Periodic Reporting for period 1 - eCAP (Easy Connections Assessment Portal)
Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2015-10-31
Currently, no such tool is available to support DG Developers who are forced to undertake complex studies using specific power systems analysis software and sophisticated techniques to determine the available capacity at a given PoC.
eCAP tackles this problem using a modular software solution based on original power system modelling and analysis techniques. eCAP deals with this complex problem while delivering an intuitive and straightforward interface to the users.
Figure 1 shows that eCAP is seamlessly integrated into existing power system analysis and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) of the DSOs.
eCAP has an intuitive, web-based platform for DG developers to consider the feasibility of ANM-based connections as shown in Figure 2. eCAP allows DSOs to vastly improve their customer service by identifying opportunities for ANM solutions to free a large portion of network capacity that otherwise would not be accessible. This feasibility analysis is made possible by the eCAP core curtailment computation modules that allow making good estimates of network access level for any DG network connection request. Furthermore, this flexible yet powerful modular structure allows eCAP to maintain up to date calculations following the continuous changes in the power network.
The Easy Connection Analysis Portal (eCAP) software product development project has several objectives with different levels of impact: product development and industrialization, company strategy and economic growth and wider European goals and strategy in Renewable Energy System (RES) deployment and societal impacts. eCAP aim is to move from successful proof of concept to fully developed ver1.0 product to meet proven customer demand with a future product development roadmap beyond that.
At the European level, eCAP aims at:
Accelerating Distributed Generation (DG) expansion and in particular RES deployment, by enabling DG developers to self-assess grid connection costs, with the planning stage evaluation of the smart grid solution Active Network Management (ANM).
Increasing social welfare, by reducing DG development and grid access costs. In light of the current regulations and market operation, this benefit is ultimately socialized by a reduction in end user tariffs.
Contributing to a carbon neutral electricity system, by facilitating renewable DG connection self-assessment. Many inviable projects, using firm capacity, may turn into economically feasible using ANM as evaluated using eCAP.
Promoting smart grids, by making a user-friendly planning tool available to different stakeholders. eCAP allows public engagement and ANM knowledge expansion.
Concerning Smarter Grid Solutions strategy for economic development and growth, the following objectives are set for eCAP:
Generate enhanced commercial opportunities with DG developers and service provision to core Distribution System Operators (DSOs).
Expanding SGS position not only as an ANM solution provider, but also as a leader in Smart Grid planning. Marketing the tools to support all stakeholders is crucial in achieving this goal.
Growing revenues by 50% per annum, by adding eCAP to SGS products and addressing a niche but growing market.
Regarding the product development and industrialisation, the eCAP project will allow:
Implementing software development, packaging with services and deployment models to underpin commercial releases of eCAP products.
Performing beta testing experiences with pre-release versions with DSOs and DG Developers.
Refining the eCAP business model. Optimal definition of licence and service business and pricing models and the allocation between the key stakeholders (DNOs / DG Developers) is critical for the success of eCAP.
Consolidating eCAP product architecture and core modules, so as to achieve TRL9.
Defining a roadmap for development of eCAP and enhancing the development costs for new eCAP modules and functionalities.
Completing the eCAP business plan and preparing the marketing plans.
The first task in the eCAP project assessed the markets and customer types relevant to the eCAP product. A summary of the findings is presented briefly here as this is instructive for typical markets and customers for eCAP:
• United Kingdom: This market is relatively forward thinking in terms of renewable technology and its grid integration. As an island, the UK has 4 interconnectors to Europe – France, Netherlands, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The UK imports a large volume of energy from France, taking advantage of cheap Nuclear energy, and the Netherlands link provides low cost energy during periods of high wind in Europe. The Irish interconnectors are typically used to provide energy to the Irish grid. There is a challenge placed on the System Operator to maintain security of supply across winter periods. There are suitable funding initiatives established to encourage Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) and Transmission Network Operators (TNOs) to trial new technologies and system operation strategies. UK renewable subsidies are in a transitional period which is causing great uncertainty in the market, and could slow generation development over the next few years. eCAP is in keeping with the regulatory objectives Ofgem has set and would provide support to the majority of DNOs who have indicated the desire to deploy smart solutions to their networks. Distributed Generation (DG) and Distributed Energy Resource (DER) developers will reap the benefits of eCAP but they will not be a primary target customer for eCAP as DNO network information and consent is required so the DNO is the natural host/customer for eCAP.
