The consumption of electricity is increasing with the adoption of electric cars. At the same time, the production-side is also experiencing big changes in Europe, as we are moving towards distributed and renewable energy sources. In this evolution the so-called energy prosumers, i.e. private customers that consume and produce electricity, become key players in the energy value chain. However, this shift towards greener energy comes at a price. The volatile energy demand and generation by prosumers challenges the stability of the distribution grid, because the Distribution System Operators (DSO) have limited means for controlling the flexibility assets possessed by prosumers.
Flex4Grid is an EU H2020 funded research project that develops and evaluates novel solutions for managing prosumer flexibility within the distribution grid. Prosumer flexibility management is investigated both at operational and business level with the aim to improve power grid management and expand the smart grid market for new stakeholders.
The main outcome of the project is the Flex4Grid system that enables prosumer and flexibility operators to better utilize the distributed flexibilities for balancing energy production and consumption within the distribution grid. The system comprises: Flexibility Operator Interface, Prosumer Cloud Services, and Prosumer Flexibility Management Kit. The Prosumer Flexibility kit consists of smart plugs, a home gateway and a flexibility management app (available for iOS and Android). The kit enables users to monitor and control their appliances in real-time, monitor their daily household consumption and production, receive flexibility management requests from the DSO, and automate the flexibility management processes within their home. The Prosumer Cloud Services provide the main business logic of the Flex4Grid system. They include services for data management, aggregation and analytics, security and privacy provisioning, and flexibility aggregation and management. The Flexibility Operator Interface tools provides DSOs and other flexibility operators with means to access and manage the flexibilities of their customers. The system provides DSOs with the following incentive models for flexibility management: Critical Peak Pricing, Peak Time Rebate, and Demand Bidding.
The Flex4Grid system is currently being evaluated in three large-scale pilots deployed at three distribution networks in Celje, Bonn and Bocholt. The test users are classified in two groups: a group with smart plugs for controlling energy consumption and a group without smart plugs. Moreover, in Celje existing smart meters infrastructure (AMI) is used. In Germany this was already planned at the start of the Flex4Grid-project in the beginning of 2015, but the smart metering implementation is delayed because of uncertainties in the regulatory framework.
The main benefits of Flex4Grid is that it enables DSOs to cope with increasing amount of distributed local energy sources and volatile energy consumption. Moreover, Flex4Grid supports new market opportunities for third parties via cloud-based services, going beyond smart meters, and bringing end-users and other potential stakeholders into the value creation process.
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