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Implementing Rewiring the nation.  How do we future proof our networks? - Evolving Technologies

This article is part 3 of 5 in our current series on “Implementing Rewiring the nation.  How do we future proof our networks?"
Considers the evolving technologies and the challenges and benefits of that the speed of change may have on the energy transition.

The articles together seek to provide an overview of current thinking regarding the many challenges associated with the energy transition to a zero-carbon power system.  It has been developed by reviewing a number of CIGRE Electra strategic articles that have been produced over the last twelve months together with a limited review of other associated articles.  From this, five challenging areas have been identified as needing global attention. 

They are: 

The Challenge 

Recent and continuing changes to the global political, economic, and social contexts are having a material impact on the pathway for the energy transition and these deviations add new difficulties and challenges to be overcome. 

Evolving technologies seek to answer some of these new difficulties but their integration into the various networks around the world has, in many cases, also added a number of questions on how that can be done. 

New ‘smarter’ technologies are providing more visibility and control of energy assets than ever before. The challenge for the industry is to collaborate and coordinate development so that network incentives and regulations align with the capability and expectations of suppliers, customers and support industries.     

Some examples of these technologies and the questions they raise are:   

  • VPPs seek to solve the problems with operating decentralised generation in a network built around centralised generation[1]
  • The use of VPPs raise the following questions:
    • Can VPPs be a provider for fast reserves? If so, how? 
    • Current VPPs are limited in their “fleet orchestration”. What are the technical and commercial roadblocks to achieving VPPs acting as one power plant? 
    • Should they act as one power plant? Does the location of the various resources prohibit this ability? Why or why not?  
  • Grid-forming (GFM) inverters: 
    • The deployment of GFM inverters seeks to solve the loss of system ancillary services as we transition to a generation mix heavily reliant on Inverter Based Resources 
  • The new questions raised are: 
    • Do we have an agreed definition of GFM?
    • What capabilities do we expect/want to see? 
    • How do we measure these capabilities? 
    • Is the desired value of these measured capabilities reliant on network topology? If so, how does network topology affect what values we are seeking?

  • Offshore wind power hybrid AC/DC Connections: 
    • Hybrid DC/AC connections for offshore wind seek to solve the operational challenges of having large numbers of offshore wind power being connected to onshore systems. 

  • The questions this raises are: 
    • What are the technical possibilities to address when designing and operating such connections within the increasing complexity in the power system? 
    • How should topics like resilience be handled? 
    • How should multi-purpose and multi-vendor interconnectors be treated? 
    • Can services like black start be provided from these technologies like VSC HVDC/FACTS? 
    • What are the requirements needed to address maximum power outage? 
    • How should system restoration be handled after onshore and offshore disturbances? 
    • How are maintenance and outages handled? 
    • How do we handle dynamic phenomena like frequency, power swings, and inertia? 
    • How are events like harmonics and quick ramping to be handled? 
  • Subsystems in a Hierarchically ordered system:  
  • This seeks to solve the growing gap between central operating systems and participating units 
  • The questions this raises are:

    How should it be referred to? The NREL in the US calls it “Autonomous Energy Systems” while a German research consortium calls it “Cellular Energy Systems”. Does it matter? 
    • How can local optimisation be managed to ensure that, when aggregated, local optimisation is equal to global optimisation of the system? 

 EV vehicles for Transport:  

  • This seeks to solve the emissions from transportation 
  • The questions this raises are: 
    • How will such a large load increase affect the network?
    • How will vehicle to grid technology (V2G) affect the grid[3]?
    • What is needed to ensure investment and construction of adequate charging infrastructure?
    • Can EVs assist by providing grid services?

 Other possible actions  

  • Synthetic Inertia: 
    • This seeks to solve the loss of inertia as we transition to a generation mix heavily reliant on Inverter Based Resources (IBR) 
    • The questions this raises are: 
      • What is synthetic inertia? Many regions use the same term to define different phenomena so which one is correct and why? 
    • Behind the meter load control and orchestration solutions 
      • Network / Regulator led  
        • Need to manage both peak and minimum demand on the network 
          • Dynamic connection standards 
          • Demand management capabilities (Dynamic Operating Envelopes, DERMs, etc) 
          • How can this be delivered in a standardised and consistent manner? 
        • Private industry led 
          • Incentivised to minimise energy and demand chargers – shift loads to low-cost periods (driven by tariff, wholesale price or solar generation signals) 
          • Efficient use of existing network connection capacity ( Add EV charging load without costly augmentation to network connection) 
          • Access to value-add services (wholesale or network demand response programs, Time of Use (ToU) or Demand tariffs, VPP opportunities, etc.) 
          • Ability to hedge/manage energy market position (gentailers, retailers, aggregators) 
          • What is the correct mix of incentives and regulations that will ensure private industry provides solutions that are complementary to the network requirements and don’t further exacerbate the issues? 


[2] ELECTRA_324-development-of-grid-forming-converters-for-secure-and-reliable-operation-of-future-electricity-systems


 SA VPP program: [AL3],the%20event%20of%20an%20outage.


AEMO VPP Demonstrations Program:  [AL4]


VPP in Australia: (see ref #13) [AL5]

Electra 322 "Virtual Power Plants are Leveraging Australian Consumer Investment in Rooftop Solar"

Grid forming inverters: [AL6]

ARENA webinar:

AEMO Whitepaper (2021 out of date?):

AEMO voluntary specification [as prepared by Natasha!] (maybe too technical):

Electra 324 "development-of-grid-forming-converters-for-secure-and-reliable-operation-of-future-electricity-systems" [AL7]

B4/C4.93 JWC established with goal of reviewing and refining the definition of GFM

V2G and related topics: [AL8]

A number of publications on this topic: