The introduction of demand-side response meets the preferences of the consumer of energy and helps the energy supply systems to remain balanced. Even though business owners and large-scale commercial corporations were the first to take advantage of this development for the sake of profits, it has moved in its application. Consumer demand-side response is now a point of interest as Demand-side response has its advantages to both a residential consumer and a business owner.
Through demand-side response, the use of power is flexible; as the consumer, you can adjust your energy demand according to your needs. When the United States Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007 defined the term demand response, it described it as all activities related to reducing peak demand through smart pricing and metering, as well as enabling technologies. The whole idea of consumer demand-side response benefits the grid by keeping it stable.
The term Demand-side response was known as Demand-side management (DSM) after the energy crisis in 1979. Various governments wanted to effectively manage demand through different programs because of the issues that arose with energy (fossil fuel then) production. These developments happened both in 1973 and 1979. However, the only thing that is helping Demand-side management thrive now is the availability of communication tools and more technology.
How Consumer Demand-Side Response Works
A distribution grid is responsible for the conveyance of power finally to the end-users. There is a frequency at which power comes into the grid; without renewable energy sources, this frequency is easy to keep stable. You don’t need a high level of control since the power is generated using fossil-based energy sources such as natural gas and coal according to the quantity.
However, including renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy, the input rate is unpredictable. Therefore, the grid operators need the consumers’ cooperation to regulate the power flow to the grid for a reward. Based on requirements and current state, the consumer reduces his power usage and avoids wastage whenever notified.
For a large-scale business or an industrial setting, the demand-side response is very significant because the amount of valuable power that could be wasted is high. Despite their relatively small power capacity, residential consumers can also be participants in demand-side response. With the introduction of advanced technologies, operators can coordinate the demand-side response without much human input. These technologies would account for all little grits of power that accumulate to significant power.
Smart-grid applications provide real-time data to producers and consumers that help them participate in the demand-side response. They aid the effective communication between consumers and producers of electricity on how much is needed and when needed. Consumers can fix their thresholds, then adjust their usage to maximize the prices.
Applicability of Consumer Demand-Side Response
In domestic areas, homes usually have loads that use electric power. They could be:
- Base loads, which are fixed and non-adjustable to meet basic needs such as lighting and the likes.
- Schedulable loads, which are used at some points in time, usually once a day.
- Flexible loads, like water heaters and air conditioning units, are only used when needed.
A consumer can apply the demand-side response to the control of flexible loads in their house. Since they are not used all through the day, they act as virtual batteries. This power gets channelled elsewhere when they are not in use. So, for example, when the weather does not encourage the residents of a house to use the water heating system, they can decline the power supply meant for that purpose.
Technologies Aiding Consumer Demand-Side Response
Certain technologies have been developed and would continue to emerge to achieve the goals of consumer demand-side response. Simply put, they are used for various functions and carry out specific roles to balance the grids.
- Current regulators such as fuses, limiters, and breakers are necessary to moderate the current flowing in or out of a system at a time.
- Distributed intelligent load controllers use artificial intelligence techniques to regulate and manage electricity load in a building.
- Meters – conventional and prepaid meters – are used traditionally to monitor power consumption rate, usage, and units for the sake of payment according to usage.
- Improved metering systems with centralized communication provide two-way communication, inform the consumer of how much power has been used, and help them make decisions. These decisions border around how much power to pay for and use.
The Hive Platform Flexibility Manager Module has an intelligent system used for effective consumer demand-side response. As a result, consumers do not have to be concerned with the activities involved in shifting loads because advanced devices with this technology carry them out.
What the Future Holds for Consumer Demand-Side Response
The advantages businesses get while performing the demand-side responses are more than the disadvantages. Homes can also be a part of this without having to use conventional methods. Smart technologies will continue to get developed and improved till almost all homes become partakers in demand-side response.
The same way advanced metering infrastructures are taking over the metering systems, more people would be able to participate in demand-side response when the available technologies are adopted on a large scale by the grid operators. With advanced grids becoming more used soon, it would aid demand-side response. That way, we can eliminate power outages, and renewable energy would be more appreciated.
Engaging consumers of electricity will only be possible with appropriate communication between them and the suppliers of power. Consumers can make their preferences virtually when necessary or at the initial stages of installation. Also, due to the flexibility introduced in the recent technologies, they can make changes at any point in time.
Demand response is really important in grid management, and we are making efforts to make it as flexible as possible. It involves communication between a consumer or prosumer and the supplier of an electric utility. The essence of this communication is to match demand with supply and distribute power with discretion from where it is in excess to where it is needed.
