NEC @ European Business Summit 2014: The Digitally Enabled Grid

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Written by Ciro Scognamiglio, responsible for the market and regulatory analysis at NEC Corporation’s Centre of Competence for Smart Energy Solutions in EMEA

 

Ciro Scognamiglio, responsible for the market and regulatory analysis at NEC Corporation’s Centre of Competence for Smart Energy Solutions in EMEA

Ciro Scognamiglio, responsible for the market and regulatory analysis at NEC Corporation’s Centre of Competence for Smart Energy Solutions in EMEA

For the third time in history, Non-predictable Renewable Energy Sources (NPRESs) were the number one electricity source across the EU in terms of added installed capacity according to the EPIA (European Photovoltaic Industry Association) in 2013. At the same time many traditional power plants are being decommissioned.

Global electricity consumption is also rising fast and is forecast to approach 30,000 terawatt hours a year by 2030 according to the International Energy Agency. That’s more than twice the amount used in 2000. At the same time, government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the national and EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009 targets are driving the deployment of renewable energy technologies. The energy transition tipping point has already been reached, creating challenges with the need for a new regulatory framework to address issues on the grid.

Meeting rising energy demand would mean building a 1GW power plant every week for the next 20 years on a global basis. However, such a massive investment will not be required if we can generate power more efficiently and make better use of renewable energy sources, reducing our environmental impact and overall energy costs. We also urgently need to reduce transmission losses, manage distribution networks more intelligently and use electricity more productively and flexibly.

Energy storage – critical for flexible and fast grid capacity

Energy storage systems (ESSs) will be critical to the provision of an affordable, sustainable and secure electricity supply. Energy storage enables wrong-time electricity generated from intermittent renewable sources to be put to use at times when consumer demand is higher than base load provision and renewables supply is at low levels and also helps to address the seasonal challenges.

The intermittency challenge of renewable sources arises from the fact that the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine when consumers demand electricity. On the other hand, consumer demand for power can be low when renewable energy sources are highly active. The issue of so-called ‘wrong time’ electricity generation leads to technical challenges in balancing supply and demand across the power transmission and distribution system.

Energy storage overcomes this problem and also make grids more flexible, reliable, resilient and stable. For example, the frequency on the grid drops from its nominal value when supply and demand are out-of-balance, which could cause parts of the network to shut down to protect the equipment. Energy storage provides frequency regulation functionality, enabling energy companies to quickly ‘inject’ just the right amount of additional, controllable power into the grid. Energy storage systems using lithium-based batteries and management systems are ideal to provide this functionality as they have the advantages of high power density, high efficiency and a good cycle life.

Energy management systems – enabling grid flexibility

To deliver a robust energy storage system, it is essential that operators work with a provider who combines advanced battery, ICT and system integration expertise and operates at scale, enabling it to offer a cost-effective, standards-based choice of solutions. NEC uses batteries similar to those developed in its joint venture with Nissan (the Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC)), and now used in the market leading Nissan LEAF electric vehicles, for utility-scale storage in Italy with Enel Distribuzione. It also has supplied an ESS to Acea in Italy and developed a residential 5.5kWh ESS for the Japanese market.

Recently NEC announced the acquisition of A123 Energy Solutions to create a new company: NEC Energy Solutions. Through this deal NEC has become the world’s leading supplier of lithium-ion grid ESSs. A123 Energy Solutions has already provided 11 power companies and 15 enterprises with a total energy storage capacity of over 110MW in North America, South America, Europe and Asia.

The key enablers of energy storage are the systems that control and manage integrated energy resources. NEC’s vision is not only to provide ESSs, but also the intelligence to optimise how they function within the electricity market. NEC has initiated an ambitious R&D and partnership programme, focusing on the industry’s need for a cross-technology platform. It is developing solutions that respond to electricity value chain, market and regulatory trends that:

  • Manage all distributed energy resource typologies (including power plants, storage and flexible loads), known as a Distributed Energy Management System (DEMS);
  • Manage one or more power plants, using a Generation Energy Management System (GEMS);
  • Manage many storage solutions on the grid, known as a Storage Energy Management System (SEMS);
  • Help to change customers’ behaviour by creating a Demand Response Energy Management System (DREMS).

Ensuring a stable grid with Enel Distribuzione

For example in its ongoing pilot project with Enel Distribuzione, one of the most advanced utilities in the world when it comes to testing innovative technologies for the emerging new regulatory framework, NEC is assessing a number of applications to create and optimise a profitable energy storage business case. A range of power quality management, voltage regulation, frequency regulation, black start (the process of restoring a power station to operation without relying on the external electric power transmission network) and power balancing applications are being tested.

Such innovative energy storage technologies hold the key to ensuring we have an affordable, sustainable and secure electricity supply to meet the growing needs of consumers and businesses around the world today and in the long term.

About the author

Ciro Scognamiglio is responsible for the market and regulatory analysis at NEC Corporation’s Centre of Competence for Smart Energy Solutions in EMEA. He is also involved in both the definition of the strategy and deployment of new solutions to offer to the market. Prior to joining NEC, Mr Scognamiglio worked in a consulting company, where he was involved in several projects relating to smart grids, energy storage and efficiency at a national and European level. He holds a Management Engineering degree from the University ‘Federico II’ in Naples, Italy.

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