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As our energy world changes, the European Union, through projects funded by the H2020 scheme, explores pathways to adapt and modernize the electric distribution system, writes Christian Dumbs, coordinator of the InterFlex project.

The InterFlex project investigates the INTERactions between FLEXibilities provided by energy market players and the distribution grid.

This 36-month project focuses particularly on energy storage, smart charging of electric vehicles, demand response, islanding, grid automation and integration of different energy carriers (gas, heat, electricity).

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International 5-2019. Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here.

Furthermore, aspects related to the interoperability of systems, replicability of solutions and the identification of relevant business models constitute major objectives.

Along with identifying ways to apply smart grid technology on an industrial scale to increase the share of renewable energy, in line with the objectives of the 2020 and 2030 climate-energy packages of the European Commission.

Six demonstration projects are conducted in five EU Member States (Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) in order to provide deep insights into the market and development potential of the orientations that were given by the H2020 call for proposals, i.e., demand response, grid automation, storage and smart EV charging. They are developing innovative solutions that aim to show new ways to make electricity supply more flexible and to optimize it at the local scale with economically viable business models.

How does the InterFlex project answer the challenges of the distribution grid?

The project aims at improving the global performance of electricity networks at a local or regional scale, while dealing with new challenges, such as the steadily increasing complexity of power flows, and growing interactions between the market players.

Indeed, InterFlex investigates, on the one hand, the solutions that maximise profit for all stakeholders and, on the other hand, kick-starter approaches where the benefits of flexibility are equal or greater than those of traditional solutions.

InterFlex designs the way towards an energy system approach dealing with multiple interactions between power generation (renewables), multi-energy consumers (electricity, heat, gas) in the context of newly appearing customer needs (e-mobility) and behaviours.

The DSO, as an enabler, may emit market signals to power producers, consumers, prosumers, their aggregators or even to third parties such as municipalities which will in return stimulate the market players to offer generation and/or consumption flexibilities.

In this way, untapped flexibility potentials are identified at the crossroads of established energy sectors that can be exploited to relieve distribution power grid constraints and contribute to the energy transition.

Local Market Platform and Local Energy Community demonstrators show that cross-energy flexibility brings potential value to the entire community and new business models are emerging, while the consumers benefit from sustainable solutions and energy savings, without their comfort being affected.

Various local flexibility mechanisms are being explored through the programme.

Experiments demonstrate that integrated and market-based flexibility solutions are complementary achieve the full potential of grid optimisation. Among the major identified challenges are the definition of a common market design, the industrialisation of local flexibility markets, as well as measures to create liquid markets on the local scale. The use of flexibilities by DSOs to optimize the grid raises new questions related to the regulatory and market framework. InterFlex has elaborated and tested different approaches to mobilise flexibilities.

The project tackles some of the major issues regarding the use of flexibilities in distribution grids and examines the challenges which the stakeholders are facing. It establishes a series of highly innovative mechanisms to activate flexibilities for the DSO, thereby fostering local electric flexibilities while efficiently managing distribution grids and enabling the local energy transition.

What are the long-term impacts of the InterFlex project? The use of flexibilities to reduce local constraints and to increase distribution grid resilience fosters the development of renewable energies and e-mobility. The InterFlex project thereby actively contributes to the energy transition.

This means a decrease in the environmental impact of the energy sector with:

• Enhanced use of renewable power generation assets (load shifts to off-peak hours; peak shaving)

• The increased share of RES (optimized integration of intermittent renewable energy sources; optimized self-consumption in the case of prosumers), resulting in the overall reduction of GHG emissions

• Transport decarbonisation (decreased costs for grid structures, increased competitiveness for e-mobility).

On the socio-economic level, the project stimulates the development of new service offers and activities, allowing for instance:

  • Setup of new commercial activities and new service offers (aggregation, use of flexibility levers and assets, multiservice approach)
  • Overall cost optimisation (local balance optimization, microgrids, self-consumption)
  • Potential savings for end customers

The provision of results that make it possible to improve the policy framework thanks to the project lessons learned, helping to:

  • Formulate recommendations for microgrid operation (control schemes and observability)
  • Elaborate an appropriate regulatory framework for self- consumption and storage solutions (community or individual residential storage)
  • Provide guidelines on the participation of distributed resources in DSO operations (modifications of grid codes).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Christian Dumbs has been working in the field of power system optimization for more than 20 years (R&D, renewable energy, islanding, smart grid). He graduated from RWTH Aachen University, Germany and Ecole Centrale Paris/France and holds a PhD in power systems engineering from Ecole des Mines Paris.

Christian joined Enedis in 2016 as a coordinator of the InterFlex project. Enedis manages the public electricity distribution network for 95% of continental France. Every day, its 38,700 employees oversee the operation, maintenance and development of a nearly 1.4 million kilometre network.

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European Utility Week
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