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Scaling-up Power Flexible Communities business models empowered by Blockchain and AI

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FleXunity (Scaling-up Power Flexible Communities business models empowered by Blockchain and AI)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2022-05-31

In order to address the global challenges of energy security and climate change, there is a pressing need to accelerate energy transition by increasing renewable energy sources (RES) and shifting towards distributed energy systems. The European Commission targets 45% renewable energy into electricity sector by 2030 and new policies are setting forth new provisions on energy communities to empower them to participate in the market.
Transformation of electricity sector has however major challenges to ensure security of power supplies and to add more flexibility from demand side on the system to be able to integrate distributed renewable generation. Huge capacity wind farms or solar plants, but also domestic roof-top solar panels are simultaneously supplying power. In that sense, end-users of electricity are expected to become “prosumers”. But while this is a great opportunity to face increase in electrification and can reduce customer bills, it can create problems for traditional energy generators and grid operators because of renewables intermittency and volatility causing challenges in the power balance.
The big challenges to develop a secure and flexible electricity market in EU are (a) to maximize RES penetration while ensuring grid stability and lower balancing costs, (b) to reduce energy costs for end-users and facilitate self-generation, integrate storage and flexible load management, (c) and thus giving more opportunities to consumers to capture value from their consumption flexibility.
The FleXunity project addresses the current challenges of managing the variability in renewable generation by using storage and flexible loads and the challenge of enhancing customer empowerment by designing business models that facilitate their participation on markets.
The main objective of the FleXunity project was to develop and validate a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) digital tool based on advanced Artificial Intelligence, remote automatization and blockchain to optimize community energy flexibility, match consumer’s energy needs, ensure further development of RES, optimize distributed energy resources, and contribute to the current energy security and climate change challenges, while enhancing retailers and aggregators competitive advantage.
The FleXunity project successfully deployed two distinct large scale pilot Energy Communities (EC) in different countries, that gave the necessary data inputs to establish a reliable VPP framework able to perform the management and control of a wide diversity of energy assets, enabling their participation in the different Energy Markets. The data collected from the implemented pilots served as input for the evaluation of the developed VPP platform and the different Business Models developed. The VPP platform validation tests performed with the different energy assets deployed demonstrated the technical feasibility of the final solution and its compliance with the identified legal requirements and with the FleXunity project requirements.
An extensive technical and legal requirement analysis was performed, with the main objective of comparing technical and market requirements for demand response (DR) participation in EU balancing markets.
A generic market design combining intra-community P2P interactions with aggregated demand response flexibility provision to the external balancing markets under a VPP model has been proposed, and its applicability to the UK and Iberia pilot Energy Communities was briefly discussed.
The TSO balancing markets requirements for Energy Communities flexibility services and an initial (theoretical) selection of a set of exiting grid support services that can be addressed by FleXunity Flexible have been defined.
The FleXunity project successfully deployed two distinct large scale pilot Energy Communities (EC) and performed the integration of new and innovative energy assets, increasing the interoperability of the platform.
The VPP platform validation tests performed demonstrated their successful integration and its compliance with the identified legal requirements and with the FleXunity project requirements.
The IoT devices architecture and the blockchain Platform API specification was developed and implemented on the VPP platform, to be able to perform in a trustable way the registration of the energy trading for the peer-to-peer market participation.
A detailed description of the flexibility services, the respective qualification requirements and the definition of a common data model, allowed the assessment of the technical and economic performance of energy communities when participating in the balancing services and congestion management markets. A simulation of the participation in the Balancing Markets of the pilot aggregated energy assets was conducted using real world activations, giving important insights and evaluating the impact of the provision of flexibility services by the deployed pilot site solutions.
The project developed a series of stakeholders dashboards using a modular approach, permitting their constant update and upgrade. The dashboards were divided in three specific categories according to the final user: Energy Community Manager, Non-Residential and Residential. The dashboards were tested, evaluated and the EC members gave positive feedback on their performance and usability.
The generic operational models for each type of appliance were developed, with the complete workflow for an optimization process including the key data inputs and the mathematical model for the optimization of the demand-side flexibility and excess PV generation resources of energy community members. These generic models were tested and evaluated using the data collected on the pilots revealing that their usage in real world conditions is effective.
The final product of FleXunity was designed with the main purpose of fulfilling a market need of energy communities’ management, empowering the end users with an intelligent ICT system, easy to use, integrating in the same platform several beyond state-of-the-art technologies. The project developed and created new knowledge based on technologies such as big data, cloud computing, IoT, and AI analytics applied to energy data to deliver new added value, delivering consumer empowerment tools that allow the reduction of energy consumption and carbon footprint by smart and sustainable use enabling energy markets dynamics.
Beyond state-of-the-art activities include the addition of AI algorithms in the developed VPP platform, that enables Flexible Energy Communities optimisation, using coordinated automated mechanisms to manage distributed energy resources and demand flexibility in real-time. The project follows a unique approach in the market by allowing to monetize flexibility of smaller loads (< 50 kW). As a result, (i) prosumers can optimize availability of renewable resource (ii) energy consumers can optimize their consumption and monetize their flexibility, (iii) energy aggregators and retailers can enhance their flexibility portfolio and reduce imbalance settlements in energy markets and (iv) system operators can improve grid stability and security of supply. In short, FleXunity has developed the appropriate tool to improve technical and market conditions for the introduction of new RES into the grid and support demand following generation market products monetizing flexibility as a tradable asset.