IEA, Italy and the UN to fund digital-enabled flexible energy system trials


The International Energy Agency (IEA), the Italian government, and the United Nations Environment Programme are seeking projects that can demonstrate how digital technologies can be used to optimise demand-side management for grid resilience.

The three parties will provide a maximum of €1.8 million ($2.08 million) per demonstration project in Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia.

The request for proposals is a follow-up to the 2019 Climate Action Summit at which the three parties and other energy stakeholders agreed to support the use of digital solutions to ensure flexible and resilient power systems.

The results of the pilot projects will be used by IEA in its Digital Demand Driven Electricity Networks (3DEN) initiative to inform on research and development of smart grid solutions. 3DEN is a 4-year initiative that aims to support the development of climate-friendly grid networks and the enactment of policies that can speed up the deployment of smart energy systems.

3DEN will help unlock the investments required for the development of future energy networks.

The pilots which the IEA, Italy, and the UN will fund are expected to help the energy sector to address cybersecurity concerns and enhance predictive maintenance and grid measurement and monitoring processes. Moreover, with over 750 million people living in energy poverty, according to the IEA, the project aims to help improve access to affordable and clean energy.

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Projects that will be supported will need to show a minimum of 30% co-financing, will be implemented within a 24-month timeframe and must include an international consortium comprising both public and private actors, according to a statement.

The projects will target the use of digital technologies in managing resources such as electric vehicles, energy storage, and demand response programmes to mitigate climate change. However, the focus will be placed on three areas including:

Urban smart energy: These projects will include the use of digital solutions on existing infrastructure within neighbourhoods. The pilots will include demand-side and distributed energy resources.

Islanded systems: Funding will focus on the use of digital solutions to enable the application of demand response on existing remote/isolated/off-grid systems.

Existing asset enhancement: These will include the use of digital twins, advanced metering and automation to improve the efficiency of existing network assets and to leverage the demand-side to enable grid modernisation and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

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Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division, said: “The energy sector urgently needs to change to ensure rapid decarbonisation and wider accessibility for the millions of people that still lack it, particularly in low-income communities. Digital technologies have the potential to provide benefits for climate and power system resilience and can ensure energy is delivered at the lowest possible price. 3DEN will be a key tool to help governments do just that.”