Plainly speaking, the grid is a dynamic network of electricity production, transmission, storage, and consumption that 85 percent of the world depends on. The grid was chiefly designed for continuous centralised power production, not for the variability of solar and wind power. To make the supply of electricity completely and dominantly renewable, the grid should be more flexible and adaptable than what it is today.
There are many technologies available today which contributes to grid flexibility, such as constant renewables such as geothermal, utility scale storage systems such as pumped hydro and molten salt, small scale storage such as batteries and demand response tools such as smart thermostats and smart appliances, to intercede peaks in demand.
Grid flexibility is also dependent on transmission and distribution networks. The bridge between electricity generation and consumption. Where the grid includes a large area and multiple electricity sources, it can even out the aggregate output of renewables, reducing extremes in variability. It is a fact that flexibility is means for renewables to become the dominant form of energy on the planet
It is imperative for utilities to recognise flexibility as a dispatchable energy source if they are to overcome new grid challenges. Integration endeavours directed towards renewables are posing myriad of challenges for distribution system operators (DSOs). Frequent outages and power fluctuations makes it difficult for them to balance supply and demand. The heavy rates of renewable integration can result in the overloading of network components and impact the quality of power in an adverse way.
Today, the way power grids work is that, large plants transfer power to substations, where electricity is provided on demand to homes. Now, the changing electric loads at each substation impact the complete transmission network and all that happens below the substation level is often left uncoordinated.
Thus, increase in decentralised generation of power is forcing utilities to reconsider and realign their business models. Utilities should adopt the idea of flexibility management so that they can leverage the opportunities offered by the energy economy. Utilities need to ensure that their resources facilitate efficiency, enhance customer engagement, lower costs and build novel business initiatives
Moreover, cloud based solutions can manage flexible assets in a better way, at scale and real time, enhance customer engagement and optimise the use of assets in terms of grid operations.
Further, there is a dire need for incentives as well as regulatory frameworks. Flexibility will assist in overcoming energy fluctuations when it comes to renewable integration. Several companies are testing cutting-edge consumer service applications and grid control solutions. Some organisations are aggressively automating their energy bidding process management between prosumers, DSOs and aggregators.
DSOs should be provided incentives so that secure flexibility to resolve grid restraints. The right regulatory framework is also necessary. The prosumers also needs to be motivated. Incentives will help DSOs in modernising the grid and that in turn calls for governmental incentives and regulatory frameworks.
The energy value chain should be optimised. The cost of electricity balancing services can be lowered by about half by generating a cross-border balancing market. Moreover, it has paved the way for telecommunications operators to become market facilitators, who liberalise energy data for other market players to exploit. It is also the truth that virtual power plants or VPPs can optimise the energy value chain.
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