Maximising efficiency for the future power grid

Wednesday, 05 August, 2020

Maximising efficiency for the future power grid

With the rapid uptake of renewables and alternative means of power, there has been a push to design a more effective power grid.

Australia has more than two million installed rooftop solar panel systems, making up nearly one-quarter of the capacity of the overall electricity grid, and in some areas, local take-up of solar panels is well above 40% of all customer premises.

The increasing adoption of distributed energy resources (DERs), such as rooftop solar panels, is changing power grids from a centralised system, served by large-scale generators and transmission networks, to a more local and decentralised system.

Consequently, an energy exchange framework designed to better manage DERs has recently been developed by researchers at Monash University.

In the evolving electricity market, customers benefit from using renewable energy resources, or DERs, to lower their electricity costs. Early DERs already in the market are rooftop solar photovoltaics (PVs) and residential batteries as well as electric vehicles. With the added help of energy management software that enables load flexibility, customers are able to act as a grid resource to provide energy flexibility and pass on these benefits to non-DER owners, thereby lowering the overall cost of energy systems.

The Monash research paper, which was published in a leading international open-access journal, Energies, suggests the implementation of a transactive energy market (TEM) framework to help consumers lower their power costs, by reducing peak demand, and accessing revenues from the provision of network services, such as frequency and voltage management, for the main grid.

This developing trend on the path towards the decarbonisation and decentralisation of energy systems relies on a TEM framework to enable and incentivise DER owners to participate in different markets for grid support services. TEM is a technique which can be used to manage the exchange of energy within power systems in relation to the economic value of energy.

“While transactive energy is a novel approach for energy management and trading, it has the capacity to be used in microgrids to facilitate the integration of DERs in existing networks,” said Ariel Liebman, Co-Director of the Monash Grid Innovation Hub and Associate Professor at the Department of Data Science and AI, Faculty of IT.

“The key feature in transactive energy is using market-based, or dynamic pricing-based, solutions for energy management. Hence, an appropriate TEM framework which outlines the design, implementation and deployment of transactive energy solutions for energy management in microgrids is one potential core ingredient for enabling a decentralised energy system.”

Microgrids, both partially connected and disconnected ones, can implement TEM as part of a decentralised business model, to provide value streams by increasing energy security, economic benefits and clean energy integration. The introduction of a TEM framework for energy management and trading would provide a market-based solution to allow both the demand and supply to actively negotiate the exchange of energy.

A growing number of emerging decentralised business models, including smart grids, virtual power plants (VPPs) and microgrids, seek to capture and provide new value streams to customers and other stakeholders.

These new business models for managing two-way power flows create new opportunities for securing higher penetration of DERs, providing economic value to the market as a whole and value to consumers through reduced costs, increased uptake of renewables and increased reliability, and efficiencies and new business opportunities for distribution networks across the electricity sector.

“From a grid perspective, the coordinated and controlled use of DERs provides substantial benefits for the stability of the broader network. The increase in the local value results from the potential participation of DERs in different markets [and] also provides flexibility to prevent or relieve localised network performance issues,” said Dr Reza Razzaghi, Lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering.

The applicability of this framework is demonstrated through the Monash Microgrid, a real-world example of a TEM solution, where a complete hardware and software foundation is presented as a platform to deploy a market-based solution for microgrid energy management.

The Monash Microgrid, which is part of the Monash Net Zero Initiative, is able to receive and store energy from various renewable energy sources, while also controlling when and how energy is used.

Energy networks are also looking at the design of a power grid that can provide maximum value from solar and batteries — and that can support two-way electricity flows.

A position paper by Energy Networks Australia has examined how Australia’s energy system can best be managed to support the growing amount of DERs such as solar PV, batteries and electric vehicles.

Energy Networks Australia CEO Andrew Dillon said the paper summarised the network sector’s position on the Open Energy Networks Project.

“With the rapid uptake of solar PV and battery storage, some local electricity grids are becoming increasingly congested,” Dillon said.

“This leads to voltage and frequency issues, which can cause damage to appliances and potentially risk the security of the electricity system. The only way to manage this currently without expensive network upgrades is to restrict customers exporting into the grid.

“The OpEN project has considered how best this problem can be managed so customers can get maximum value from their DER investments while keeping the grid secure and keeping costs to customers as low as possible.”

As well as considering system changes to enable DER to operate most effectively, the OpEN project considers how distribution networks will transition to future distribution system operators.

“Long term, we are likely to see distribution markets where households can sell their generation,” Dillon said.

“What we need to consider now is what changes can deliver maximum customer and system benefits at the most efficient cost.

“It’s clear we need to trial a variety of structures, and that’s why networks around the country are working with a variety of partners to test the best technologies and approaches to deliver the smart grid of the future.”

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