Flexible energy consumption must be increased as part of the energy system – while bearing consumer needs in mind

Demand response appears a reasonable concept, from the viewpoint of both consumers and energy companies. It benefits consumers in the form of comfortable homes, lower costs and positive environmental impacts. The necessary technical prerequisites, such as intelligent energy metering and home automation, are already available in Finland. Nevertheless, we are not taking full advantage of the potential provided by demand response. Why is that? VTT is seeking a solution to this problem through its DyRES project (Dynamic platform for demand RESponse), which we discussed from the viewpoint of consumers in our previous blog post.

Introducing demand response in new area planning

Numerous experiments have been performed in the field of demand response. These typically involve demand response related to either electricity or heating, including individual devices such as electric boilers or room-specific temperature controls. A similar stepwise build-up can be seen in urban development, where the creation of residential areas was previously based on factors such as technical capabilities, cost structure, energy trade that was less open than today, legislation and just a minor emphasis on environmental considerations.

But what if a new urban area was planned as a whole from the early planning stages, instead of being built gradually one fragment at a time? This is now the norm in terms of construction technology, but does energy management still have room for improvement? One example of this approach, familiar to the authors of this blog post, is the Hippos project, a sports and wellness cluster currently under planning in Jyväskylä. At the turn of 2016/2017, we assessed the demand response potential for electricity in this area, in collaboration with Jyväskylä Energy Ltd. Our simulation results showed that energy cost savings of around 15 per cent could be achieved in this area, just by leveraging the demand response for electricity.

Hippos

The Hippos area, which is currently under planning in Jyväskylä, combines significant energy consumption, housing and traffic.

Although the assessment only covered electricity consumption, the energy system of the future would include considerably more, and more flexible, elements than today’s systems. As a result, it seems natural to extend our assessment not only to electricity, but also to heating and, as electric vehicles become more common, to traffic. This will also increase the potential benefits. Regional planning enables interaction between various actors, including matching one actor’s surplus with another’s deficit.

Modelling provides new information on demand response

Demand response is affected by changing external parameters and factors, such as the functioning of the energy market, legislation, integrated sources of energy and the opportunity of consumers to adjust their consumption. These parameters are highly dynamic and interactive. Since real-time use of all this information is virtually impossible without an efficient tool, VTT has developed the DyRES simulation platform that enables the optimal design and implementation of area-specific solutions.

Using this simulation platform, the most extensive work is carried out by the Apros process simulation software, whose applications have expanded in recent years from power plant and nuclear power processes to renewable energy and system assessments. In addition to embedded dynamics, Apros enables the accurate modelling of supply and consumption. Apros’s dynamic simulation model is controlled by an optimisation programme, whose role was aptly summarised by Jukka Aho, CEO of Leanheat, at the Fortum Digitalist Energy Forum in May: ”Why should humans compete with computers and decide on the best algorithm?”

 Numerous parameters form a complex entity that requires a simulation platform such as DyRES, which combines dynamic simulation with optimisation.

By combining two calculation methods – dynamic simulation and optimisation – we can respond much more accurately to practical issues than by using current off-the-shelf tools. Research projects also prefer self-built models (Neves et al. 2016), such as agent-based modelling. Based on this principle, the DyRES simulation platform can be used to model groups of households, devices and equipment via individual consumers making independent decisions.

DyRES simulation platform

The DyRES simulation platform takes account of the operating environment, including legislation, the energy market and weather conditions, as well as consumers’ behaviour and opportunities for flexible response, the increase in small-scale production,
and buildings’ characteristics and life cycles.

From simulation to practice − the consumer lies at the heart of new solution design

VTT participated in the Energy Efficiency 2.0 in Building seminar at Heureka on 22 May 2017. The seminar presentations included the experiences of Salusfin and S-Voima in implementing demand response. Even more importantly, the seminar brought together a comprehensive set of players needed to take demand response, and smart solutions in general, from paper into practice on an increasing scale. In addition to steering mechanisms, this requires input from researchers, constructors and building technology experts.  The seminar’s varied audience was asked what measures were needed to support the implementation of home automation. The result was probably a surprise to some: instead of technical methods, the audience regarded consumer training and communications as the key tools for this.

DyRES poll

The seminar audience regarded training and communications as the key tools in promoting demand response. Other favoured options included influencing building code and introducing usage-based pricing.

The survey results indicate that it is important to understand the whole: demand response as such and as a technology has no absolute value. Instead, its value stems from its role in the energy system and its ability to create added value for the user. For this reason, the DyRES simulation platform not only focuses on demand response, but combines it with decentralised production and the entire energy market – both at building and area level. To take full advantage of this tool’s potential, we need to bear the needs of consumers in mind. A good example of this is the Human Thermal Model (HTM) method developed earlier by VTT for assessing the individual thermal comfort experienced by different user groups. Data obtained from this method can also be used in the DyRES platform. If the consumer’s living comfort improves while peak power energy production output is reduced, consumers will find it rational to participate in demand response, including in the long term. To avoid burdening residents, demand response must be an automatic feature embedded in apartments. If the technology and its supply to customers is simple, its use can be increased through awareness building.

DyRES sign

Instead of technology, the implementation of demand response and other smart energy solutions starts with consumer needs, such as comfortable living, which in turn creates wellbeing. Communication will play a key role in increasing consumer awareness on the use of, and the added value brought by, demand response. The supply of smart solutions to consumers as an integrated part of home energy systems will enable a change in behaviour.

Demand response includes several elements − building technology and automation, regional planning, the use of technology at consumer level − all of which need to be taken into account in order to take full advantage of demand response’s potential. DyRES provides a platform that enables all the pieces to be put together.

Elina Hakkarainen VTTElina Hakkarainen, Research Scientist
Twitter: @e_Hakkarainen

Tomi Thomasson VTT

Tomi Thomasson, Research Scientist

Mikko Jegoroff VTTMikko Jegoroff, Research Scientist

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