The subsidy feed in tariff policy, which has recently been adopted for accelerating renewable energy investments, cannot be retained as a sustainable business model for the future smart energy grid. This is mainly because this policy increases the energy cost, especially when the amount of the energy generated by renewable sources is not negligible compared to that generated by traditional ones, as is expected to be the case in the near future. Additionally, the current centralized electricity market prevents small or very small energy producers, who usually generate energy by renewable means (e.g., photovoltaic units or wind turbines), to participate. VIMSEN addresses the aforementioned difficulties by transforming the current centralized electricity market framework into a distributed one, introducing the concept of virtual micro-grid networks. Virtual micro-grids (VMGs) are associations of distributed energy generators and/or micro-grid networks that have agreed to operate on a common basis. VMGs provides flexibility to small or very small energy generators, since:
- they can re-distribute energy resources with each other to compensate energy production-distribution
- they can directly participate in the electricity market through the respective association, which acts similarly as a big power generator unit.
- on an intelligent data metering techniques suitable for the VMG distributed network
- on information and decision making technologies for the dynamic VMG creation in a way to optimize the participants’ benefits and macro-grid perspectives
- on a reliable communication infrastructure that permits Quality of Service (QoS) provisioning for data exchange in the VMG network
- on an active energy management and control tool for the operation of the virtual micro-grid as a common virtual power unit.
Business models to investigate the trade-off between the benefits of the association and the cost of the technologies needed to establish the VMGs will also be developed. The understanding that demand side flexibility, empowered through demand response techniques, is a critical asset for achieving a low carbon and efficient electricity system at a reasonable cost, has not only gained consensus among relevant policy makers and smart grid market participants, but is also reflected within the European Network Codes, the EU Energy Efficiency Directive and the European Commission’s Energy Union Communication. Within these EU-level regulatory and policy-related guidelines, demand side flexibility is named as an important enabler for security of supply, RES integration, improved market competition and energy prosumers’ market empowerment as well as users’ engagement in good energy efficiency practices. It is now an integrated part of Europe’s political and technological efforts to lower energy costs, support clean energy resources and combat climate change establishing a pioneering position in smart grid innovations at a worldwide level. In other words, it is understood that demand side flexibility and more specifically the efficient management and orchestration of a vast number of small, distributed and dynamically fluctuating RES prosumption resources is an important facilitator of these strategic aims.
VIMSEN project aims at providing more market power to small, renewable energy generators on the wholesale electricity market by aggregating them into dynamic associations (VMGs), using advanced ICT technologies. VMG associations can provide optimized internal balancing, local grid support services and participation on the national/regional wholesale electricity markets. This decentralised approach can result in multiple benefits regarding small distributed RES prosumers, ranging from the proliferation of the RES use, to the minimization of the current financial/commercial issues present due to the reliance on the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) policy, through the introduction of the VIMSEN aggregator as a new market actor, as well as the introduction of a RES wholesale market, which operates as a “split” part of the traditional wholesale electricity market, with its own operator.
Apart from the above mentioned “marketability” purpose for the creation of VMG associations, VIMSEN prosumers’ (VPs’) clustering can also offer numerous advantages through the aggregated demand response (DR) services to DSOs, to address local congestion management problems, in close coordination with the local DSO (in real-time, intra-day and day-ahead contexts), thus resulting in a more efficient distribution grid operation. Furthermore, the innovative VIMSEN ecosystem offers various advantages to the currently formulating interaction among the actors of the emerging decentralised smart grid market. For example, telecom/mobile network operators can realize new revenue streams in their already existing business and newly emerging energy services’ companies (ESCOs) can come up with novel business models and claim their own share in the smart grid market.
In this context, VIMSEN delivers an advanced ICT platform, seamlessly integrating various capabilities from energy data gathering, modelling and exchange of information to decision-making and control of consumption loads via respective demand response techniques. The listing below illustrates a typical VIMSEN system operation, where the whole lifecycle of VIMSEN data exchange among the various subsystems is depicted. There are three levels in VIMSEN system architecture, namely:
- VIMSEN Prosumer (VP)
- Virtual MicroGrid Aggregator (VMGA)
- various energy market/grid actors such as the Market Operator, the DSO and the BRPs, which are external to VIMSEN system.
There are five VIMSEN subsystems, namely:
- Energy Data Management System
- VIMSEN Gateway
- Forecasting and Modelling System
- Decision Support System
- Global Demand Response Management System
All VPs send their real-time measurements (through their local VGW) to EDMS, which acts as an overall VIMSEN data repository. EDMS sends VMG measurements in various timeframes to FMS and DSS upon request. EDMS is also able to provide data analytics services to DSS and GDRMS. FMS derives VMG models and forecasting services and sends them to DSS for a given VMG association upon request. DSS decides about the optimal VMG group formations to satisfy given objectives being set by energy market/grid actors such as Market Operator (MO), Distribution/Transmission System Operators (DSO/TSO) and BRPs.
In situations where certain energy demand cannot be met by existing excess power available on the microgrids under the management of the VMGA, based on the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place with the VPs, relevant energy reduction messages at a VMG level are then sent to GDRMS, which enforces aggregated demand response profiles for all individual VPs based on real-time measurements (serving as VMG measurements’ verification) acquired by EDMS. Finally, each VGW receives local demand response requests and actuates them providing facility automation and energy management services at the VP level.