Global Insights: 31st January 2018

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on Jan 31, 18 • posted by

Global Insights: 31st January 2018


Household grid services 

In a blog from Reposit Power, a company providing storage controllers on PV homes and a market mechanism to enable householder access to be rewarded for providing grid services, they set out how their customers responded to recent grid problems in the South Australia.

Looking a two recent incidents when the grid could not cope with demand, they show how their household customers in Victoria and South Australia stepped in to prop the electricity grid up, through the sale of the stored energy in their solar batteries. This is shown over real time in terms of kW discharged into the grid the prices the customers received.

In the most recent event Reposit homeowners earned between $5 and $50 for supporting the electricity grid depending on their battery capacity and the companies ‘GridCredits’ retail plan. Some customers also received the National Electricity Market spot price for selling their stored energy.


Is the UK a better role model than Germany for carbon reduction?

An interesting review by Craig Morris at concludes that despite the UKs success in reducing coal use and emissions Germany is likely to reduce emissions faster in the future. Both the UK and Germany pledged an 80% reduction in carbon emissions prior to the COP15 in Copenhagen however in recent years the UK has reduced carbon emissions and coal use faster than Germany. Coal use has dropped by 84% in the UK between 2012 and 2017 supported by the carbon price floor and a pledge to close all coal plants by 2025. This has resulted in UK emissions reducing by 36% relative to 1990. In Germany coal use only reduced by 13% over the same period and carbon emission reductions are likely to be close to 30% by 2020, rather than the 40% target. However, despite these different rates of progress Morris argues that a coal phase-out will begin in Germany with or without an official policy in the 2020s resulting in faster emission reductions in Germany than the UK in future. In contrast the UK has already reduced emissions from the low hanging fruit and further reductions will require addressing the difficult areas of mobility and buildings.

Battery production for EVs accelerates in Europe

As expectations for the growth of electric vehicles shift up a gear, battery production capacity is becoming a key issue. Many European car manufacturers source their batteries from LG Chem, which is planning a new factory in Poland. SK Innovation, which supplies batteries to Mercedes Benz and Kia, is breaking ground on a factory in Hungary. Mercedes, BMW and VW (which had previously announced that it was giving up battery production) are all also accelerating their plans to produce their own batteries.

Significant European Funding Awarded to enable a Clean Energy Transition

The EU has agreed an additional funding of €873 million, for a number of construction and research projects, to help build pan European infrastructure to assist in meeting the goals of the European Energy Union, namely the integration of the European energy market and ensure the principle of solidarity.   The EU has an objective that each Member States should have interconnection that is equivalent to 10% of peak demand, which some countries on the geographical edge of the EU are struggling to meet.   Consequently, the largest ever grant, of €578 million, from the Connecting Europe Facility, was awarded for the construction of the Biscay Gulf France-Spain interconnection.  According to the European Commission, “This new link will nearly double the interconnection capacity between both countries – increasing it from 2,800 MW to 5,000 MW. Such a leap will allow for an enhanced incorporation of renewable energies, thus contributing strongly to the clean energy transition and to the EU’s clean energy transition policy”.

Decentralised Denmark

Last summer, the Danish electricity grid ran for the equivalent of 41 days, including a whole week in late June, entirely on smaller-scale distribution-connected sources without any input at all from centralised fossil-fuel power stations. This includes not just energy but also ancillary services such as frequency control. Head of the control centre at Danish TSO Energinet, Bent Myllerup, said: “Not long ago even 10% wind power seemed impossible to work with. Now we are able to run on sun, wind and decentralised power production for long periods without having to rely on support from centralised power plants.”


Machine Learning, Digital Twins and AI

In a write up on a big US energy trade show on Distributed Technology, GreenTechMedia provide some useful insights of how tech companies are focussing their attention on the energy sector, through – machine learning, artificial intelligence and digital twins. Within this it is apparent that a number of big data platforms that use these technologies are already starting to enter the market, whilst many more are in development from a wide range of global industry actors.

In respect to Digital Twins, they give the example of a simulation of a turbine or other complex device that is rendered out of real data which can then be used to run the digital version through millions of scenarios to gain insight into how it could optimally run and coupe with changes in the real-world. Such models are already in use, but are clearly scaling up rapidly to make use of big data and increasing computing power. As such it is becoming increasingly possible to have a digital twin for a whole power grid, which is a massive machine in its own right, using a range of technologies, data flows, and changing resource mixes, etc. By collecting accurate data from the network, utilities will be able to run massive simulations to help solve many problems that future grids will face. Furthermore, by building a twin and AI that constantly updates itself with new data on the network, the simulations can be run over and over again with the latest data, making the model more and more accurate. It suggested that these simulations will be able to help with tasks like: predicting and preventing equipment failures; informing split-second grid decisions; through to planning out the optimal investments and policies to integrate the rising number of PV and plug-in electric vehicles being bought by customers.

It is also apparent that the growing use of AI in the energy sector is not confined to large multinationals – it is being used and being made available to smaller companies and start-ups, as is the computing capacity to make use of it, through cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft. This is helping to open up the market and possibilities to a wide range of companies working in distributed energy resources. This includes specific technology companies such as those offering battery storage, through to companies offering applications that can change the way systems operate, re-prioritise the value stack, and indentify market opportunities.

Wider Globe

IEA insights into System Integration for Variable Renewables

The International Energy Agency has published an analysis of the challenges of system integration of variable renewable energy (VRE), particularly solar and wind.   The report reveals how measures to maintain cost-effectiveness and reliability of the power system differ over four phases of VRE deployment.

In Phase One, where the penetrations of variable renewables are small, at about 3%, countries such as Indonesia and Mexico see no noticeable impact on the system.  In Phase Two, up to 15% penetration, upgrading operational practises enable no noticeable impact –  country example of this include India, China and Sweden. The first significant system challenges are seen in Phase Three, up to 25% VRE penetration.  In these systems the impact of variability is felt both in terms of overall system operation and by other power plants – whose operation is reduced.  Currently, the two main flexible resources are dispatchable power plants and the transmission grid; but demand side options and new storage technologies are likely to grow in importance.  Finally, in Phase Four, which include Ireland and Denmark, with penetrations up to 50% lead to challenges that require highly technical solutions to ensure the stability of the power system.

The IEA analysis makes recommendations for higher penetrations of VRE: Power System Operation, including integrated planning between the power sector and other sectors, particularly transport, and heating and cooling and inter-regional planning across different balancing areas:  Policy, Regulatory and Market Frameworks, through ensuring the integration and development of new sources of flexibility, including from thermal generators, grids, demand response resources and storage:  Adjusting System Values, as the traditional focus on the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) is no longer sufficient. Next-generation approaches need to factor in the system value of electricity from wind and solar power: Evolution of local grids, as low- and medium-voltage grids are changing, away from a paradigm of passively distributed power to customers and towards smarter, actively managed systems with bidirectional flows of power and data.

Trump solar PV panel tariff effects will hit Europe too

Punitive 30% tariffs on imported solar panels put in place by US President Donald Trump, while aimed at low-cost manufacturers in China, will also have an impact in Europe. According to James Watson of SolarPower Europe the policy will impact the whole manufacturing value chain, such as polysilicon, mounting frames, inverters and trackers that are produced in Europe, adding that “These policies have been tried in many parts of the world and in not one case have the measures lead to more jobs, more manufacturing and more value.”


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