EU taster projects give glimpse of electricity grid of the future

17 August 2016 06:00 Source:ICIS

Almost half of Europe’s electricity is expected to be generated by renewable resources by 2030, but achieving this – both in terms of rectifying a shortfall in new capacity, and efficiently integrating this electricity into the grid – remains a challenge.

EU-wide legislative measures such as scarcity pricing, which is likely to be introduced as part of the European Commission’s new electricity market design, are expected to improve price signals for renewable energy investment which have been blurred by generous subsidy schemes.

The network code on demand connection concerns the connection of renewable energy supplies to demand centres, and is designed to facilitate the increase of renewables in the grid.

But the grid itself is still largely designed around the needs of traditional, fossil fuel power stations and as such is not flexible enough to ensure efficient integration of renewable energy supply.

To tackle this, the commission has dedicated one of its energy union pillars to research and innovation (see EDEM 18 January 2016). It is offering funding to developers of new, smart grid technology, and to projects designed to improve the efficiency of new renewable energy technology.

Several such projects are undergoing, or have recently completed, their initial trials.

Prosumer revolution

The roll-out of smart grids across Europe will give domestic consumers more control over their consumption, but innovative technology platforms are also giving individuals and larger consumers the power to buy and sell electricity too.

The Scanergy project, funded by the European Union’s seventh programme for research, technological development and demonstration, has developed a system which can manage the energy produced and consumed by these prosumers - consumers that produce their own energy with renewable technology - at an individual dwelling, neighbourhood and city level.

It includes a real-time automated market trading system, which checks the supply of renewables and the overall demand for electricity in a neighbourhood via smart meters, every 15 minutes.

It then automatically brokers trades with other neighbourhoods for any excess or shortfall.

The number of prosumers is rising and is already reducing demand for electricity from the national grid. In Belgium alone, 12% of households are now prosumers, according to commission data.

A trial of the Scanergy project is currently being run by Barcelona-based Sensing and Control Systems, but is yet to draw any conclusions.

Commercial scale

UK-based Piclo takes this idea a step further, offering a peer-to-peer marketplace for renewable electricity. It is a collaboration between technology company Open Utility, and renewable energy supplier Good Energy.

Unlike Scanergy, commercial generators are also able to connect to the system, and sell electricity directly to consumers.

“There is no limit to the size of generator that is able to sell electricity via the platform, the only limit is meter type.

Piclo works using energy usage data that is recorded every half hour, which is currently only available to larger generation and consumption sites,” Will Vooght, research & innovation manager at Good Energy told ICIS.

The power bought using Piclo is delivered via the current electricity infrastructure, and no hardware changes are required to participate as either a buyer or a seller.

Piclo allows generators visibility on who buys electricity from them, while enabling consumers to select and prioritise the generators from which they buy electricity. The system then matches generation and consumption according to preferences and locality. Good Energy provides the contracts, and balances the marketplace.

A six-month trial was launched on 1 October 2015, which saw 37 business and domestic consumers buy their electricity directly from their selected source.

In the final two months of the trial, generators were able to set discount or premium prices for their energy, and consumers could choose whether or not they wanted to subscribe to these tariffs.

“We’re now working with Open Utility on the commercialisation of the platform, to take it from the pilot stage to the wider energy market,” Vooght said.


Grid4EU is the biggest smart grid project to be funded by the EU to-date. It received €25m in funding, which is just under half of the total cost of the trial, and was spearheaded by six distribution system operators.

Unlike other smart grid trials which focus on one aspect of developing technology, Grid4EU took a multisystem approach and was split into six areas of significance. Over a period of 51 months it tested the potential of smart grids for integrating renewable energy, grid automation, energy storage and energy efficiency.

In Germany GRID4EU focussed on improving the monitoring and advanced control of the medium voltage using a Multi-Agent-System. In Italy, the project used energy storage batteries to smooth out electricity supply and demand flows in the network.

Meanwhile, in France, Alpes-Maritimes, a pricing scheme and smart water boilers allowed customers to consume a larger share of locally-produced solar PV energy.

Results of the test typically suggested the projects were scalable, and replicable across Europe, and will help contribute to 2030 renewable and energy efficiency targets, the final report on the project said.

By Claire Wilson