Image: ENTSO-E

Smart sector integration is key to full decarbonisation across the economy with new technologies and infrastructure.

By now everyone knows that the electricity sector is transforming and becoming more dynamic. The centralised model is on the way out in favour of a decentralised prosumer driven system, electrification is growing into other end-use sectors such as transportation and new sources of flexibility are emerging for managing the networks.

‘Smart sector integration’ is the concept underlying a successful transformation, involving coordinated planning and operation of the electricity system with other mutually interacting systems. But while there is consensus on this concept, there is no unique and generally agreed definition, according to Europe’s transmission system operator organisation ENTSO-E, which has started incorporating it into its network planning.

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ENTSO-E in an insight report adopts a flexibility approach to the electric system, saying that ultimately grid operation and planning will be based on the need to optimally manage and develop a portfolio of flexibility instruments involving other actors, sectors, services and interfaces and aiming at global infrastructure optimisation.

Any initiative in the field of Smart Sector Integration comprises some basic conceptual elements, ENTSO-E states. These include energy conversion into another form of energy; processing the converted energy in another energy sector where it can follow different paths; consumed, if it is cheaper/cleaner than other energy sources typical of that sector or allows to better use the infrastructure assets; be stored more easily than within the electric system for successive re-conversion to electricity; transported, in some cases where transport performances can be higher than transmitting electricity; and reconverted for final use, but with the multiple losses in the conversion, reconversion, transport and storage.

From this angle, electrification of end-uses is not enacting a coupling among separate energy sectors but is only shifting the energy consumption balance among the different sources. However, this is beneficial if it substitutes non-CO2-free sources with CO2 free electricity. Moreover, the additional electric loads can bring along a new amount of flexibility if the load profile is flexible.

ENTSO-E cites examples of two projects towards Smart Sector Integration. In Italy, the Dual Fuel project is an initiative to electrify the gas compression and storage facilities owned by energy infrastructure company Snam, so that both electricity and gas can be used to run the compressors.

In Europe, the TSOs TenneT, Swissgrid and Terna are cooperating in the development of the blockchain-based crowd balancing platform Equigy, that will incorporate small and distributed consumer-based resources into the electricity grid balancing process.

ENTSO-E says that Smart Sector Integration has started to have an influence in the TYNDP 2020 scenarios and will become increasingly important in the future with multi-sectorial planning.

“The use of common, consistent and comprehensive scenarios across sectors is a key factor to maximise economic efficiency while avoiding stranded assets or infrastructure deficits,” says ENTSO-E.