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Generalized Operational FLEXibility for Integrating Renewables in the Distribution Grid

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GOFLEX (Generalized Operational FLEXibility for Integrating Renewables in the Distribution Grid)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2020-02-29

GOFLEX is a research and innovation project funded by the European Commission to make renewable energy more competitive. The European Union embraces the Paris Agreement on climate change by pledging to increase the share of renewable energy in Europe from 17% in 2016 to 27% by 2030. Reaching this goal requires accommodating more energy from intermittent renewable sources using existing physical infrastructure. Shifting toward renewables is technically challenging and expensive because today’s load patterns differ from today’s renewable generation patterns. Most people are not accustomed to or equipped for varying their energy usage based on how much the wind blows or the sun shines. One exception may be owners of solar panels or other energy resources scattered across the distribution grid. However, during periods of high sunshine these resources can create excess generation and overwhelm existing distribution grids designed for one-way flow of electricity. At present, the entities responsible for ensuring the safe and reliable operation of the grid, known as distribution system operators (DSOs), often intervene manually for lack of other choices to rectify undesirable conditions. GOFLEX changes this picture by introducing an innovative suite of technologies to automatically manage energy resources at the local level.

The GOFLEX suite of technologies manages energy production and consumption at the local level, from the bottom up. In so doing, the project invites consumers to participate actively in energy markets by offering---on a voluntary, consensual, remunerative, and automatic basis---to be flexible in their energy production and/or consumption. This flexibility, also known as demand-response, can help balance electricity supply with demand. By taking a bottom-up approach, GOFLEX makes demand-response more cost-effective and increases the level of demand-response available. We achieve this increase by introducing dynamic prices for and automatic trading of demand-response capacity. The possibility for automatic trading, including aggregating smaller amounts of demand-response, enables energy storage in physical processes such as heating and cooling. These processes can thus become virtual storage reservoirs. Managing flexible loads with a view to grid conditions requires systems capable of optimizing for local or grid-level conditions. Finally, DSOs need improved observability and manageability of the distribution grid to use demand-response in an optimal way. Improving observability requires grid and weather forecast data along with energy market data. The project concludes with three demonstrations where the GOFLEX integrated system has been deployed and evaluated. The demonstrations showed that this vision of an innovative, automatic, and flexible bottom-up energy system can safely increase the installed capacity of renewable energy sources by 20-60%.
The work carried out during the project has focused on creating, integrating and demonstrating a technological solution to manage energy flexibility; and, analysing business opportunities for energy flexibility in the demonstration locations and the wider European market. From a technological perspective, GOFLEX has demonstrated an integrated system of hardware and software for the automatic extraction, aggregation and trading of energy flexibility in real environments on the territory of distribution system operators in Cyprus, Switzerland, and Germany. In terms of business models and business cases for energy flexibility, each demonstration site carried out a cost-benefit-analysis for utilizing energy flexibility. At European level a comprehensive assessment of the need for and sources of flexibility in electricity systems with a high share of fluctuating renewable generation and electric vehicle charging was made. The assessment shows the potential of local flexibility trading, as in GOFLEX, to reduce the overall cost of the electricity system.

The key exploitable results from GOFLEX project are the FlexOffer and the GOFLEX integrated system. FlexOffers are a unified way of describing energy flexibility for (dis-)aggregation, optimization and activation. The FlexOffer concept is disseminated in scientific publications and open-source implementations and exploited in commercial products and a spin-out company. The exploitable result of the GOFLEX integrated system comprises technologies for energy management, distribution observability with forecasting, and flexibility trading integrated through FlexOffers. The integrated system is disseminated through workshops, fairs and tradeshows and exploited by introducing the system as a whole and as individual components to the market.
Several elements of GOFLEX activity show progress beyond the state of the art. Developments in automatic extraction, aggregation, and trading of flexibility along with improved distribution observability represent new contributions beyond current capability. For automatic aggregation and trading the project has integrated and the technology of energy trading for a variety of prosumer types. Automatic trading required advances across involved technologies ranging from extracting flexibility based on usage patterns to optimizing where to apply flexibility considering cost and benefit. In distribution observability, a new machine-learning approach overcome the limited availability of grid topology data and the typical sparseness of sensor data at the demonstration sites. These advances are essential for adapting energy loads and incorporating more renewables.

The contributions GOFLEX makes to the state of the art should create socio-economic impact and wider societal implications in the form of a transformed energy market where final consumers play an active part. In order for consumers to play this active part, surveys of prosumers participating in GOFLEX found that the technological solutions should be reliable and secure above all else. This baseline enables energy management technologies to highlight waste and inefficient behaviors. It also allows distribution system operators to gain real-time trading of load flexibility and improve observability of energy demand, generation, and flexibility at a local level. Taken together these advances can transform the markets for generation, delivery, and consumption of energy.
diagram of goflex concept