Local network required against grid congestion

Pressure on the electricity grid is rising all the time, because of increasing local production: solar and wind energy. An increasing number of companies needs to wait for a connection. But there is a solution: a local network comprising solar panels, batteries and smart software. Says Teun Schröder in an article on change.inc (in Dutch).

Use energy locally
Congestion solved with Local Market. By making it possible to use energy locally, a Local Market can alleviate congestions in the grid. Photo: VincSamySebi, Wikimedia Commons

The problem

It isn’t yet clear to everyone that we have a problem: the capacity of the electric grid. In the Netherlands, chances are that someone applying for a connection will be put on a waiting list. But there is a remedy: a local control system consisting of solar panels, battery storage and software capable of controlling energy supply and demand. Local energy production isn’t just locally supplying electricity; it also reduces CO2 emissions and therefore contributes to sustainability.

Even better: through local production, companies can earn money on the energy market. On the imbalance market, electricity price changes each quarter of an hour. The economy of the home battery will improve by charging when process are low, and discharging when prices are high. That’s because production companies profit from such exchange, as well. For as a consequence, they don’t have to strengthen much the local network –the critical point in the grid.

Solar panels
Solar panels. Photo: Wikideas1, Wikimedia Commons.

Local network

But then, the most important factor is that companies with solar panels will be able to cover most of their energy demand themselves. Important for the public image of the company, in preparation for the time when solar and wind energy will determine most of out energy supply. The transport sector is an important part of this transition. A growing number of companies will change diesel trucks by electrically powered trucks. As a consequence, in the near future dozens of trucks will have to charge at distribution centres. That energy will have to be supplied somehow. Present building connections don’t have the required capacity by far. Therefore, we will not just have to strengthen the energy production in the regional network – we will have to invest in storage as well, in order to secure capacity for charging vehicles.

The good thing is: vehicles don’t just require energy – they can also play an important role in storage. Together with storage facilities of the business park itself. The great opportunity of storage in electric vehicles is that these have a large storage capacity. Therefore, electricity companies regard with great interest the growth of the number of electric vehicles. Because vehicle electrification is the biggest opportunity for energy storage within the system.

Common ground

On top of that, energy hub development is of eminent importance. In such an energy hub, companies can have a common energy connection and tune their energy supply and demand. A local network requires coordination: in governance, financing and law. Starting from the assumption that companies will profit much from a common approach instead of doing it all by themselves. Research by RoyalHaskoningDHV indicates more than 350 business parks in the Netherlands that would profit from such a coordination. Resulting in common energy conservation and less CO2 production.

Energy hub development has much potential. But their development is still in its infancy. It will require clear regulation: who cab claim how much energy, and when so. This will involve a major number of parties. Including the administrator of a local energy hub, and government.

The role of distribution companies in a local network

The energy hub needs to be technically sound. It is favourable to the business case if companies require energy at different moments. Some expect that artificial intelligence (AI) will contribute a lot to management of the hub. But it isn’t quite clear where to apply this. According to many, still on the level of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). Successful automation projects confine themselves mostly to existing corporate processes; according to Distributech, a major conference in the USA for distribution companies. Development of entirely new opportunities is still in its infancy. It seems clear that electric distribution companies, that connect customers to the grid, will continue to play an important role in this area.

Interesting? Then also read:
Local grid optimization
Energy storage will accelerate the transition
Integration of PV into the economy

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