HIGHLIGHT: PV providing flexibility to the distribution grid - From troublemaker to solution provider
Date : July 2014
By Frauke Thies, Policy Director
With growing shares of photovoltaics (PV) being integrated into the electricity system in Europe, it is no surprise that questions of grid management and stability are increasingly coming into focus. What still is more surprising to many players in the energy field, however, is that PV systems themselves hold a large and often untapped potential to support the distribution grid.
Did you know that already today, PV systems - primarily through their inverters - are able to deliver a broad range of valuable services for voltage control, frequency support and system restoration, sometimes even at very favourable costs? At least for many Distribution System Operators (DSOs), this is news. In the past, they have often perceived PV as a troublemaker in the grid, disregarding its significant potential to provide concrete solutions for system stability.
However, with growing shares of decentralised generation, demand response and changing consumer profiles, the business model of the DSOs is changing as they are challenged to become more active system managers. In fact, tapping into the possibilities that PV offers would enable DSOs to operate their grid more efficiently, provide better service to their customers, and keep consumer bills under control.
To shed light on these possibilities and identify the appropriate steps forward, EPIA and the European Distribution System Operators' Association for Smart Grids (EDSO
) organised a joint event during the European Sustainable Energy Week
on 24 June, involving grid operators, PV suppliers, the European Commission, as well as a very broad audience of over 120 participants.
The message of the event was clear: Whilst DSOs recognise the possibilities that PV is able to offer and are warming up to these new opportunities, unfortunately the regulatory framework in most European countries currently does not enable them to engage in the necessary business relationship with PV system owners. Instead of allowing grid operators to remunerate PV generators for services they can provide, regulation often forces them to go for much more costly alternative investments.
It is high time that European governments and regulators engage in an updating of existing rules. Everyone, including the end consumers, would benefit from a regulatory framework for the provision of flexibility services from PV that would clearly define the role, the possibilities and the remuneration of the different actors.