Project results

Since summer 2017 the final Flex4Grid integrated prototype has been stepwise and successfully deployed in separate pilot infrastructures at three pilot sites in Celje (Slovenia), Bonn (Germany) and Bocholt / Oulu (Germany / Finland) involving 1,232 households.

Business results

  • The revenue sources identified are I) Aggregators selling the aggregator services, e.g. in the reserves market. Based on some balancing market data and experimental data collected in the field pilot in Slovenia, Flex4Grid estimates that these revenues can be up to 37€ per customer annually, depending on the specific market conditions and II) DSOs reducing costs for reinforcement and for replacement/upgrades of equipment due to peaks in the grid. As an example, in ELE’s case 1.5 million €, i.e. 7,5% of the total annual investment costs is directly caused by excessive energy peaks in the grid.
  • In case of dynamic pricing schemes, such as the Slovenian Pilot Critical Peak Tariff evaluated in the final pilot, residential users benefit with a reduced monthly energy bill. When adopting Flex4Grid, one peak event (lasting 1h) per month was able to reduce the network fee by around 10%, which contributed to 4% reduction of the energy bill. Moreover, industrial/commercial users could also benefit from the Flex4Grid system by using it for guarding against non-compliance with distribution terms, e.g. a real case indicates that savings of 12.348,10 €/year can be achieved by a small commercial user in the energy market in Slovakia, which means a ROI of 1,2 years even when including a two month period for full system adjustment.
  • Last but not least, the Flex4Grid system as a whole can be configured to provide different types of service for Smart Grid stakeholders, while its constituent components provide further specific services, which could be integrated to the system relevant to the stakeholder as well. Among the former services is a flexibility management service for aggregators and virtual power plant operators, among the latter there is data analytics service for time series analysis, prosumer cloud service for managing prosumer related data in a secure way, etc.

Technical results

  • The technical validation indicates that the final Flex4Grid system prototype reached maturity level TRL 7 in the Slovenian pilot, which made full use of the actual smart meter data and influenced the real DSO distribution grid. Moreover, the Flex4Grid peak prediction service which is based on a combination of environmental variables, consumption values, and time-dependent variables is proven to have high accuracy and to fulfil its role in the system. However, the peak analysis for a period corresponding to the last 5 years indicates a trend of widening (several hours) and increasing peaks. The growing width of peaks poses a significant challenge for the energy balance as well as for the grid stability. The average flexibility harvested per household during peak events in the large ELE pilot is roughly 11%, which corresponds to 80-100W of flexibility in absolute terms. Based on these values and on the peak value data, it was estimated that the number of users needed to achieve 3% peak reduction in the portion of the grid addressed by PCPT pilot was roughly 40% of the pilot population, i.e. the whole set of households whose consumption data was used for evaluation of peaks.
  • The functional validation performed indicates that about 78% of the functional and non-functional requirements were at least partially implemented or verified within an integrated system in the field pilot. The requirements were iteratively refined throughout the project and consequently some were removed because they were not applicable based on field results, some were not implemented because they were not prioritized, while some were partially implemented but further work on them is required for verification.
  • The end-user validation considered household participation in the pilot, user engagement in pilot events, and user satisfaction. The final pilots involved 1,232 households, namely the ELE pilot in Slovenia with 1,047 households, the SWB pilot in Germany with 102 households, and the BEW pilot in Germany supported by VTT in Finland with 83 households. The analysed peak events indicate that on average there is 64% participating users, while active response (reduction of energy use) to the events is lower than anticipated, i.e. around 24%. The statistics of usage of the Flex4Grid mobile application indicate that roughly 10% of users are engaged daily, 20% weekly and 30% monthly. Additionally, it indicates that the mobile application is mostly used for quick status checks. The grade for overall satisfaction is 7 out of 10, which is slightly lower than expected 8, but still presents a good response.
In summary, the business validation shows that technical innovation is able to provide new solutions and services, however economic results indicate that further work is required to evolve regulation, markets, and business models into a mature environment for economic viability of user flexibility services for Smart Grids. Furthermore, the technical evaluation shows that reduction of energy peaks in the grid for several percent is realistic, however there is a concerning trend of increasing and, more importantly, widening energy peaks, which pose a significant challenge for energy balance and grid stability (i.e. peak management). This topic requires further research. Experiences from the pilots also indicate that there is a gradually growing awareness and interest among end-users about pending energy balance issues and novel technologies and services related to Smart Grid management. Consequently, it is becoming more viable to implement large pilots where novel technologies and services can be thoroughly tested and validated before they are introduced into production environment. Moreover, the pre-pilot user survey indicates considerable interest of end-users in adapting energy usage for economic and environmental reasons. However, the post-pilot survey indicates that further R&D is required on the effectiveness of the Flex4Grid system and approach. Further interdisciplinary work is required on addressing the substantial gap between users’ positive attitude towards shifting energy usage and their actual behaviour – the more their everyday lives are affected by shifting energy use, the less they are keen on doing it in practice.

More details can be found in the project deliverable D6.6 – Validation of second pilot, in other deliverables available through the deliverables page and project publications.