Portuguese Institute part of project to improve the flexibility of the European energy system

Over the next four years, the BeFlexible – Boosting Engagement to Increase Flexibility project will increase the flexibility of the energy system, improve cooperation between Distribution System Operators (DSOs) and Transmission System Operators (TSOs), and facilitate communication between all energy stakeholders. The Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC) is the only Portuguese partner of the project, which will be financed by the European Commission (€10M) through the Horizon Europe programme.

Accelerating the energy transition process and contributing to the goals of the European Green Deal are the main objectives of the BeFlexible project.

Nowadays, the energy generation and consumption account for about 72% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the decarbonisation of this process through energy transition is one of the European Commission’s priorities. However, this transition process poses challenges, especially in adapting the energy sector to new paradigms.

For example, the increase in energy production from renewable sources – which depends on variable resources, e.g., wind or sun – influences the stability of the energy system. In this sense, and to ensure stability and a balance between production and consumption, it is necessary to increase the flexibility. It is also necessary to develop and present new business models, seeking to promote the active participation of energy consumers (namely households) in the management of said system, by providing direct/aggregate consumption flexibility to DSOs and TSOs. According to this new paradigm, system operators begin to manage energy consumption the same way they manage electricity production sources, and consumers can value new assets, such as storage, PV panels, and heat pumps.

The project presents versatile solutions that ensure the adaptation to various scenarios, in order to address these challenges. In addition, it aims to promote mechanisms that provide benefits to all energy market players, from market operators to end-users, addressing all kinds of consumer needs.

The project will first carry out an analysis of markets and regulations and define a flexible framework for new business opportunities. This will be followed by the definition and adaptation of the service ecosystem, offering a broad portfolio of flexibility and cross-sector solutions for end-users. The third phase includes the implementation of platforms and architectures, including the design of a Grid Data and Business Network (GDBN) and the definition of the system architecture to ensure full data interoperability. Finally, the project also foresees other activities supported by social science techniques with consumers to meet their needs.

To test the proposed solutions, over the next four years, BeFlexible will install a set of pilots in Italy, Sweden, Spain and France, which will cover a wide range of consumers’ energy behaviours, network typologies and weather conditions in the four countries. The objective of these pilots is to evaluate the services, platforms and architectures that will be developed within the scope of the project, while validating the strategies of consumer involvement, allowing an adequate interaction between all actors in the energy sector and enhancing the transfer of solutions to the market. For example, digital platforms will be developed for the creation and operation of energy communities, considering the entire value chain (from a business network perspective), seeking to maximise the flexibility made available to the operation of the power grid.

INESC TEC oversees the development of new digital services for energy optimisation. “These are digital solutions designed for the planning and optimisation of energy storage systems, towards the provision of services to distribution and transmission system operators”, explained Fábio Coelho, a researcher at INESC TEC’s High-assurance Software Laboratory (HASLab), reinforcing the importance of energy storage systems for flexibility.

In addition, the Institute will also be involved in the development of the BeFlexible business network. “In direct collaboration with SAP, the project’s partner company, we will also work on the operationalisation of business models based on the flexibility of electricity consumption and distributed energy resources, considering economic and non-economic incentives for citizens”, explained Ricardo Bessa, coordinator of the Centre for Power and Energy Systems (CPES) at INESC TEC. The business network will democratise and digitalise citizens’ access to new business models and financing related to flexibility in electricity consumption, contributing to reduce participation costs in local and national flexibility markets.

The BeFlexible project is coordinated by i-DE, an electricity distribution company of the Iberdrola group (Spain), and it involves 21 partners from seven European countries – Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark. It is funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme (€10M).

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