Mission - balancing the network: how will we ensure it when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing?

Posted by Karolis Mirinavičius
2021-09-14

THE PACE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (RES) ADOPTION- is becoming more impressive for Lithuania and the European Union as a whole in achieving the goals set for the development of sustainability. It is projected that by 2030 40% of the electricity consumed in EU countries will be generated from RES, and by 2050 Europe should become the first climate-neutral continent. The development of solar and wind energy will undoubtedly contribute to achieving these goals, but it also poses challenges. Accurately forecasting both solar and wind power generation is difficult, in many cases impossible, and fossil fuel flexible generation resources to balance the electricity grid are becoming less and less economically and morally attractive.

So the question is: how will we ensure the balancing of the grid in the age of sustainable green energy?

The first steps in solving this dilemma in Lithuania have already been taken. It is important to note that the reason for this is not only the development of RES, but also the preparation for the synchronization of the networks with the western continental Europe - a huge transformation in the history of Lithuanian energy.

One of the most important strategic measures to ensure the balancing of the network is planned to be installed 100 million euro energy storage system. It is planned to install 4 electricity storage units with a total capacity of 200 MW, which should ensure instantaneous power reserve and balance electricity production from difficult-to-predict RES capacities according to consumer demand. This system should become the basis for the grid balancing capacity. However, it is not planned to keep all the apples in one basket - conditions are created for additional ways to ensure a stable electrical system.

One such additional measure is the new role of the electricity system participant introduced in Lithuania - the demand aggregator. Independent electricity demand aggregators provide reserve power and electricity network balancing services. With the help of aggregators, energy consumers can offer their electricity consumption flexibility to the network operator responsible for the network balance (in Lithuania - Litgrid) and receive a compensation for it.

For example, industrial refrigeration equipment, electric heating appliances, heat pumps or powerful ventilation equipment are not continuously operating appliances - they periodically switch on, perform their function and switch off. As a result, their operation can be managed and adapted to the needs of the electricity network. When the sun or wind does not produce much energy, and the demand for electricity increases and there is a threat of imbalances in the network, we can temporarily "ask" such devices to reduce electricity consumption. During this short period of time, the consumer would not even feel the change in the operation of the equipment, but would also feel the financial benefits for it.

Another way to ensure optimal operation of the electricity network is the use of an electric vehicle charging network. Currently, Ignitis, together with Fusebox, the first aggregator of electricity demand in the Baltic States, has already started testing the Ignitis ON electric vehicle charging network. The essence of the tests is simple - with the consent of the driver of the electric vehicle, and if necessary in the network, the charging power can be temporarily reduced. Due to the development of e-mobility, the growing charging network will create excellent conditions for aggregating a high-capacity “virtual power plant” with excellent flexibility parameters on the whole or part of the charging network.

The use of charging stations for network balancing could potentially reduce the cost of charging electric vehicles, encourage the development of charging point infrastructure and the faster emergence of electric vehicles in Lithuania, and in some cases reduce the costs of the electricity network reconstruction.

In the future, there are also growing opportunities and the prospect of becoming an integral part of the electricity grid for electric car batteries themselves. Improving and rapidly evolving vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology would allow energy stored in batteries to be returned to the grid, with the consumer's consent and when needed, or temporarily stored in storage for a fee.

As we can see, with the growing popularity of energy produced from RES, there are many solutions to ensure network balancing today, and Lithuania is one of the pioneers in implementing and testing them throughout Europe. We are on the right track, so I believe that we can set an example for other countries in the field of energy in the near future.

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