Last updated on 24 January 2020
The amount of electricity fed into the electricity grid must always be equal to the amount of electricity consumed. The balance of the grid is a physical constraint.
It is becoming increasingly complex to maintain this balance, for many reasons:
The flexibility market is one way to maintain the balance on the electricity grid.
The flexibility market is organised by Elia, the Belgian electricity transmission system operator. It is aimed at major electricity consumers, i.e. companies or hospitals connected to the high-voltage grid. The owners of large power generation units (cogeneration units of companies for example) may also join.
Concretely, in exchange for financial compensation, companies agree to adapt their use of the electricity grid to the demands of the grid. They may, for example, temporarily shut down certain energy-guzzling industrial processes if they demand an excessive use of energy compared to the available energy.
Generally, these companies go through aggregators called Flexibility Service Providers, specialised companies that put together a portfolio of clients who have agreed to deliver this flexibility service. The aggregators act as intermediaries between Elia and their clients.
However, in certain neighbourhoods, discrepancies between electricity generation and demand may result in grid congestion. Congestion means that the grid has reached certain technical limits, for example an excess of power or voltage.
These situations can damage the installations. Therefore, automatic systems disconnect the elements of the grid that have reached their limit (just like your circuit breakers at home). If these peaks are very rare, they are not problematic. But imagine if they happened every day!
Currently, despite the rise in renewable energy, Brussels is the only locality faced with grid congestion problems for different reasons:
But things are set to change. It’s only a matter of time...
We can think of two ways to involve private consumers in boosting the flexibility of the grid. This evolution goes hand in hand with the development of the grid and the expected arrival of smart meters.
This action plan is already being implemented. Concretely, consumers are encouraged to adapt their use of the electricity grid. How?
In the longer term, it may become possible to remotely disconnect electric cars from their charging stations once congestion has been detected on the grid, for example.
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