Project PLANET – a tool for flexibility

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Project PLANET has investigated the potential of energy conversion and storage technologies to deliver flexibility to the grid.

The Horizon 2020 supported project, which ran from November 2017 over three years, was focussed on how the electricity, gas and heat networks can be coordinated to support the full integration of renewables.

Technologies such as power-to-heat and power-to-gas (collectively P2X) have played a minor flexibility role in many European energy markets but are considered to have promise in maximising the potential.

Concerns at the project outset were that if not properly addressed, grid stability considerations with renewable expansion could lead to curtailment and a deceleration in activities.

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The project consortium comprised of eleven organisations from seven countries has undertaken modelling and simulation of conversion technologies and the integration of electricity, gas and heat network models to deliver a multi-grid operational planning and management decision support system.

The results indicate that P2X has the potential to deliver flexibility but with caveats.

Power-to-heat connected to the district heating network is an effective solution but is primarily a winter flexibility asset due to low summer heating demand. It could be a useful source year round if coexisting with a cooling network.

Power-to-gas facilities have year round potential but the high investment cost of this technology makes its utilisation not profitable from an economic point of view, unless an important incentive policy is undertaken.

Virtual energy storage in buildings, when operated, can provide a comparable level of flexibility as the other technologies at significantly lower investment costs but other options are necessary to avoid reverse power flows outside of this period.

The report also notes that the efficiency of power-to-heat is greater than power-to-gas and therefore produces greater contributions to economic and environmental goals. On the other hand with district heating and gas network constraints, the power-to-gas facilities are able to work more as the gas network can store more renewables surplus, especially in summer.

P2X flexibility recommendations

From these findings a key recommendation is that at a mix of policies that is specific to the technology in question and that considers surrounding social and market conditions should be adopted.

Another recommendation from an assessment of barriers to P2X investments is that DSOs be allowed to include flexibility options in their business models and to unlock the potential of flexible technologies in the grid. Regulatory sandboxes can be adopted for innovative pilot projects on system integration. Cross-sector development plans also should be adopted.

Another outcome of the project is some recommendations for standardisation. Among these a Preliminary Work Item has been set up for model extensions to support thermal energy systems to the IEC 61850 communications protocol. A proposal also has been submitted for considering the use of IEC 61850 for managing gas-based distributed energy resources connected to electricity distribution grids.

The report concludes that in view of the high complexity of energy system integration and its great importance, there is a need to devise long-term strategies for the development of the connected European energy supply systems and the evolution of the industries.

“For this reason, close cooperation between member states is crucial for achieving efficient and sustainable results.”