Flexibility needed to stabilize power grids & avoid outages

DNV GL, the world’s largest resource of independent energy experts and certification body, has released a new white paper on flexibility resources for power systems Flexibility in the power system: The need, opportunity and value of flexibility. The paper looks at the value, benefits and opportunities for the various flexibility options, as well as the costs and the barriers to their adoption.

Transmission grid & wind

In the electric power system, electricity supply needs to be balanced with electricity demand and network losses at all times to maintain safe, dependable and stable system operation. Flexibility within the power system is required to compensate for variability in supply and demand and maintain its balance.

The white paper evaluates all the feasible options for flexibility in power systems,  looking at their costs,  benefits and areas of applicability. Furthermore, it explores the various barriers – both economic and regulatory – organizations need to consider when developing their flexibility service offering.

Power systems need to balance the amount of electricity generated against the electricity used by consumers and lost in the network. Any imbalance could cause instability and power outages.

Previously, changing demand could be handled by ramping up and down production at rapid-reaction generation plants. However, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar-power bring variability to the production side.

In most applications, multiple flexibility resources will be required and choosing the best combination for a specific application is a complicated process. Hence, the paper concludes by outlining a possible approach for determining the business case for flexibility resources, which could help in analyzing and optimizing the value of flexibility portfolios.

In its recently published Energy Transition Outlook report (ETO), DNV GL forecasts that four key renewable sources (solar photovoltaic, onshore wind, hydropower and offshore wind) will account for 85% of global electricity production in 2050. The ETO also foresees larger and faster growth in electric vehicles and heating, which will change patterns of electricity usage and move peaks in demand further from peaks in generation. Hence power systems need to incorporate more flexibility to balance supply and demand over various timescales.

“Societal trends like the increased uptake of renewable energy and electric vehicles demand greater flexibility in our power systems, but they also open up new options for flexibility in the grid. And while energy storage – particularly through high-capacity batteries – have so far attracted most of the headlines, there are other possibilities such as demand-side management and network reinforcement” said the paper’s lead author Jos van der Burgt, Senior Researcher, Power and Renewables, DNV GL Group Technology and Research.

“It’s a rapidly changing area where regulation is only now being developed and new players are emerging,” said Lucy Craig, Director Technology & Innovation at DNV GL. “With this white paper, we want to help all stakeholders understand the value and opportunities around flexibility, and support them in creating optimized business models that will accelerate the global transition to a greener energy future.”

It can be very difficult for commercial and regulated organisations to determine the right mix of flexibility resources and services to meet their social, environmental and economic goals. So, the paper concludes with example case studies. In doing so, DNV GL present the need for and outline of a new approach to assessing and analysing business cases for flexibility resource.

The approach presented considers both short- and long-term business, taking into account stackable revenues from various services. Hence, it can be used to help optimize the entire portfolio of flexibility services for an entire power system.

The white paper is available to download here.

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