Flexibility, the pathway towards energy sustainability

Flexibility and new technologies are the tools being used by the energy industry to achieve the goal of decarbonization

Published on 11 January 2021

flexibility and innovation for a sustainable energy future

Decarbonization, electrification and digitalization are the key global trends that are driving the transition of the energy market towards a sustainable future. The three processes are also at the center of the European Commission’s new plan of action based on the cornerstones of the Green New Deal and Next Generation EU. These are the programs with which the EU intends to pursue the goals of the 2030 Agenda and to kick-start economic recovery following the pandemic crisis.

The transformations currently taking place, together with the implementation of these policies, require the electricity system to use new technologies to ensure ever-greater flexibility. The growing use of sources such as wind and solar power, which are not programmable as they depend on naturally variable weather conditions, has a significant impact on the activities of network managers. This is particularly true in the case of Transmission System Operators (TSOs), which have to constantly ensure the balance between the production and consumption of electric energy in order to guarantee final consumers a secure, constant and reliable supply.

A structured approach to decarbonization

For this reason, Italy’s Authority for the Regulation of Energy Networks and the Environment (ARERA) has, in line with the rest of Europe, opened up the dispatching services market to new innovative resources concerning consumption, energy storage and distributed generation, prevalently from non-programmable renewable sources. It is therefore possible to provide flexibility by intervening in the way that electricity is generated, developing new energy storage solutions, by making real-time adjustments to demand and production based on the needs of the grid.

A new model of flexibility

Traditionally, TSOs obtain flexibility by regulating the quantity of electricity fed into the grid. This is in order to ensure that supply meets demand by modifying, even in real time, the program of production required from conventional power plants (large thermoelectric power stations and programmable hydroelectric plants).

As production from non-programmable renewable sources increases, the number of conventional power plants that until now have ensured the secure operation of the grids and the related dispatch services is decreasing. This means an increase in the costs of dispatching and, in the worst-case scenarios, the need to even reduce the non-programmable renewable production in order to make space for the adjustable capacity that is necessary to manage the system.

In this context it is becoming increasingly necessary to obtain flexibility services. This is also from innovative resources which differ from the traditional ones in order to ensure high levels of service security and quality at efficient costs and without having to reduce production from renewables.

In order to ensure the necessary flexibility and to maintain the balance of the grid, the new context requires a more active participation from commercial and industrial clients that make their energy assets available by working in synergy with a Balancing Service Provider (BSP). BSPs can perform the task of aggregating a certain number of distributed resources and offering to network operators the aggregated flexibility made available by those resources. Digitalization is enabling this process, making grids increasingly flexible, thanks to the opportunity to combine the management of data flows and electricity. It is also facilitating the decentralization of production, with clients who become both producers and consumers of energy, and are committed to contributing to the energy transition.

Enel X’s flexibility solutions

Enel X has placed digitalization, electrification and decarbonization at the heart of its strategy of open innovation and sustainability, with the goal of driving the energy transition worldwide. We are committed to achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda, beginning with Sustainable Development Goal 7, “Affordable and clean energy.” We offer our commercial and industrial clients cutting-edge solutions that ensure the maximum flexibility, enabling each of them to play their part in the transformation currently taking place.

Today grid flexibility is ensured by Italy’s main TSO Terna. Enel X supplies a flexibility service to TSOs also through the use of three important tools: the modulation of demand, energy storage and distributed generation. In particular, Enel X manages a supply of 6.3GW of aggregated Demand Response services, a program that remunerates companies for agreeing to requests to reduce their consumption or increase their production of energy in response to dispatching orders from the TSO. We also make other services available to our clients, such as the possibility to access the Interruptibility and Generation and Energy Optimization (GEO) services.

In a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on intermittent energy sources like renewables, energy storage systems provide an effective answer to the challenge of managing energy consumption. Energy storage, in fact, makes it possible to take full advantage of these sources by storing the energy when it is available and feeding it into the grid when it is needed. Enel X is at the forefront with a complete range of offers that includes photovoltaic and solutions such as GEO. The latter has been designed by Enel X for B2B clients who possess a behind-the-meter energy production asset to enable them to offer the surplus energy they produce to the electricity market without having to become a market operator and without having to access schemes run by GSE (Gestore dei Servizi Elettrici, the Electric Services Operator).

Finally, we have substantial experience in the creation of distributed generation systems that enable companies to reduce their energy costs, autonomously produce the energy they need and make their consumption more efficient.

This complete portfolio of innovative solutions makes Enel X the ideal energy partner for businesses that intend to take full advantage of the opportunities that flexibility offers for stabilizing the grid, making consumption more efficient and lessening our energy system’s impact on the planet.

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