• Germany: The German energy act provides strong Support for renewables and this has led to an increase in the level connected at both distribution and transmission levels. However, the EEG surcharge (or renewable subsidy) has led to an increase in consumer energy bills, which is having a particular detrimental effect on low income households. The government is keen to address this issue and suggested methods include making certain consumers exempt from the charge, and re-allocating the costs in an equitable manner. The creation of smart grids could reduce the need and cost of planning transmission and distribution upgrades and improve flexibility of the grid. This could in turn reduce the cost of electricity bills by adding flexibility to the generation in the market. eCAP could be used to support the transmission and distribution planning process, and help to manage the spend. It could also be used to identify areas suitable for smart grid deployment.
• France: The French market seems difficult to navigate and due to the large reliance and long history of nuclear generation, the energy market is quite different to many others in Europe which have more readily embraced renewable technologies (although there is significant connection interest and a growing renewables base now emerging). The volume of low carbon generation in the French generation mix remains high due to the use of nuclear and hydro power as the main energy sources. The fairly recent change to the electricity market means that issues are still being ironed out and there does not appear to be a huge appetite for wind energy in France due to difficult planning regulations and public opposition. There is support in place for other forms of renewables. France does place strong incentives on the use of renewable-based heating devices, and the transmission and distribution network planning does consider renewable generation as a core part of expansion plans. The role of eCAP in this market is not clear.
• Netherlands: As with other European countries, the issue of network interconnection and congestion is important. Probably more so than the development of renewables. In terms of demonstration projects, the general impression, is that projects in the EU are more concerned with the demand side, and demand side matching of available renewable generation. Renewable energy subsidies are in place for renewables (although this does not include offshore wind). eCAP may have to tackle more demand related issues than generation and also address urban networks to address the requirements in this market.
• New York state: NY is one of the most progressive states in terms of renewables and smart grid research. There is a focus on microgrid and resiliency of power systems, as a result of the blackouts experienced during Hurricane Sandy. This resiliency seems to be main driver for many of the Investor Owned Utilities (IOU). There is also a big push on energy efficiency, and demand response services with IOU offering incentives for businesses and large residential blocks who offer DR services during peak summer hours (when air conditioning use is at its peak).
• California: California is similar to NY in terms of leading the way with renewable growth and smart grid research in the US. California has experienced a substantial growth in PV connections – both large scale, and at the domestic level. Many IOUs offer schemes to allow residential customers to connect PV units at their own properties and reap the benefit through a new metering system which will reduce household bills. This forecasted growth in solar will have a significant impact on the way in which the system is currently managed/balanced and the ISO is aware of the changes which need to take place to facilitate this PV integration.
The second task in the eCAP project was to develop the eCAP product requirements and specification. The project has architected a modular structure for the eCAP tool that will enable the creation a set of product modules, which are part of the eCAP family, each focusing on different markets and customer requirements. For example, two main initial applications have been identified, designed and prototyped:
• Capacity Headroom Tool (CHT) is a lighter product that does not include smart grid control solution analysis functionality. CHT allows a quick capacity analysis of the network based on worst case scenario studies.
• Online Curtailment Assessment Tool (OCAT) focuses on DNO customers already with or planning to develop smart grid control (specifically Active Network Management, ANM initially) capabilities. OCAT studies the network capacity based on historical data and estimates the level of curtailment a new generator would be exposed to under the action of ANM control.
The eCAP general requirements have been compiled in order to fulfil the identified market needs. These requirements will be further specified within each planned product release.
Two main eCAP product releases have been defined so far. These releases are the first version of a renewable generation targeted Capacity Headroom Tool (CHT) and an ANM focused version of the Online Curtailment Analysis Tool (OCAT). Both of these releases conform the products and modules to target a defined market segments noted above: CHT and OCAT.
Additionally to these releases, new advanced features are planned to be developed according to SGS product development strategy, following clear product management and governance/accountability principles. This product management/development lifecycle has been developed and utilised for the early product development activities on eCAP.
The third task in the eCAP project has been prototypal product development. The following picture presents eCAP architecture. eCAP is a modular tool that shares the same base architecture for implementing both CHT and OCAT:
• Stakeholder users only interact with the Visualization Server, obtaining results from the latest Headroom Study, previously generated by the Management and Analysis Servers.
