WS 2 – Smart Communities

Smart Communities (program overview)

Flexibility in the power grid and more smart use of the remaining gas grid is essential for the sustainability of our energy system. The term flexibility here indicates the degree to which producers, consumers and prosumers are able to react to the fluctuating supply on the electricity market so that the problem of shortages and surpluses of electricity can be handled appropriately. In the long run, grid expansions may remain necessary, but even reduced expansions offer considerable savings to the grid owner plus its grid-using customers.

Heat pumps and thermal storage (sometimes up to days of storage) offer a solution to the asynchronicity between sustainable energy production and the energy demand.

The heat pump is, after electric vehicles, the largest energy user in an urban area and thereby the device with the greatest impact if it is managed ‘smartly’. In smart grid test projects, much attention is sometimes paid to managing all kinds of household devices in a ‘smart’ way, but their impact is much, much smaller. In Figure 1 you see how the three major electrical perspectives more and more  become integrally entwined in functionalities.

By combining heat pumps with thermal storage, a relatively large user of electricity in the building can be  applied as a regulatory instrument for the intermittent supply of energy.

If heat pumps are installed on a large scale in existing buildings, there is a potential grid load peak to be managed, especially in countries / regions that currently rely on natural gas as the sole energy carrier for heat and domestic hot water. The electricity grid in those areas has never been designed for the extra amount of power that is needed for operating heat pumps (here, hybrid heat pumps may be important, see IEA HPT TCP Annex 45). Those heat pumps need to be managed in a smart way, since they will have a large coincidence factor as well (when it is cold, they all switch on simultaneously). For example, if existing housing is refurbished down to Near Zero Energy Building (nZEB) level, the increase in grid loads are considerable.

The importance of this was high lighted with the presentation by prof Hans-Martin Henning at the plenary opening session called: ‘The role of heat pumps in the transformation of national energy systems‘.

At the Conference a number of sessions were having presentations on smart grids and related topics like Nearly Zero Energy and Doemstic Hot Water. A key note address called ‘Next Generation Heat Pump Systems with Enhanced Smart Grid. Response Capability for the United States Market‘ given by Ammi Amarnath from EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) opened these sessions.

Workshop summary

The workshop, within the context explained above, focused on five items. For each item a short and powerful presentation was made by one of the five speakers.

All presentations can also be downloaded as ZIP file.

After the presentations, five round table discussions were organised, with one of the subjects for each table. There were lively, sometimes even enthusiastic and fierce, discussions about the subjects at each table.

‘Influence of NZEB in existing housing on LV-grid’, by Jina Bhagwandas – Liander

The successful interaction between heat pumps and grids requires more of heat pumps than to be designed straightforwardly for connection to the grid. Grids need more intelligence from controls of the heat pump. But combined with the heat pumps, cooking peaks are also relevant. Distribution System Operators (DSOs) are sometimes in a somewhat more complicated position, and need to stay flexible in their option, because future  developments are hard to predict. Jina published an article called ‘The impact of 32 nearly zero energy residences on the low voltage electricity grid‘ in the first Dutch Heat Pumping Technologies Magazine.

‘Heat pumps in smart grids, or smart heat pumps in grid?’, by Peter Wagener – BDH

The increasing smartness of heat pump controls might answer the requirements of DSOs, but  primarily the requirements of their customers. Will these controls act ‘directly’ or ‘in-directly’? And which remuneration will become materialised for the heat pump user? And will we see autonomous controls or not? And at which value of flexibility, who will be paying for it?

‘Using big data to plan green energy districts’ by Gerwin Hop – Overmorgen

Our experience is no longer sufficient to foresee the impact of technology developments and innovation on energy transition. Interactive tools are required for scenarios and provision of facts and insights. Get a view on upscaling of renewables, but also ask yourself three questions if you apply for monitoring: what, for whom are you doing this, and why? All the models in the world cannot eliminate uncertainties, they are a constant factor in our context.

‘Flexibility with pooling of heat pumps’ by Danny Günther – Fraunhofer ISE

In the group of grid users, each party plays a different role. The DSO has strong responsibility in terms of grid stability and plays a conservative role. For example, the DSO owns the grid. But there is also the aggregator (a new market actor) whose business case consists of commercializing load flexibility, as a virtual business model, which can grow to ÜBER-like dimensions the moment the installed base of heat pumps reaches the critical mass. What kind of dimensions can pooling reach? And how will the end-user behave in this totally new setting? Does the grid stay ‘un-smart’, and is the intelligence with the aggregators and heat pump owners? In the oral session 2.3 on smart grids a presentation was given by David Fischer from Fraunhofer called ‘Flexibility of heat pump pools: The use of SG-Ready from an aggregator’s perspective‘. This presentation was based upon a study by Fraunhofer, KTH and Aalborg University.

‘Hybrid HP’s: a key appliance for a low carbon residential heat supply?’ Nicolien van der Sar, Dutch GasUnie

Hybrid heat pumps, in countries with significant gas grids, are recognised as an important tool, because they disconnect the use of renewable energy from deep renovation or heavy insulation. Consider it as a ‘starter kit for renewables’. Also, the realistic pace of installing renewable energy solutions in domestic housing with all-electric options only is too slow to make us reach the climate change-combatting targets. So we need to use every available option which uses renewable energy. In addition, the roll-out of hybrid heat pumps gives installers and end-users in general some time to adapt to the use of this step in technology. In the oral session 2.2 on hybrids a presentation was given by Peter Nienhuis from Gasunie called ‘Hybrid Heat Pumps minimize Emissions and minimize overall Costs‘.