Location: Heerhugowaard, the Netherlands
The energy supply in the Netherlands is changing. More and more people are generating their own energy, for example using solar panels or wind turbines. That’s good news! It creates both new opportunities and challenges for existing market participants, as well as for new entrants and new markets, since they have to ensure a better alignment between energy supply and demand. Grid operator Liander conducted a two-year study among households in Heerhugowaard in the Netherlands into the possibilities of aligning supply and demand through a flexible market.
Liander started phase 1 of EnergieKoplopers in 2015 as part of which 200 households were connected to an energy system with a smart device, such as an electric boiler, in their house for one year. The energy system predicted electricity supply and demand and the degree of flexibility that was needed to align the two. Flexibility arises when households are paid to shift their energy supply and demand over time, without having to change their behaviour. An example of this shift would be to use solar energy during the day to heat water in the boiler which is then used for showering in the evening. Phase 1 of EnergieKoplopers showed that households were very capable of adapting their demand to the current supply. This helps Liander in its role as a grid operator to prevent peaks in the power grid.
Once the technical value of flexibility had been demonstrated, Liander decided to ramp up the testing. That led to studies being conducted in 2017 and 2018 into how flexible use of energy by households could be used in a real market situation: an actual flexibility market, in which aggregators also participated. This second phase of EnergieKoplopers revealed that a local flexible market does work and can definitely contribute to optimising the power grid. Although the number of households (94) and aggregators (1) was limited, the project showed that the systems needed for a flexibility market work well.
The test showed that scaling up was necessary in order to make the flexibility market successful for households. The Internet of Things, which contributes to the development of ‘flex-ready’ devices, came in very handy in this respect. It is also important that open standards are used for flexibility to lower the threshold for taking part. It is straightforward for aggregators to enter the market and the necessary devices can be connected easily and without high costs, enabling households to switch to other aggregators effortlessly, and at low cost, similar to the way they can now switch to other energy providers.