• Data on the Visualization Server is not sensitive; this is important as this Server will be publically available on the internet and is at increased risk of attack from malicious parties.
• The Analysis and Management Servers contain sensitive information and SGS code and reside behind a firewall.
eCAP competes with a number of different approaches to tackle similar tasks in front-end power grid interconnection feasibility. This ranges from in-house analysis using rudimentary Microsoft Excel based tools to static network capacity heat maps, overlays on commercial Geographical Information Systems (GIS) tools as well as functionality bolted onto power analysis tools. More advanced solutions are appearing in the guise of dedicated products to address both network visibility and the connection process and also add-ons to the existing asset management systems.
The fourth task in eCAP was to develop an overall indication of feasibility of eCAP and development of the plan to take the product to market and implement it in initial customer projects. The eCAP project has enabled the estimation of addressable market size based on the customer and market requirements exercise in Task 1. This task also created an outline business model for the eCAP product and developed collateral material for eCAP as shows the brochure extract presented in Figure 3.
eCAP successfully tackles some of the current market challenges:
• Lack of network capacity for new DER connections due to poor capacity visibility: most of the simpler spots for new connection applications have been used. The connection points left are likely to trigger a network constraint (voltage, thermal or other) or to have high connection costs.
• Poor quality of connection applications: DER developers do not know which places are best to connect new capacity and tend to try for places rich on resources (solar irradiation, wind, etc.) Most of these connection points have been saturated making these connections unfeasible. DNOs must process the connection applications regardless of its feasibility, resulting in a waste of resources.
• Lack of network capacity due to absence of network managed connections option. Conventional connections are not able to provide feasible connections points. The capacity for actively managed connections does not behave in the same way as conventional connections. Therefore, it must be studied using special methodologies.
eCAP differentiates from competition by not being a plain tool (script, or just a software) but a portal. This means that it can handle a number of databases that allow to define different type of users (with different access privileges).
Authorisation system for internal and external clients. This allows SGS to:
• Offer a portal for public use,
• define different levels of access for internal users and administrators
• Personalise the UI based on the user's characteristics.
• Possible integration with other form-based connection application systems
Also, it allows management of data such as networks, historical data, studies and other activities. Finally, it provides non-firm connections functionality by being able to provide end-to-end ANM solutions for constrained networks (as well as being easily expanded to handle additional types of studies).
Currently, there are two projects that are delivering solutions based on eCAP. One for Scottish Power Energy Networks in the UK and the other for Iberdrola USA and NYSERDA in the US.
Both UK and US regulation has added recent legislation that demands network owners provide information of available capacity to stakeholders.
In the UK, eCAP is in keeping with the objectives set by the regulator, Ofgem, and would provide support to the majority of DNOs who have indicated the desire to deploy smart solutions to their networks. DG developers will reap the benefits of eCAP however they will not be a target customer as it cannot be used without the DNO network information and consent.
In the final month of the eCAP project Smarter Grid Solutions participated on a series of stakeholder events, where the interest on web-based solutions was reiterated by DG developers and the regulator. DNOs are actively seeking for solutions to meet the regulator and developer’s needs. In early November Smarter Grid Solutions presented a booth at the LCNI conference in Liverpool, where most Great British DNOs requested more information about eCAP and were presented the eCAP demo. There are several follow up actions scheduled for the weeks to come.
In the US, New York is one of the most progressive states in terms of renewables and smart grid research. There is a focus on microgrid and resiliency of power systems. eCAP could support the drive to allow utilities to ensure microgrid operation during large power outages, by allowing developers to see the potential areas for deployment of DER or where there may be a benefit of Demand Response services. Current prospects also include selling eCAP to Georgia Power in the state of Georgia. The potential customer revealed their interest and requested a proposal for delivery of eCAP.
In other European countries the outlook is less clear, but there are also important possibilities, namely in the French and German markets. Such conclusion matches Smarter Grid Solutions analyses for the expansion of its other products and so synergies in potential marketing campaigns will be explored.
eCAP development is yet to be completed and further efficiency can be gained by sharing parts of its platform with other Smarter Grid Solutions tools. We intend to pursue this alongside with the further development of eCAP on a functional level to meet the most relevant requirements captured so far.