Over the last few weeks, it has been well nigh impossible to avoid seeing headlines about demand response, intelligent home automation and remotely readable electricity meters. Finland has been said to be a global frontrunner in the development of intelligent energy systems, which opens possibilities in the large and global market. However, consumers may remain uncertain as to whether they can benefit from this development in ways other than through the old familiar off-peak electricity.
In a recent news article, the Finnish Broadcasting Company wrote about how new intelligent meters will change everyday domestic life, while the proliferation of intelligent technology was reported in March to create entirely new kinds of electricity products on the electricity market. When reading the latter article, in particular, the famous bubble burst – it was merely about the old and familiar hourly rates for electricity. For many consumers, hourly rates have remained an alternative akin to the lottery – electricity may be cheap, or it may make a deep dent in your wallet.
Hourly rates are merely the tip of the iceberg of the changes emerging below the surface of the energy market. With regard to intelligent technology, one of the most concrete examples is Fingrid’s Datahub to be deployed in 2019. This increases the efficiency of the information exchange in the electricity retail market, offering an interface for business development. Elsewhere, according to its views as presented in the Commission’s winter package, the EU wants to shorten the imbalance settlement period to 15 minutes from 60 minutes, thus shaping the operation of the market to become much more dynamic.
Today, intelligent technology and dynamicity are most visibly connected on the electricity market in the form of demand response, the idea of which is pretty simple on paper: based on hourly electricity rates, demand is moved from expensive hours to cheaper hours, which is seen on the consumer’s electricity bill as savings. Fortum is currently running a commercial electricity demand response trial, in which a virtual power plant with a capacity of over 100 kW has been formed from the hot water boilers of 70 electrically heated detached houses and utilised in maintaining the power balance of the network. Examples of demand response can also be found in the heating sector: Fourdeg connects a weather forecast and a cloud service to a thermostat, allowing the apartment’s temperature to be adjusted room-specifically, saving energy and therefore also money.
Consumers can already use, for example, Fingrid’s Tuntihinta (Hourly rate) mobile application to monitor the hourly spot rate on the electricity market and receive alerts if the hourly rate exceeds the alert limit set by the user. Demand response requires an electricity agreement tied to the market rate. However, the savings remain marginal when consumption is controlled manually.
In the future, electricity is not merely a commodity going from the wall socket to an appliance; instead, electricity and heat will be fundamentally linked with each other, with homes featuring small-scale production of both, and storage solutions as well. Furthermore, these different components of the system must be governed in a controlled manner so that it is comfortable to spend time at home. Understanding all this requires combining many different areas of competence and points of view into a single whole, which may appear to the consumers as an insurmountable obstacle for participating in the active control of the energy consumption at home.
Every consumer is different and wishes to participate in controlling the energy consumption of their home in different ways. In order to make this participation easier, we have launched a project called DyRES (Dynamic platform for demand RESponse) in which we will create a dynamic calculation platform for the optimisation of flexible use of electricity and heat. Our approach is slightly topsy-turvy: by making the models more complex, we can simplify things and bring them closer to practice. This complexity comprises the operation and characteristics of each individual appliance utilised in the demand response, building models, control circuits and the system’s control logic in accordance with the consumer’s behaviour, and at lot more besides. However, we will conceal all this complexity behind a clear user interface that suits the consumer’s needs. The concept will be demonstrated first by simulating residential areas, but the developed platform will suit the implementation of demand response for complex industrial processes as well, thanks to the Apros® modelling tool we use.
DyRES combines analytic calculations, dynamic simulation and a consumer interface into one, single whole. This enables the transparent utilisation of algorithms and optimisation in practical applications intended for consumers. We will discuss the benefits offered to different user groups by the calculation platform in more detail in the next part of the blog.
The purpose of the platform we have developed is ultimately to guide a consumer’s use of electricity and heat in such a way that the energy consumption and related costs are reduced without compromising living comfort. This is enabled by the home automation and intelligent electricity meters so often mentioned in the news. A visual interface between the automation and the consumer enables the consumers to participate according to their own level of activity – or they can just be passive participants. However, the burning question is who is motivated by what to participate in the demand response: money, environmental impacts or something else entirely?
VTT is involved in the Energy Efficiency 2.0 in Building seminar on 22 May 2017 at Heureka in Vantaa, Finland. So please, come and discuss with us what demand response services should take into consideration from the perspectives of the consumer, developer and service provider.
Tomi Thomasson, Research Scientist
Mikko Jegoroff, Research Scientist