Future Grid Solutions spoke to Dr Christian Chudoba, CEO of Lumenaza, a German software company powering the green distributed energy world how the development of PV and battery communities present the ideal opportunity for trying out innovative demand-side response features, such as loading batteries at negative energy exchange prices. These principles will enable a quicker integration of EV charging into the grid.

How important are RES to improving the carbon footprint for electricity supply?
They are crucial in that regard. The successful development of RES, especially when matched with consumption, will determine how fast we can decarbonise the energy sector.

In Germany, for example, renewables represented over 50% of the overall electricity supply in the first quarter of 2020. This is leading the phase-out from dirty alternatives such as coal.

And we are not just talking about the energy sector. Decarbonising the electricity supply is also a prerequisite for the decarbonisation of other industries, such as transportation and heating.

Are they becoming more common and what form are they taking?
The share of RES in Europe has more than doubled over the last 20 years, from representing 8.5% of all energy sources in 2004 to 18% in 2018. The ever-decreasing cost of wind and solar, particularly PV, along with innovations in battery storage systems are accelerating the trend. Today, RES is already the most economical solution in many situations.

We can observe differences between countries. For example, the Nordics tend to have a higher share of renewables in their energy mix and to focus on wind energy, whereas Germany has a lot of PV.

What are the challenges when it comes to integrating RES into a network – both from a network operator and consumer perspective?
From a network operator’s perspective, the main challenge is managing the predictability of RES, while balancing supply and demand. Grid operators need to intervene more often to stabilise the grid, which is expensive. The electrification of transport also brings challenges when it comes to predicting load behaviour. On the other hand, it creates an opportunity to use batteries to balance some of the RES’ fluctuations.

From a consumer perspective, the main challenge remains finding accessible offerings that make their return on investment clearer, while absorbing the complexity of the integration. Overall, renewables represent more of an opportunity for consumers than a challenge. Consumers can now participate and contribute directly to the energy market by becoming a prosumer, someone who can produce some of their energy and also consumes energy from the grid, plus they can utilise RES for their own consumption, such as powering their EVs and other household assets with renewable energy.

What is the traditional methodology or technologies adopted?
Traditionally, the grid was stabilised by a few large utilities and major consumers. Parties interacted mainly over the phone and via direct communication.

In order to adapt to the heavily distributed energy world, which features intermittent production and fluctuating loads, we need to digitalise all processes and integrate the use of data. For example, electric vehicles (EVs) can be combined with AI to develop effective forecasting models, plus react immediately to control EV charging according to demand.

The digitalisation of the energy industry can also be used to manage PV production, residential storage and other areas.

What opportunities are there for demand side responses?
Demand side responses are a necessary driver for the energy transition. Surplus energy can be used for energy storage, to balance the grid, lower overall costs and integrate more renewables.

Lumenaza is currently part of the consortium running the ANM4L project, which explores new technologies, methods and emerging markets to provide increased flexibility in consumption, generation and power-transfer capacity.

What is the technology that you have developed?
We have developed a powerful software to connect producers and consumers of green distributed energy, providing everyone access to the energy market and maximising value from renewable assets. Consumers benefit from knowing the clear origin of their energy and profit from innovative, individualised energy solutions. We also enable the aggregation of low-scale energy generation by even the smallest producers, allowing producers to feed electricity back to the grid.

With our technology, we unlock innovative businesses models based on green distributed energy resources (DER). This enables businesses to increase core product sales and sell energy services to existing and new customers. Our software platform is scalable and adaptable to evolving needs and significantly reduces time-to-market and cost-to-serve.

How does this technology fit in with the distribution grid operators’ digitisation strategy for a data-driven, responsive grid?
Our software allows the aggregation of millions of small-scale assets and their use as flexibility solutions and trading services.

The aggregation starts with fully-automized registration, grid registration, contract switching, meter data gathering and billing processes. It then generates forecasting models based on the massive amount of data gathered from all the connected assets. This allows a much more granular forecast, based on both location and time.

Why should grid operators/energy suppliers utilise this technology? What are the advantages to them?
Managing a high number of DER increases complexity as it means dealing with multiple stakeholders with diverse profiles and handling a large volume of data and real-time measurements. Grid operators and energy suppliers need to evolve to cope with these new challenges. Our adaptable products and high automation to help them to rationalise the cost-to-serve for advanced distributed energy solutions.

We work with utilities to develop business models and tariffs, such as time-of-use tariffs and demand-side flexibility, that capitalise on the changing energy infrastructure and incentivise customer behaviour, contributing to grid stability. We also help energy suppliers reduce their cost-to-serve and time-to-market.

Our cloud-based platform works across multinational contexts. Its advanced capabilities answer the utilities’ needs, covering billing, market communication and digital market energy applications.

How do you see this market developing over the coming years?
We expect to see exponential growth as additional opportunities will be integrated into the industry. We already have a substantial footprint when it comes to enabling energy communities, which provide the basis for the development of customer engagement approaches and business models that drive behaviours to optimise grid use. Recently, we have been mainly looking at EVs and how the e-mobility and energy industries can grow side-by-side.