The increasing electrification in society leads to higher peak loads on the electricity grid. Some people are warning for an energy transition that is too fast. Others are hopeful for a fully electric future. In a report commissioned by the Dutch Topsector Energie program, more than 100 potential solutions are offered, all focusing on maximizing the capacity of the existing or upcoming electricity network to accelerate the energy transition. In a 12-part series, Innovation Origins spotlights the twelve most promising solutions. This is part 4: Autonomous decentralized intervention in the low-voltage network.
- The Dutch Topsector Energy collected 100 ideas to solve the issues around grid congestion.
- One of the twelve most powerful ideas is to allow autonomous decentralized intervention in the low-voltage network.
- To implement this solution, an adjustment of the regulations is needed.
The low-voltage network can experience temporary overloads. One way to prevent this is by dampening flexible capacity in consumption or generation during peak moments. The strength of this solution lies in its autonomous and local intervention, making it a robust and simple safety net. This approach ensures precise and local prevention of overloading, protecting the infrastructure without causing significant inconvenience to users. Moreover, it allows for a larger maximum power to be connected.
This solution is not about intelligent energy management systems. Instead, it’s a last resort for network operators when market incentives and smart systems don’t function as intended. The solution is based on a simple and robust design that prevents local overloading using data from the transformer. An example of this concept is GridShield, currently being developed by ElaadNL. With GridShield, charging stations are instructed to reduce consumption when the local substation or a specific cable is overloaded. The control is autonomous and decentralized from the substation, ensuring compliance with GDPR.
Charging stations, heat pumps, and air conditioning
Charging stations have a large capacity and are relatively flexible in their offtake, which makes them very suitable for this purpose. The same principle can be applied to other consuming or generating technology, such as heat pumps or solar panels. For example, the Texas grid operator is using the principle of air conditioning control. GridShield’s software can be adapted for this application.
Disruptions and hacks
Centralized systems or decentralized EMS with mutual coordination might not always respond in time and are more susceptible to communication disruptions or hacks. While smart systems play a crucial role in the energy transition, having a simple and robust system as a safety net allows the market to function while providing network operators with a safe alternative during emergencies. This approach is based on the actual physical load on the network rather than the administrative load. The system intervenes when there’s a temporary overload, preventing damage and outages. The safety limits and damping rules can vary depending on local network characteristics.
To implement this solution, an adjustment of the regulations is needed because intervening “behind the meter” for affected devices is not allowed now. Private individuals could also introduce the concept voluntarily, for example, in congested areas. For companies, it can be an ‘enabling technology’ to get below a certain capacity (cheaper connection), or it can be a contractual requirement as a variant of a flexible connection agreement. The grid operator must determine where the solution should be applied first. Moreover, it is responsible for technology rollout.
Communication about damping can contribute to the energy awareness of connected parties and is also necessary to remove any (understandable) user resistance. It can thus also contribute to behavioral change and discourage peak consumption or generation.