Electric grids everywhere are under stress. While the generation and transmission infrastructure ages, it’s predicted that by 2035 worldwide energy demand will grow by 41%. Weather events are also becoming more severe, with related damages in the US alone already running as high as $33 billion annually.
Even in the face of these harsh realities, electric utilities are expected to maintain or improve grid stability. Stricter environmental regulations mean that adding traditional generation capacity is less viable. New renewable energy is coming online, but is inherently intermittent. This is all adding up to a grid that is more difficult to keep balanced, energy pricing that is more volatile, and greater risks to power reliability for your business and home.
Discovering the hidden value of energy flexibility
To help address these issues, grid operators are developing smart grid strategies. An important part of this is engaging the help of energy consumers to dynamically match their demand against available grid capacity. This energy flexibility is a valuable resource for both you and your energy supplier.
As an example, demand response programs are becoming more widespread, particularly in North America and more recently in Europe. Participation can involve being paid a financial incentive to temporarily curtail a portion of your energy consumption when requested. You might also dynamically manage your load profile in response to variable energy pricing, or to avoid peak demand penalties.
Connecting prosumers to energy savings
Until recently, these types of programs were typically offered only to very large industrial plants. Advances in computing and electronic control technology are now enabling a wider range of organizations and homeowners to participate. New, intelligent platforms connect you to the smart grid and give you the tools you need to become an energy prosumer – proactively managing your consumption.
A prosumer platform accurately tracks the energy consumption of your loads, predicting the amount of energy flexibility and sharing that information with the utility. By taking into account weather data, energy pricing, and demand response requests, the system automatically arbitrates between cost-saving opportunities.
Smart controls then take action to adjust your demand profile by smoothly interfacing with existing systems such as BMS, process control, etc. Heating, cooling, or other non-critical processes are managed without adversely impacting the comfort or productivity of occupants and equipment.
Build a green microgrid for greater flexibility
An increasing number of homes and businesses are also producing solar- or wind-based electricity onsite to reduce their carbon footprint and offset high grid energy costs. In Europe alone, it is estimated that three million energy users are now generating some of their own power. By adding an energy storage system you can maximize self-consumption of this energy. It will also extend your energy flexibility by gaining more control over when you are able to use it.
The prosumer platform will unify the management of all of these energy resources – loads, production, and storage – to ensure you fully monetize them.
Building your own microgrid in this way also gives you a green energy reserve that can keep critical loads or processes running during short-term blackouts. When augmented with other local energy sources, such as natural gas-powered generators, you can ‘island’ your entire site from the main grid in the event of an extended outage. Of course, this will depend on what local regulations allow.
Blazing the trail to a smarter energy future
In Lyon and Grenoble, France, the GreenLys project is aiming to showcase a complete, functional smart grid by 2015. Involving residential and commercial building sites, automated substations, and smart meters, its mission is to improve power distribution as well as enable energy flexibility, cost savings, and higher reliability for energy prosumers.