by René Kerkmeester
At the same time, energy consumption is changing too, due to growing demand from electric cars, heat-pumps, and other consumer-based devices. All this is leading to fluctuations in supply and demand. And of course, small-scale flexibility resources are more difficult to manage in the electricity system. This is where the value of our new crowd-balancing platform Equigy comes in: a tool to break through barriers, facilitate data exchange between stakeholders, and bring new players and technologies into the electricity value chain. In April 2020, a consortium of some of Europe’s biggest Transmission System Operators (TSOs) launched a ground-breaking new crowd-balancing platform: Equigy. In a step forward for the energy transition, the pioneering blockchain-based platform allows TSOs to access flexible reserves of electricity by tapping into the energy stored in distributed devices, such as electric vehicle batteries and heat pumps. By allowing TSOs to access the electricity stored in devices like these, consumers can play an active role in the energy system and be compensated accordingly.
Innovative solutions like this are needed as Europe’s energy transition feeds more renewable energy sources into the grid. By nature – literally – weather-dependent power is volatile: we cannot always rely on the sun to shine, or the wind to blow. This means the electricity generated from these sources goes up and down from day to day, making it hard to keep the electricity grid in the balance we need for a stable and secure electricity supply. Many countries still rely on fossil fuel-powered plants to balance the volatility of renewable sources, but this is expensive and harms the planet. One solution would be to store excess electricity produced by peaks in renewable energy production and use it to balance the grid when needed. But it’s not yet possible to do this at the scale we need.
Crowd-balancing, and Equigy’s solution in particular, offers a sustainable and cost-effective solution to this challenge, allowing millions of consumers to offer TSOs the flexible capacity of their electric cars, domestic batteries or solar panels, thereby assisting in the stabilisation of the electricity system.
Initially, the founding consortium consisting of Swissgrid, TenneT and Terna launched the platform in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, using it to help balance the power system. Austria’s APG joined the consortium in 2021, extending Equigy’s European roll-out to five countries.
In the past year, Equigy has set a new European standard, allowing TSOs – the entities tasked with transporting energy and balancing supply and demand – to work together to enhance and improve the integration of renewables, providing more flexibility to mitigate their effect on the grid. Among other initiatives of its kind in Europe, this has proven the most viable collective approach, offering standardisation, a common approach from TSOs, neutral governance, and the opportunity for scale-up.
Says Rene Kerkmeester: “I am delighted with the progress Equigy has made in its first year. We have seen a lot of interest in the project and enthusiasm from relevant market parties and stakeholders. Equigy’s Crowd Balancing Platform is a breakthrough solution, enabling also better collaboration between the national TSO’s and DSOs. The grids of both TSOs and DSOs are part of one energy system and need each other. In all markets we are now working closely with the DSOs and that is the only way to further scale-up the solution.”
Out of many projects, just two months ago, in March, the first consumer-focused initiative using Equigy launched in the Netherlands. The citizens’ energy cooperative project centres around a large 1 MW battery located near a solar park at the edge of Heeten, a village in the province of Overijssel. With this battery, the 3.5-hectare solar park with 7,752 panels can provide flexible energy to the Equigy crowd balancing market, helping the Dutch TSO meet the challenges of energy transition.
Through Equigy, TSOs can use the distributed capacity offered by a wide range of sources, including electric cars, heat pumps, water boilers and domestic batteries in private homes. For owners of electric vehicles, the process is enabled by using bidirectional (two-way) chargers, allowing them to sell their flexibility by injecting electricity in the grid. Equigy’s platform validates all these transactions using blockchain technology.
The system is not exclusive and can operate in synergy with other balancing schemes and tools. The technology and software are provided free of charge as Equigy is an extension of the TSO market facilitation role. The TSOs are engaged in this activity with no commercial interest and with the sole aim of lowering entry barriers for distributed energy resources, thus supporting the transformation towards a climate-neutral electricity system.
Equigy scaling up for further growth
TSOs are the logical owners of this ambitious initiative and APG, Terna, Swissgrid and TenneT (both in the Netherlands and in Germany) are proud to be the joint shareholders and drivers behind Equigy. As market facilitators, TSOs are not hindered by commercial interests and are already in the process of establishing a European electricity network. Equigy successfully serves the purposes of TSOs, helping to balance the system and ensuring security of supply. The new platform gives everyone an opportunity to be part the European energy transition and will work closely with multiple stakeholders, including aggregators, regional grid operators, electricity suppliers, the automotive industry and technology companies.
The Equigy market is scalable and has proven attractive to other TSOs joining over the past year. Not only have more consumers adopted renewable energy solutions in their daily lives, but Equigy also continues to reach out successfully to other European TSOs to join the platform. And as more of these technologies are connected to the network, the bigger the available pool of flexible and green electricity will become. For example, forecasts suggest there will be around 7 million electric vehicles on the road in Germany by 2030 – representing roughly 70GW of flexibility.
In short, Equigy is working to transform the role of small producers in the provision of energy, and so becoming a key to balancing our grid in the energy transition and democratising the energy system. It is an exciting innovative and collaborative solution, giving Europe a head-start in the energy transition.
Banner & Thumbnail credit: Photo by AF-studio on iStock