenges, we developed a pioneering project in collaboration with AEM (Azienda Elettrica di Massagno) that is financed by EnergieSchweiz and Fondo Energie Rinnovabili of Canton Ticino.
We analysed the consumption profiles of about 9k residential consumers belonging to the Lugano region, using 15-minute sampled load profiles read from L+G E450 smart meters. From this analysis, we discovered that the challenges faced by most energy consumers are due to the following anomalies:
- Inefficient heat pumps: when a user’s heat pump excessively resorts to its auxiliary resistance to maintain indoor comfort during cold winter days.
- Unreasonable standby power: for example, when a user’s consumption never drops below 200 W for several days in a row (maybe that cute water fountain wasn’t so efficient after all?).
- Anomalous consumption trends: when the general long-term trend of a user’s energy consumption drastically increases.
- Unexpected power peak: short anomalous high peaks of consumption could help spot a faulty electrical device.
What is DrainSpotter?
DrainSpotter is a user-centric mobile app that we are developing thanks to this ambitious project. With the DrainSpotter app, any user can monitor their electricity usage over time, receive informative summaries of their consumer behaviour, and be automatically notified about anomalies detected by machine learning algorithms.
Hive Power hopes to educate and empower consumers by making them actively responsible for their own energy savings with this app. This app will soon be accessible to all residential users of AEM.
How can DrainSpotter Benefit Customers and DSOs?
The DrainSpotter app helps consumers reduce their energy bill thanks to personalised recommendations and reports. DSOs will benefit from a community of users that modify their behaviour towards a more energy-efficient attitude.
As an example, we estimated that if all AEM’s residential users got rid of excessive standby power that lies above 200 W for more than 14 days consecutively:
- AEM would deliver 10% less energy in total,
- 5% of customers would reduce their total energy consumption by at least 20%,
- and 4.2% of customers would save at least 500 CHF off their total energy bill over a period of 1.5 years.
In addition to the obvious economic benefits, the DrainSpotter app:
- will guide users in the early detection of faulty appliances and anomalies that could cost them a portion of their electricity tariffs.
- Will provide users with a smart solution for monitoring energy consumption in their households, keeping track of how their utility bills are calculated in real-time.
- Will create room for automatic support services by the DSOs, who can now offer expert advice and/or solutions to a user’s complaints using the data from the app.
- Will grant users access to clear and concise information on how their bills are generated.
Smart metering is not smart enough if it doesn’t provide smart solutions to energy consumers and DSOs. With the DrainSpotter app, they can enjoy great benefits and efficiency in energy consumption and distribution.
Our COO Davide Rivola will be speaking at the online roundtable discussion, hosted by INTERPRETER and PARITY, on the Distributed Flexibility markets model.
Event schedule: Tuesday, March 16th at 12:00 (CET).
Register for the event here: https://www.eventbrite.es/e/distributed-flexibility-markets-in-h2020-projects-registration-143319477415
INTERPRETER and PARITY, two promising H2020 Energy projects, will host an online discussion on the Distributed Flexibility markets models currently developed. While PARITY is more oriented to a market perspective of how individuals benefit from new models of energy management, INTERPRETER is focused on developing a tool which integrates different technologies addressing flexibility to the grids management.