The MuLDeR project is a platform where we are managing demand response. Alongside another project (the NEMoGrid project), the MuLDeR project is a project by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI). While the NEMoGrid project focuses on developing market designs that would allow a smooth integration of renewable energy sources locally, the MuLDeR project uses the Hive Platform community manager module to achieve a multilevel approach to demand response.
What Are The Problems Solved by the MuLDeR Project?
Energy communities have intertwined connections and not just stand-alone ones. Also, each contributor and consumer of power is part of an effective demand response. Therefore, the goal of demand response in this application must be flexible and allow for various power inputs and coordinated responses. Flexibility in demand response applied in the MuLDeR project involves using grid-aware mechanisms to activate demand response.
Even though this project is a research project, it is already being evaluated practically in LIC (a real-life energy community project). The project seeks to solve the problems encountered in power grids at a community level by exploring the multilevel hierarchical scheme. More problems solved by the project include:
- Energy storage problems – as power is being distributed, it can now be stored along the way and allow for flexibility. This is because excesses in power supply would not be wasted but rather converted to profit by the system provided by the MuLDeR project.
- Regulation of power consumption and demand by prosumers – prosumers themselves need to be involved for them to make choices in their power consumption easily and not be restricted in applying them
- Suitability of renewable energy sources (RES) in the market – since the MuLDeR project eliminates the barrier of demand response as applicable to multiple users of renewable energy, it removes the doubt that comes with whether or not to adopt RES
- The use of actuation to achieve flexible demand response – traditional methods of communication between consumers and grid operators, are not effective for demand response. In self-consumption communities, the demand response needs to be flexible and controlled by the system more than by operators. The MuLDeR project achieves this via load actuation.
- Complicated systems from inputs of multiple agents – the MuLDeR project solves complications in self-consumption communities by extending the solution of single-level aggregators to multilevel aggregators. This extension improves the grid management system to a high standard and allows it to follow different objective functions at the different levels of the grid hierarchy.
- Synchronization of stochastic PVs (photovoltaics). The effects of the fluctuations in solar photovoltaic power generation are damaging. They have been solved in the MuLDeR project by load synchronization.
Milestones and Current Progress of the MuLDeR Project
The MuLDeR project has come a long way. A significant step along the way was the creation of a package called Gossipy. This package is infrastructural as it gives room for input from agents in the grid processes to be grouped in chats. Also, the interactions among the agents and outside information are executed according to a message-reaction paradigm.
More so, simulation and implementation in the pilot (the LIC) were already in place by the end of 2020. This simulation was achieved in July 2020 using a systemized interface that avoided any redundancy while getting scripts. It also used a python library – Krangpower – to provide modern interfaces to the necessary simulation functionalities that the project needed.
This project utilized an automated market-making mechanism to carry out pricing during the simulation. The upper hand became evident. Predictions already showed that a better financial outcome would surface even before the simulation. This advantage is because the surplus of an energy community spreads among end-users and the community manager.
Challenges With the MuLDeR Project
The MuLDeR project may have faced some challenges but always met them with effective solutions. A significant challenge was that of grid constraints. Each agent has an objective function, so these grid constraints have some influence on them. A similar limitation imposed on the maximum power at the point of coupling was to tackle this challenge. Despite the limit on power generation, it reduced the peak power of the community as well as the total costs.
Another challenge was the effect of control activities on the grid. Batteries introduced to the grid needed coordination so that they would keep having a good functioning. The project dealt with the issues resulting from control. It was by analyzing the power under control as a function of the PCC (Point of Common Coupling) power.
What Next? – Future Prospects of the MuLDeR Project
As work progresses on the MuLDeR project, it sets the future firmly on the foundation of already established results. The algorithms developed so far are for energy communities working with a market model, and the pilots are already implementing it for proper evaluation. The results of this evaluation would help us approach the problems with a better perspective.
With the solution provided by the MuLDeR project, we expect that the pilots would extend to a larger setting. This extension is such that several energy communities can cooperate and offer services to one another. Services can be offered first to the Distribution Service Operators (DSO) and then to the Transmission Service Operators (TSO). The project aims to apply its solution to a larger group of communities and prosumers.
The synergy of this project and other projects would produce industrial products that would help the energy strategy 2050. There would be more complex applications in the distribution of energy, especially when using photovoltaic systems, as time goes on. More energy communities would emerge, and flexible demand response would need to solve the problems of peak load optimization.