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CTO Insight Part 2: Energy Transition & Technology

In the second part of our interview with Padraig Curran, Chief Technology Officer, we discuss new technologies that are supporting the decarbonisation of the energy networks, and how this transition can benefit both I&C businesses and developers/operators of Front-of-the-meter assets.

What new technologies do you believe will impact grid balancing?

Renewable generations themselves. While they have constraints, they also have capability of solving some of the challenges of grid balancing. Battery and storage technologies play a part, but also demand management. The industrial demand has always been there and has been used in some guises to solve balancing problems, however new controlled systems, distributed virtual power plants and cloud-based power plant platforms enable better data harvesting to help solve the balancing needs that are there.

 

GridBeyond operates across Great Britain, Ireland and the USA. What would you say are the main differences and similarities between these markets?

The main similarity is the challenge of dealing with increased renewable penetration and decreasing inertia. We now have new system and service requirements to help balance the system.

When we look at the differences and how they are applied, this is down to the grid operators within the markets. The markets are physically different in size. That brings with it nuances in terms of the types of services that are actually required. Also, the rate at which the markets are changing is slightly different as well. While there’s an opportunity in one market, it could take some time before we can apply it in another market. I suppose for the consumers we have in the ‘lagging’ market, it’s a benefit because we’re ready to deploy when that market moves with those services. We could be dealing with services or differences in terms of response speeds. It could be delivery times, response shapes or how the various services stack within each other. In some markets you can stack two and three services together. In others, you can only operate in maybe one service at a time.

There are also the differences in how the services are procured. Some markets might highly value firmness, meaning that being able to forecast – again, what you have available when – is very important. The rates at which these services are remunerated is different for each market. That might change in terms of what assets better suit those particular schemes as well.

 

How do you keep up with ever-changing market requirements?

We’ve been operating in the markets for a number of years now, particularly Ireland and Britain, and we’ve seen schemes come and go. As an innovative energy company, it’s vitally important that we are up to speed with what the market opportunities are, and obviously, that we are ready to provide those new schemes to clients.

With every change, we re-identify the assets that are available within our network and establish how to best utilise them in an effective way to deliver service. Maximising, again, the amount of volume that we can harvest from those resources, and then applying them in the most effective way.

Let’s look at some of the fundamental changes that we’ve seen in certain markets over the last year to two. Historically, asset owners are used to sitting in one scheme 24/7, with very little variation. They might be contracted with a fixed rate to deliver a particular service, and they do that. Everything from the investment through to the return is set out based on that contract. We’re now in an energy world where the opportunities within the market are changing on a month-to-month, week-to-week basis, and actually sometimes within the day too.

 

What advice would you give to industrial, commercial and FTM asset market participants?

It’s critical for asset owners to work with a platform provider who understands all the opportunities that are available, and can understand what their asset capabilities and volumes are. Then they must marry the two of those to apply them in the most effective way to maximise the economic return.

One of the strengths of GridBeyond is that we have a fundamental understanding of a wide variety of different assets in a host of different industry areas. That, and our ability to hybridise those assets for use in sophisticated grid schemes. An example of that is where we hybridise battery assets with typical demand assets like pumps and heaters, glass boosters, furnaces and refrigeration plants, to deliver sophisticated, dynamic frequency response schemes in Great Britain. This traditionally could not have been delivered using conventional generation or demand flexibility. This also gives a fundamental economic advantage in terms of those types of units in the market. Battery technology is very flexible, but it comes at a cost. If you are in a market competing with a hybrid unit that is made up of part battery and part demand, the demand element is obviously far more cost effective to harness and control versus a battery only unit. We could be talking about your battery hybrid unit being a fraction of the cost of the battery unit alone, potentially 30% or 40% of the cost of the actual battery unit.

 

For more information on how GridBeyond’s technology can help your business improve its bottom line through enhanced energy services, contact our friendly team. 

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