​Flexibility on our Networks

Flexibility on our Networks

We have developed our network over the last 90 years to facilitate our customers using electricity in ways to support their lifestyles. We are committed to continual development of our network to allow our customers to use electricity in varied ways in response to changing environmental, technological and commercial incentives. Over the last 20 years we have changed the nature of how the electricity network works by connecting large numbers of generators to the distribution system. We have built assets and control systems to ensure that the network works safely and efficiently for all customers while facilitating the increased penetration of renewables in an affordable way.

Maximising Capacity

Our vision for the future is to maximise the capacity of our existing network to allow all of our customers the maximum level of flexibility in terms of how much, how often and when they use electricity at the lowest possible cost. We will build new network to serve new customers to a standard that allows full flexibility in an efficient and timely manner.

Our customers will engage with technologies such as eHeat, eTransport, domestic storage, and domestic level generation. We will work to ensure that our network can support the wide range of customer requirements as efficiently as possible. These technologies will enable our customers to partake in an energy market where they can contribute to managing climate change by decarbonising our energy system, and they can share in the commercial benefits of this participation. It is our role to facilitate flexible customer behaviours by ensuring that the network has sufficient capacity and is as safe and reliable as possible.

ESB Networks will take a leadership role in Demand Side Management in Ireland. We will develop our network to facilitate participation of all customers in future Demand Response services or markets. It is forecast that there will be 2,500MW of demand side response capability in our customers’ premises by 2030.  We will invest in new control systems and assets to allow all of this capability to offer needed services to the energy system in Ireland.

With increasing installations of low carbon technologies such as heat pumps, EVs and aggregators, Distribution System Operators (DSOs) will have to reinforce their networks to cope with more volatile electricity consumption and generation. To improve control costs, rationalise investments and keep the current levels of quality of service, DSOs are investigating alternative solutions guaranteeing the same quality of service as grid reinforcement. 

StoreNet is a project formed by a consortium including ESB Networks, Solo Energy, Schneider and DP Energy to validate the performance of energy storage on the distribution network from each of the four companies’ perspectives. It will look at how we can smooth generation and consumption peaks to increase the energy carrying capability of our network and reduce network losses.

The project will also develop our understanding of the operation of battery energy storage technology enabling us to quantify the contribution it can make to local network operation and the impact of TSO level services like DS3 (EirGrid’s “Delivering a Secure Sustainable Electricity System” programme). 

Flexigrid is a modelling study which allows ESB Networks to get a preview of the physical rollout that will be carried out with Solo Energy and Tesla in the StoreNet project and makes the project scalable. Synergi Electric Simulation software will be used to create a model of a representative distribution network which will be used to simulate and analyse various power flows, as well as evaluate the benefits to the distribution and transmission networks from a variety of operational programs.

The Flexigrid project allows the StoreNet project to be scaled up to assess the impact of increased amount of battery storage on the distribution network. This may indicate the potential for battery storage to increase the level of flexibility on the LV networks.

The retrofitting of buildings is projected to contribute 42% of Ireland’s target (13,430GWh) within Ireland’s 2020 Energy Strategy. The Tipperary Energy Agency has developed a concept (Superhomes 1.0) to demonstrate how the Near Zero Energy Building standard can be achieved in residential retrofit situations. The Superhomes 1.0 project combined a range of deep retrofit measures building fabric, air tightness, ventilation with Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP), Wood Stoves and Photovoltaic (PV) technologies providing the Renewable Energy Supply (RES). The Superhomes 2.0 project, builds on the success of its predecessor, and is aimed at optimising further the operation of ASHPs while still maintaining homeowner comfort. 

The project will utilise a selection of the existing Superhomes buildings to test and refine the solutions developed through the research, thus supporting the commercialisation of project outputs. It will enable ESB Networks to build a clearer picture of the flexibility that customers with ASHPs and new tariffs could provide LV and MV distribution network. 

It is estimated that by 2025, there will be around five million electric vehicles on the road worldwide, with the majority of these in the EU. Planning and operating distribution networks with a high penetration of electric vehicles (EVs) poses a challenge for DSOs. 

To overcome these challenges, the PlanGridEV project has developed a totally new planning approach for distribution grids, implemented via a prototype simulation tool. PlanGridEV was an EU project, under the FP7 funding framework, that ESB Networks was a partner in along with Enel, RWE, ETH, Sapienza, TU, Tecnalia, Tractbel, Renault and Daimler. The project looked at distribution grid planning and operational principles for EV mass roll-out while enabling distributed energy resource integration.

Models for the major components of car movement and charging, wind generation, PV generation and storage were developed and integrated. The outputs and findings of this work will be used in future design standards within ESB Networks as we see an increase in the adoption of electric vehicles in rural Ireland.

SERVO is an ESB Networks platform that will enable interaction between users and data sources using agreed protocols. This will enable us to understand and visualise the flexibility resources on our system and the limitations within our infrastructure. It will maximise the capability of our systems to facilitate aggregators and thus reduce overall system costs. 

In this project, we will investigate the development of this platform to provide a service allowing Demand Side Response (DSR) aggregators the maximum capability to dispatch DSR without compromising network performance and integrity. The service provided as part of this trial will be capable of autonomously appraising network conditions to give insight on network capability to support mass rollout of DSR. We will recruit Demand Side Units (DSU) to voluntarily use SERVO as a permissive gateway such that the status of prospective sites for inclusion in a day ahead bid is checked.

Demand Side Units (DSUs) have been a feature of the Irish wholesale energy market for some time, bidding into the market as negative loads. Each DSU acts as an aggregator for a portfolio of Individual Demand Sites (IDS). The activation of an IDS has been observed, in some cases, to lead to congestion issues on our networks. To deal with this, ESB Networks issue Instruction Sets to EirGrid, who in turn pass these to the appropriate DSU(s) who then in turn de-select sites whose activation can cause congestion. Assessment of the sites is currently carried out annually. If a negative assessment is reached then these sites are deselected for the summer months. In order to reduce the time spent deselected at each site and maintain the security of our system, we are developing and implementing new systems, employing more sophisticated analysis and automation.

This Horizon 2020 project, in collaboration with Glen Dimplex, EirGrid, Intel, SSE, UCD and Oxford University, seeks to investigate how electricity usage for small scale storage of heat in the residential sector, optimised by controlled aggregation, could bring technical and economic benefits to the energy system overall. There are two major elements:

  1. There will be three physical deployments of Smart Electric Thermal Storage (SETS) in 1,250 homes in Germany, Ireland and Latvia
  2. The trial will be validated at a large scale, techno-economic modelling, which will be used to predict it for millions of homes. There is a baseline scenario and sensitivity analysis will be carried out to identify barriers and investigate the competitiveness. The analysis will also investigate different assumptions made about the development of different power-to-heat options, batteries, thermal efficiency of the building stock and fuel and carbon prices.

In the Irish trial, the SERVO platform will be used to manage the impact of these SETS devices on the local distribution network. The demonstrations will specifically address the synergies between two different energy vectors, heat and electricity, as the technology (SETS) is electric heating with thermal energy storage capability. In addition, the project will evaluate the capability of this technology to enable renewable energy integration.