Better use of networks
In many cases, Liander’s power grid is not being used as well as it could be, which is why we are making major efforts to make better use of the existing infrastructure. We are doing so partly by extending the capacity limits of the existing cables and transformers, and partly by making use of our customers’ flexibility to improve the effectiveness of the energy network. One way is to first use the energy generated ourselves or to store it before it is fed into the grid. If production, storage and consumption take place locally, far more capacity will be available for new projects. We made great strides in introducing flexibility in 2022.
Stretching capacity limits
There is a limit on the transmission capacity of all cables, transformers and pipelines, but this limit depends on many different variables. When calculating the capacity of a transformer, for instance, we take account of the maximum outside temperature that can occur, for example 40 degrees. But if the main demand for energy is in the winter, the effective capacity limit of such an installation can be increased, enabling us to connect additional customers to the grid. We plan to look at all our assets in 2023 to see how we can responsibly extend the limits further.
Introducing flexibility for a more efficient use of the network
Congestion management is used to allocate the limited space in the power grid. This is done when the demand for transmission of electricity is greater than the power grid can cope with. We ask high-volume consumers and major producers of electricity to temporarily take less electricity from the grid or, alternatively, to feed more electricity into the grid. We then allocate the additional capacity this creates on the grid to the customers who are waiting for additional power. New rules for applying congestion management were introduced in 2022, as a result of which regional network operators such as Liander can use this system more often. For example, Liander, in partnership with a local business, has created additional capacity on the congested power grid in the Schenkenschans business park in Leeuwarden by scaling back the demand for electricity from the bio-LNG installation at Energiecampus Leeuwarden (ECL) during peak periods. This has created capacity on the grid and eight businesses on the waiting list have been able to get the electric power they want. The business involved in the scheme receives a payment funded from our tariffs. This is one of the ways we can all contribute. The contract will run until the new electrical substation in Leeuwarden is ready, this is expected to be at the end of 2027. We intend to use congestion management in many more places in the coming years in order to create more capacity on the grid. At this time, we are using congestion management to make more capacity available at larger substations, in the future future we also want to use congestion management on a smaller scale. For this to be possible, it is important that the connected companies invest in making their business processes flexible, for instance by making use of batteries. This is necessary because of the fluctuating supply of renewable energy.
Local energy systems
A local energy system is essentially a group of customers (‘community’) that exchange energy with one another. Such systems are subject to European legislation. These local energy systems partly arise from ideological motives – support for the energy transition, sustainability and autonomy – and partly from pragmatic considerations, due to transmission scarcity, for example, and the opportunity to save on energy costs. One example of this is Schiphol Trade Park, a business park being developed near Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Various substations in the region are at maximum capacity. In order to be able to provide power to businesses, we started an experiment last year with what is known as a virtual grid. This makes it possible for businesses without power capacity to utilise the unused capacity of businesses that have excess capacity. By measuring supply and demand in real time in the virtual grid, businesses connected to it can share the available capacity and make use of the available capacity. Up to 90% of all the businesses’ demand for electricity (whether or not they have excess capacity) can be supplied from the grid in this way. Additional elements in this solution are flexibility from energy storage, generators and solar panels. It is still at an experimental stage and requires a lot of customisation. Obviously every location is different, but in the coming year we will work on further upscaling local energy systems to resolve or prevent congestion.
Roll-out of customer products in 2022
We rolled out three smart customer products on a small scale in 2022. Two of these solutions have enabled us to offer businesses in congested areas a temporary solution, in that they have been able to consume or feed in energy outside of peak times. The third smart solution makes it possible to utilise the reserve capacity in the grid, also known as the emergency capacity, for feeding in renewable energy. A brief description of these three smart products is given below.
