TheConversation: Tomorrow, all electricity producers?

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electricity producers

Tomorrow, all electricity producers

New information and communication technologies (NTIC) should make it possible to control electrical networks automatically, in real time and while limiting costs.

The primary objective of these "intelligent networks" (also called smart grid) will be to ensure the balance between supply and demand by smoothing the consumption curve to limit the use of back-up power plants; they also seek to promote and optimize the use of renewable energies, batteries and smart devices.

The first NICTs, like the spoony smart meter, offer a taste of the transformation of electrical networks. Today, many companies offer the installation of these remotely managed boxes that reduce consumption and be remunerated for the energy saved.

What will be the place of the consumer in the development of these technological innovations? What advantages can users expect in the short and medium term?

A salty energy addition

Homes and buildings have more and more devices to improve our comfort: air conditioning, remote control devices and electric heating increase electricity consumption. An increase further reinforced by the democratization of electric vehicles, data sensors, etc.

However, the current electrical network is not suited to such demand; and the emergence of renewable energy at the consumer level poses other problems because the current network was designed to be centralized and unidirectional.

To avoid an overly costly renovation of the network, it is wise to move from production control to consumption control. This control of energy demand (MDE) designates the possibility of modifying consumer demand through various methods: financial incentives (peak hours - off-peak hours), change management, or even management of smart devices, local energies and batteries. . Demand-response is an MDE strategy using energy price analysis to drive smart devices.

The MDE aims to limit consumption peaks, which does not mean reducing the total energy consumed. If the network is well sized in terms of production, the cost of energy will not increase. It could even drop: a smooth load curve would in fact cut off the use of back-up power plants to ensure energy with a low and constant production cost throughout the day.

TheConversation: Tomorrow, all electricity producers? producer
Electricity consumption forecasts on a test day: without MDE (DSM in English), with energy efficiency, and with a “request-response” system. EnerDynamics, Author provided

As we can see, the most efficient network is no longer concentrated on the production and distribution of energy: the consumer plays a central role in controlling supply and demand. The network is decentralized, with actions managed locally.

consumer and producer

Consumers will therefore become actors in their consumption, even producers, relying on local means of production (wind turbines or photovoltaic panels for example). The electricity thus produced can be consumed directly or fed into the network.

But renewable energies produce electricity irregularly: these decentralized productions therefore require intelligent management (this is in particular what Soleka offers) of their consumption as well as their production in order to be integrated into the network.

Thanks to smart meters, consumers and network managers will know precisely the consumption and production of a building. These data are as useful for the energy dimensioning of the building as for energy control.

Energy suppliers will therefore be able to offer consumers new offers according to their consumption profile, as well as new energy efficiency services or control of energy demand.

the smart grid thus constitutes a decentralized and bidirectional network, managing both the “consumer-actor” and the producers.

TheConversation: Tomorrow, all electricity producers? producer
The two facets of the “smart grid”. CRE, Author provided

Devices that communicate

Energy demand management techniques are largely based on the possibility of intelligently managing consumer devices, producers or batteries for a given location.

“Demand-response” programs will also make it possible to curb electricity consumption or shift it to times outside periods of high demand, taking into account the uses of the end consumer. In times of reduced consumption, for example, it will be possible to take advantage of the electricity produced to charge your electric car. The user can, through a connected dashboard, fill in their preferences to have a better understanding of their consumption or habits.

The main challenge therefore lies in the involvement of users so that they adapt their consumption profiles to variations in electricity prices. Technological innovations in the sector should enable it to manage the constraints linked to the intermittency of renewable energies or even the development of new uses, such as electric mobility.

think big

The large-scale deployment of energy efficiency and control of energy demand are today essential to the success of 3×20 strategy developed by the European Union: reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of EU countries by 20 TP2T; reach 20 TP2T of renewable energies in the European energy mix; achieve 20 % of energy savings.

In this context, the current electrical networks must absolutely adapt to become smarter, more responsive and communicative. They will thus make it possible to meet the challenges of integrating local renewable energies, controlling energy demand, managing the consumption curve and developing the use of electric cars, batteries and Automation.

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