Published 16 February 2021

Throughout 2020, flexibility in the grid has been the red thread of our work across all WPs.

We’re developing technologies and methodologies that in a socio-economically cost-efficient way transforms the grid into an infrastructure that can handle the electrification of Norway. 

One of the main challenges we have to overcome when using more power, is higher peak loads. Now, the simplest solution to increasing peak loads is to build new power-lines, which will increase the grid's peak capacity. But the thing is, the problem of higher peak loads will only occur in limited timeframes (E.g., peak hours during the winter). And to build new lines is expensive, meaning the cost/benefit will typically be low. What might be a cost-efficient alternative to  building new lines, which also takes good care of  security of supply, is making the grid more flexible.

Although building new lines is expensive, we cannot know that flexibility always is the right solution.

"Our aim is therefore to develop methods and tools to evaluate where, when and how flexibility is the right solution to ensure a robust and cost-effective grid."

 

Flexibility research activities in 2020

Using all three corners of our multidisciplinary research platform we have worked on the following flexibility-topics in 2020:

• characterisation of the flexible resources (demand, generation and storage) and microgrids

• grid operation incorporating flexible resources

• flexibility as ancillary services

• flexibility as an alternative to or as enabler for postponed grid investments

• flexibility markets

A different but successful year

For many of the almost 250 people involved in CINELDI, 2020 was naturally a very challenging year. But it was also the most productive year CINELDI has ever had. That’s something we are fiercely proud of, and it gives us a big momentum to build on, as we move into the Centre’s four final years. Adapting to the new normal Just as we are trying to adapt the distribution grid for tomorrows challenges, we quickly had to adapt to the new normal in March 2020. As everyone moved into their home offices, we quickly got an overview of how it would and could affect ongoing and planned activities. Our biggest concern was our labs at SINTEF and NTNU closing down. Fortunately, SINTEF and NTNU quickly adapted to new routines and precautions, labs reopened and our activities at the National Smart Grid Laboratory were able to proceed as normal. Our partners adapted well too, so no living-lab activities in pilot projects had to stop. In fact, we were able to increase the activity in some of the pilot projects this year. Due to the pandemic we had to cancel ongoing research exchanges and postpone planned stays abroad. A couple of master and PhD projects were slightly delayed as well. But all things considered, we have not been significantly affected by the Coronavirus.

Going digital

All non-lab activities have been able to proceed as normal, and with a lack of physical meetings moved onto digital platforms. We arranged more webinars than ever before and CINELDI researchers were featured in several podcasts. We even made our own podcast series on Flexibility. One of 2020’s highlights was the CINELDI Days in November. We arranged a digital version of it and set a record attendance. 

A focus on flexibility

Europe is aiming to become the world’s first climate neutral continent. And about 30% of the necessary emission cuts can be achieved through electrification. The green transition and electrification of society means more renewable electricity production, new electrical loads through electrification of more sectors such as transport, increased use of energy storage e.g. batteries etc. The electricity grid is the backbone of this transition, as an important enabler for the electrification of society. Increased electrification will pose new challenges and requirements to the electricity grid, through connection of more renewable electricity production, increased electricity demand and new loads. The challenges must be met in a cost-efficient way without jeopardising security of electricity supply. That is why we aim to make the grid intelligent, flexible, cost- efficient and robust. Flexibility is one of the most important aspects of the grid as we aim for the transition to the future. We therefore decided that in 2020-2021 we would dedicate our focus to flexibility in the grid, with each work package looking into it from different angles. Most of our work on flexibility in 2020 was focused on technologies and methodologies regarding flexibility. Moving into 2021 our goal is to put it all together and test results from last year in different case studies, to document in a White Paper and lay the foundations for our next thematic focus: Security of supply.

2021, the next four years and beyond

The last half of CINELDI is about creating the foundations we need to make a transition strategy for the grid. That’s our biggest goal, and to reach it we’ll continue to focus on more concentrated and focused efforts across all WPs. When CINELDI’s eight years are up and the transition strategy has been established, we are going to look back at a centre that made crucial contributions to upgrading one of our most important infrastructures: the electricity distribution grid. CINELDI can’t solve everything, but we can do a lot. Thank you to everyone involved in CINELDI, directly or indirectly, for your efforts through four years. We look forward to working with you for four more.

Gerd Kjølle & Sigurd Kvistad

Dr. Gerd H. Kjølle is the CINELDI Centre Director and Chief Scientist in the Energy Systems Department at SINTEF Energy Research. She holds a PhD in Electric Power Engineering from NTNU and has more than 30 years of R&D experience from the electric power sector. Her main fields of expertise are power system reliability and security of electricity supply. Her work has resulted in solutions which are in use by grid operators and energy regulators, foundations for handbooks, decision support tools, guidelines of good practice, standards as well as regulations of grid companies. She has also contributed to the education and recruitment of PhD and Master candidates to the electric power sector.

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