A ‘Smart Grid’ supplies electricity from providers to consumers, using digital technology to save energy and costs. Where the consumer also has local generating capacity and has more electricity than he actually requires, the excess can be fed into the grid. This creates an ‘energy exchange’ between various users, and ensures that supply and demand can be matched more efficiently.
Tried and tested technologies
1. Nedap has introduced the MyGrid concept, which enables consumers to generate their own electricity, store it, share it with others and, most importantly, manage consumption more efficiently.
MyGrid combines alternative energy sources (solar and wind power) with the conventional electricity grid. Consumers who generate their own electricity can use it themselves, store it for future use, or sell it to the national grid; the choice is entirely theirs. Dependence on commercial providers is greatly reduced. MyGrid is linked via the internet to the MyGrid Data Centre, which provides all information about system status, current and past consumption, and even the status of all grid users at any one time. At a glance, this provides an overview of the energy supply system for every home and for entire companies.
2. ECN has introduced its PowerMatcher concept: a distributed energy system architecture and communication protocol which facilitates the implementation of standardized, scalable Smart Grids. Those grids can rely on conventional energy sources, renewable sources, or a combination of the two. Large numbers of small scale producers and consumers are brought together to form a single, flexible entity by the process known as ‘intelligent clustering’.
3. Another example of a local Smart Grid is the Energie Combinatie Wieringermeer (ECW), a collective of glasshouse-based horticultural companies. They use an advanced energy management system provided by Datawatt. The objective was to reduce reliance on the mainstream providers (with a purchasing contract for the minimum possible quantity of gas and electricity) while also optimizing capacity usage and efficiency.
Unique Selling Points
• Energy consumers also become energy suppliers.
• Smart Grids not only provide a two-way flow of electricity, but also a two-way flow of information between provider and consumer.
Energy efficiency is improved by virtue of:
• Increased awareness on the part of end users, who receive prompt feedback about their energy consumption patterns (the monthly statement and a display with current information in the home).
• Reduced use of (inefficient) peak-time generating stations due to improved production/consumption balancing on the distribution grids.
• Increased capacity of the grids for electricity generated from sustainable sources such as wind, solar energy, and local heat-and-power co-generators. At present, the grids can experience problems if the proportion of electricity derived from such sources rises above a certain level (typically around 10%).
• Reduced grid losses in the energy transmission from electricity plants to consumers.
• Optimal usage of locally generated electricity.
The overall result is a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions, leading companies and households to reduce their own CO2 emissions.
Market parties and research institutes
Betronic, Datawatt, Dyzle, ECN, Endon, Enexis, Essent, Gasunie Engineering & Technology, Greenchoice, ICT Automatisering, Liander, Nacap, Nedap, Plugwise, Smart Power System (SPS) consortium, various universities of technology, TNO ICT, and Westland Energie Services
Best practice reference projects in the Netherlands
• Energie Combinatie Wieringermeer (ECW)
• PowerMatcher field tests:
o 10 micro co-generators are being run by end-users as a virtual power station. Project partners are ECN, Gasunie, Energy Valley, SPS, and various grid operators.
o Reduction of imbalances (unexpected fluctuations) in wind energy supply by smart management of industrial installations and domestic usage.
o PowerMatching City: a planned field test involving ‘smart houses in a smart grid’, to be undertaken in Groningen by Gasunie, ICT Automatisering, and ECN.
Possible obstacles to international business
• Mismatch between the innovation cycle in the electricity industry and that of the ICT sector. Investments in network components such as cables and transformers generally have a depreciation period of forty years or more. In ICT, the cycle is much shorter: three years for hardware and one year for software versions.
• A paradigm shift is required in the (often rather conservative) electricity industry. Its centralized, top-down thinking must give way to a decentralized, bottom-up approach.
• Availability of public areas.
• Knowledge level of operator/grid manager (after-care).