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Flexible electricity networks to integrate the expected 'energy evolution'

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Enhancing global contribution of electricity networks

The EU is intent on maximising the efficiency and reliability of its energy supply while reducing costs. EU-funded researchers are developing flexible networks incorporating local distributed energy resources (DERs) into European power grids to boost their contribution.


DERs are modular decentralised energy systems located close to energy users that enhance power quality and reliability and generate power for remote or off-grid facilities. Combined heat and power (CHP) or co-generation systems permit efficient use of waste heat from electricity generation to provide thermal energy for buildings or processes. The ‘Flexible electricity networks to integrate the expected 'energy evolution'’ (FENIX) project was designed to maximise the contribution of DERs to the European electrical power system via incorporation into large-scale virtual power plants (LSVPPs) employing decentralised management. The FENIX team focused on two case studies with realistic DER market penetration, the United Kingdom (UK), representing northern Europe, and Spain, representing southern Europe, to use actual locations of individual DERs in the new network. The researchers developed the virtual power plant (VPP) including theory, hardware and software incorporating existing and future solutions. The FENIX system includes communication and control tools to be validated for both normal and unusual operating scenarios. In order to develop LSVPPs with decentralised management, the research team evaluated regulatory and contractual parameters affecting practical implementation of a commercial VPP. They also conducted a cost-benefit analysis of current UK and Spanish electricity markets and studied the implications of widespread application of FENIX systems. The researchers identified laboratory and demonstrator specifications with the goal of two large field deployments. One focused on domestic CHP aggregation and the second on aggregation of DERs such as wind farms and industrial cogeneration into LSVPPs. Completion of the FENIX project and commercialisation of the outcomes has the potential to significantly boost the contribution of DERs to the European electrical power grid. Global network management tools integrated at both the local DER level as well as at the LSVPP level could facilitate effective management of fluctuations in cost, consumption and various energy supplies resulting in reliable, low-cost and greener energy for Europeans with important benefits for consumers and the economy alike.

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8 June 2020