23 Апреля 2024 | вторник | 16:21

Virtual power plants arrive to Russia

Мая 26, 2014

Improvement of competency of electric power consumers promotes a new phenomenon called virtual power plants. The Head of Power Retail and Operating Activities Department at Lukoil JSC Vasily Zubakin told us more about that type of power generation facilities.

Nowadays, there is a class of consumers that are getting strongly involved in all processes related to energy consumption. They create their own distributed generation capacities, tend to regulate energy supply modes and to provide various services. Virtual power plants are the result of involvement of such competent consumers. Besides, there are some preconditions as well such as electricity market liberalization, development of information systems, and growth of distributed generation share.
According to global experts, the share of virtual plants in the power business will practically double for a period from 2011 to 2017. Generally, two models of virtual power plants are used today: a cooperative model when a consumers’ community establishes an energy service company and a virtual plant; and a portfolio model when a power market player (legal entity) establishes a power grid that controls different distributed generation facilities.
We too are very interested in that technology. Lukoil and the System Operator of the Unified Energy System JSC are currently working on a possibility to suspend operations during peak hours of pumps that maintain the pore pressure. 
There are many examples of operation of virtual power plants throughout the world. For example, Lyublyana company in Slovenia: its “power plant” capacity is 63 MW and it combines all the 1-2 MW collected from each customer. The power plant’s customers are such energy-intensive consumers as steelworks, paper mills, shopping malls, chemical facilities. As a result, there is curtailment of peak demand and loads.
I suppose that from this point on, the scenario of virtual power plant technology development will be very similar to what happened with nanotechnologies. There, everything got started with a discovery for which a Nobel Prize was awarded, and then we witnesses a transfer from informal institutionalization to recognition and commencement of the lobbying process, after which state support measures and formal institutionalization were implemented. Later, private capital got involved, a bubble appeared at the stock exchange, and only then public acceptance was earned. 
Now, we witness a very similar situation with virtual power plants. There is a community of power engineers and suppliers of information technologies, measurement systems and equipment for smart grids that are interested in using that technology. There is an opposing movement of consumers that want to participate in the business and reduce their costs. But there has been no government attention so far drawn to that phenomenon. In my opinion, this is not good. The state only sees requirements and needs of the new generation facilities, as well as needs of the integrated power grid and the System Operator, but ignores the movement on the market and customers’ signals.
I think that we should treat virtual power plants not as some mythological phenomenon but as a certain institution that gives us a possibility to centrally aggregate power generated by distributed generated facilities by using the smart grid technology, and to further harmonize such generation with load curves of consumers. Besides, virtual power plants allow using consumers’ assistance in the process of solving lack-of-capacities problems without building expensive generation facilities to satisfy peak demands. The technology also lets consumers buy power on the wholesale market through an auction of the distributed generation facilities (operating on fossil fuel or renewable energy sources) at short periods of time (leak demand).
In order to establish virtual power plants as an institution, it is required to establish connections between all the interacting facilities such as households, special-purpose power companies providing energy aggregation services, distributed networks, and the regulator. That’s how they put in abroad, but for Russia, a household cooperation model is more suitable than the model of large industrial consumers.
Those first contracts that the System Operator has already concluded with companies and municipalities of some regions show that first aggregating companies will most probably emerge on the Russian market in the coming 2-3 years. And a year from now, it will be possible to discuss this topic not only hypothetically but with specific references. However, to do that, we need technical regulation that will not interrupt but support the emerging activities. That is why it is so important to draw attention of the government to this subject.
Prepared by Ekaterina Zubkova

(С) www.EnergyLand.info
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