Where a transmission limit has been imposed on our customers, the time-limited capacity solution includes a solution which enables them to be admitted to the grid earlier. In such cases, we make agreements with our customers about the hours in which they may make use of the transmission capacity they require. For example, a solar farm that installs a battery to enable energy generated during the day to be stored and fed into the grid in the evening can be connected to the grid several years earlier than before. We started offering and rolling out this solution on a small scale in 2022. A total of 40 customers have now been offered this solution, and 14 of them have accepted it. We expect to scale up the roll-out further In 2023.
Dynamic feed-in is a smart solution that is particularly interesting for connections that want to feed back into the low-voltage and medium-voltage grid with a connection up to 2 MVA. If a transmission limit is imposed on these customers because the voltage on the power grid is becoming too high, dynamic feed-in makes it possible to arrange active and reactive power to avoid this limitation. Such customers can then be admitted to the grid earlier. The greatest potential of this solution is in rural areas at the end of the cable, because this is where voltage bottlenecks mainly occur.
Use of emergency capacity (using DER)
Most parts of the power grid have reserve capacity that can be used during outage situations and maintenance to ensure that electricity still remains available. This emergency capacity is therefore very important for reliability but is used on average only one to two weeks a year. Customers who want to feed electricity in may also be connected to this emergency capacity. This means that they can feed electricity in, just like any other customer, but they have to scale back or switch off production during outage situations and maintenance. The Distributed Energy Resources (DER) device enables us to give producers of wind and solar power access to the emergency capacity. A special DER team currently offers the solution to customers with an existing connection. We will scale this up further in 2023.
New tariff models and contract types
We are working on new tariff models and contract types due to the increased volatility of electricity prices. We are encouraging their use at individual, regional and national levels. In 2022, Liander received requests for some 1,000 MW of transmission capacity for batteries (2021: approximately 100 MW). If we connect these batteries in the conventional manner, this would adversely affect possibilities for other connections. In consultation with market parties, we have therefore accelerated the introduction of different connection terms and conditions for integrating large-scale batteries. These conditions mean that contractors cannot charge their batteries during peak demand and cannot discharge them if too much is being generated. In exchange, they receive compensation or pay a lower grid tariff. We expect to conclude the first contracts in 2023. Eventually, anyone who applies for a large-scale battery will be given such a contract. Different forms of connection terms and conditions are now being tested, including capacity-limiting contracts and alternative transmission rights (non-firm Transmission Connection Agreement).
We worked on various innovative ways of making better use of the power grid in 2022:
Smart charging for electric cars
Smart charging is needed for the large-scale integration of charging infrastructure. The Flexpower3 pilot project in Amsterdam was completed at the end of 2022. This trial involved using flexible charging speeds at public charging points for electric cars. The charging speed varies depending on the total number of cars charging at a particular moment and the capacity available on the power grid at that moment. The results of the trial showed that smart charging will enable three to four times the number of charging points to be installed within the limits of the existing power grid. The concept will be followed up in the national scaling-up programme Smart Charging for Everyone.
Prerequisites for flexibility
A number of prerequisites need to be satisfied before flexibility can be introduced to make better use of the grid. We are working hard on these prerequisites. We are installing measuring equipment at many more places in the grid to obtain real-time information about the energy flows through our grids. Furthermore, we are developing the knowledge, software and capabilities to be able to regulate these energy flows, for example, by using a real-time interface to scale back solar panel energy generation during a major production peak. We are also providing access to data and sharing it with market parties and other stakeholders to enable them to respond better to fluctuations in the energy markets and the load on the grid.
Sustainably produced hydrogen is an important part of the envisaged future energy supply. When and where that will happen and to what extent hydrogen will have a place in the energy system of the future is still uncertain. Because of the long useful lives of the gas networks, we must ensure that the choices we make are future-proof, and that includes decisions about hydrogen. When making changes to the gas network, we want to ensure that the network is ready for the introduction of hydrogen. We want to learn how to effectively use our existing gas networks for this purpose. We are exploring this for example in projects in Lochem and Oosterwolde.