Battery Storage Will Support the Grid of the FutureBy María José Goytia | Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:09
A disrupted commodity market is challenging the energy transition and the planned path toward achieving climate goals. The incorporation of new energy sources into the energy matrix has challenged the operation of grids around the world, forcing systems to evolve towards higher efficiency to achieve decarbonization.
The decline in the global marketable natural gas supply has impacted the prices of gas and other fuels, increasing the cost of energy and other goods and services. While facing natural gas shortages, governments and other stakeholders are in a quandary regarding how to optimize the flexibility of their assets to adapt to the imminent challenges. This disruption both the public and private sectors to a dilemma: whether to accelerate efforts toward the energy transition or rethink the strategy and loosen the implementation of decarbonization strategies.
While governments and companies analyze which path to take, the world has continued to evolve. Some trends have reached the point of no return, becoming crucial for present and future strategical decisions. Trends like the electrification of demand, further decarbonization through the implementation of renewable energy and sustainable processes as well as increased digitalization will become a constant in our global outlook.
"These three trends are reshaping the way power systems operate in the face of the challenges of the energy transition," said Edy Jiménez, Market Operations & Contract Management Director, AES Mexico. Traditionally, power systems are vertically integrated, meaning that power flows in one direction: from generation, transmission and distribution to the end user.
Today, this model is challenged by a new scheme with a different power flow. Thanks to smarter grids, Distributed Generation (DG) and microgrids, several elements can be connected to the distribution networks, creating bidirectional power flows.
This change of scheme brings a set of challenges to the grid's commercial, regulatory and operational structure. First, there is the operation of traditional distribution networks. Their overcurrent protection schemes are conditioned for unidirectional power flows. There is also the voltage quality with which the energy reaches the end user.
"This DG revolution forces electricity system operators such as CENACE and CFE to rethink their operation, either toward establishing penetration limits or rethinking the system entirely," explained Jiménez.
New technologies create further challenges. Intermittency and congestion created by Non-Conventional Renewable Energy (NCRE) are the best-known of these issues, as they weaken the grid's ability to absorb disturbances.
Modernizing the grid is a top priority project that involves strong capital investments, costs that public budgets cannot always absorb. "In Mexico, the necessary transmission systems have already been identified by CENACE. However, their implementation is complicated due to budget and permitting restraints," explained Jiménez.
One condition that systems must correct to allow the grid's evolution is the modernization of the regulatory framework for energy. "We cannot pretend to modernize the grid with all the new technologies that have emerged under the current regulatory framework," said Jiménez. Laws and regulations need to change so that these new technologies have clear implementation lines. "Without clear regulatory schemes, the competitiveness of grid modernization and renewable implementation projects will decrease."
Mexico has great potential to lead global energy transition strategies because it has a wide availability of solar and wind resources. "To take full advantage of our renewable energy hubs, we need to identify areas of improvement and develop more transmission lines to move the energy from where it is produced to where it is most needed," explained Jiménez. Furthermore, improving transmission infrastructure will reduce grid congestion and increase access to electricity in isolated areas.
At the operational level, Mexico must also consider how regional power production profiles complement each other within the energy matrix to maintain grid stability and efficiency. Mexico's geography is a challenge for the national electricity system. Changes in terrain make it difficult for the grid to maintain optimal efficiency.
The traditional solutions of increasing power production capacity and system infrastructure are the first steps to addressing these challenges. Moreover, new technologies have created innovative solutions focused on the grid's efficiency. Parallel solutions are alternatives that are faster to implement and optimize the existing grid.
The implementation of battery storage systems can combat the intermittency of renewable energy sources, reducing issues of congestion and instability. The use and analysis of big data in real-time optimize the reactions to changes in the demand curve. As digitization advances, cybersecurity measures will maintain the security and integrity of the grid.
To support the energy transition, AES moved into battery energy storage systems (BESS). By partnering with Siemens, the two companies created Fluence, which focuses on increasing storage capacity worldwide. To date, Fluence has more than 5.2GW of storage capacity installed or in the pipeline in more than 25 countries.
Storage systems are not only meant for power charging and discharging, but also serve as backup systems in case of blackouts and as tools for power flow frequency regulation. These multiple tasks allow for better management of the grid, benefitting its stability and reliability. This makes storage one of the key tools for the grid of the future.