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There will be no energy transformation without flexible distribution

ENERGYThere will be no energy transformation without flexible distribution

The European Commission has announced that, in its opinion, Poland is meeting the EU conditions necessary for the release of funds from the National Recovery Plan. Support for investments in the field of energy and climate is planned for 28 billion euros. On this occasion, Jacek Łukaszewski, president of Schneider Electric for Central and Eastern Europe, emphasizes the need for the quickest possible investment in adapting the network infrastructure to the requirements of distributed energy production. He points out – it is impossible to build a future energy network based on RES without the widespread implementation of self-balancing, autonomous microgrids.

According to the assumptions of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (KPO), developed in June 2022, one of the goals is the development of transmission networks and intelligent energy infrastructure. In total, investments in 360 km of 400kV transmission lines are planned to increase the efficiency of energy transmission and the stability of the power grid, associated with connecting new RES capacities. Also being considered is the support for the development of local energy communities.

Poland has committed to expanding its power generation capabilities in photovoltaics and onshore wind energy to at least 23.5 GW by Q2 2026. This means that the transmission infrastructure at each stage must be adapted to receive power from a significantly larger number of renewable energy sources. It must also be adapted to the new, prosumer energy model, based on the development of local renewable energy sources realized by the aforementioned energy communities (including energy clusters, energy cooperatives and other energy communities resulting from the implementation of the RED II Directive) as well as collectively acting prosumers (collective and virtual consumer-producers), with particular emphasis on the role of JST (especially municipalities and municipal associations) creating these types of local communities.

All of this is part of broadly understood investments in the decarbonization of the Polish economy. According to Jacek Łukaszewski, these must be well thought out.

“We can’t give in to the temptation to use resources only for quick, misguided actions that don’t respond to the fundamental challenges. That’s why, in my opinion, large-scale investments in network infrastructure, including local infrastructure, are crucial. They will serve not only for transmission but also – and perhaps primarily – for balancing. Unfortunately, such investments are neither simple nor quick. However, without adapting the network to operate intelligently and bidirectionally with a dominant share of renewable energy sources, the entire energy transformation will fail. Our network will simply not be able to accept a sufficiently large amount of energy and ensure the stable operation of the entire system,” says Jacek Łukaszewski.

The President of Schneider Electric emphasizes that the Polish transmission infrastructure, which will be adapted to the new flexibility, requires much more automation, such as systems that change transformer power. A restructuring of protective systems is also necessary, as most network protections so far have operated in a time-selective system. Although such an arrangement worked in the past energy model, it becomes ineffective when the network has to operate bidirectionally.

“Rebuilding the protective systems into communicating electronic systems, which are parameterized depending on the situation in the network, is necessary. The appropriate technology has been available for many years, but all this requires huge investment outlays in infrastructure,” adds the president of Schneider Electric for Central and Eastern Europe.

Having the skill to buy energy will determine the survival of many companies

Most countries, due to the characteristics of the power energy infrastructure, have built large systems in which energy balancing takes place at the national level. Balancing through national power dispatching worked when there were relatively few producers and the level of energy production did not change dramatically. The current situation has been changed by the widespread adoption of distributed, renewable energy sources. As a result, balancing needs to take place at the level of local subnets, covering residential estates or individual industrial plants. The reason is obvious – the more energy produced and consumed locally, the cheaper it is. Going a step further – balancing between individual microgrids at the local level is also cheaper than through national high-voltage transmission infrastructure.

As a result of the new reality, energy companies will have to adapt to it. They are already implementing or will soon implement a number of incentives and penalties in the form of fees, encouraging consumers to be flexible.

Flexibility is manifested, among others, in the introduction of variable tariffs as a standard, to encourage consumers to use cheaper energy when there is a surplus in the system. This also includes a capacity market, i.e., a fee for maintaining the prosumer’s readiness to produce energy. Medium-sized energy storage systems already participate in the capacity market in the United States, which can give energy back to the grid, stabilizing the system in critical moments. Another solution is DSR (demand side response), which in short is the opposite of the capacity market – in this case, large energy consumers, such as industrial plants, are paid to reduce consumption at the request of the energy company. A usage profile fee depending on the degree of dependence of a given entity on renewable energy sources is also possible.

“There will be more and more of such solutions, all in order to balance the network. This will result in some more aware prosumers starting to create balancing systems at a low level, implementing a self-balancing microgrid and sometimes generating multimillion savings, which will have a drastic impact on improving the competitiveness of companies, especially those with an energy-intensive profile of activity. The ability to use technological and legal-economic possibilities in the energy sector is the only way to ensure the competitiveness of an enterprise. Passive energy consumption will become increasingly costly,” concludes Jacek Łukaszewski.

In total, as part of RePowerEU, investments for the benefit of offshore wind energy and the energy system in Poland are to be allocated 21.8 billion euros.

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