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Scaling Access to Grid Flexibility

This page covers three topics:
  1. 1.
    Current challenges in integrating distributed energy resources (DER) into power grids
  2. 2.
    The potential benefits of integrating DERs into power grids
  3. 3.
    Examples of how EW-DOS is being applied to solve DER integration and related lifecycle management challenges

Current Obstacles to Grid Flexibility and DER Integration

The current energy transition involves a shift from a power system defined by a relatively small number of large conventional power plants to one that also includes increasing numbers of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs). DERs are small-scale assets (devices) that either supply or consume electricity (in some cases, either one at different times) and include rooftop solar panels, home batteries, and electric vehicles. On top of this is an expanding market of “smart” appliances, smart meters, and digital energy management systems that track and regulate energy usage in a customer-centric manner.
As of now, there is no shared technical infrastructure or communication system between the electricity grid and this growing number of customer-centric energy resources. Their current technical infrastructure and capabilities are widely incongruent; most electricity grid operators are not fully digital and innovation at a large scale is a challenge. Grid management, energy asset qualification and pricing were not designed to account for a distributed energy market where production, capacity and location can be so variable.
Compare this with modern, digital DER companies, where digitization and flexibility are key components to the way they operate. Their energy assets (batteries, EVs, solar panels, etc.) are connected to software management platforms that digitize their performance and efficiency.
‌But, even if grid operators did have the technical infrastructure to connect to DER assets, it would require an enormous amount of configuration to connect with each individual resource and coordinate their assets. As a result, many distributed assets remain invisible to the grid, or they are chronically underutilized in the grid’s planning and operation functions. This means that they cannot contribute to grid flexibility services to their fullest potential. (Grid flexibility services are any services that meet requirements for more or less load on the electricity grid.)

Grid Flexibility from Distributed Energy Resources

DERs offering flexibility have the potential to provide a number of grid services, including frequency regulation, voltage support (volt/VAR), spinning or non-spinning reserves, capacity/resource adequacy, or any other form of load balancing. Whether DERs actually can participate in relevant markets or programs has been limited by the inability of grid operators to “see” and trust what the assets are, where they are, and that they actually perform when called upon. Solving this set of challenges can then allow grid operators, utilities, and regulators to incorporate DERs into whatever markets or programs they design.
More practically, a solution that supports DER integration provides several benefits for grid operators:‌
  1. 1.
    Situational awareness of DER capacity and expected performance so that grid operators can better understand real-time and forecasted grid conditions. By estimating how much DERs will affect the net load on the system, grid operators can model how much conventional supply is needed..
  2. 2.
    Secure communication with DERs to directly coordinate their activity. This could be selective charging or discharging of assets like batteries or electric vehicles to reduce or increase their load on the grid.
  3. 3.
    Simplified prosumer and device onboarding and compensation for participation in markets or programs.
Solving this set of challenges is exactly the motivation behind EW-DOS: It provides decentralized identity and access management (IAM) and messaging protocols so that grid operators can identify and coordinate grid flexibility services provided by consumers and Distributed Energy Resources (DERs).
Below are three broad applications of EW-DOS in scaling access to grid flexibility and applied industry use cases.

Application 1: Prosumer Coordination

Industry Challenge

In the current grid architecture, service operators at various levels of energy transmission, distribution, and aggregation have no open method for collectively identifying and orchestrating distributed energy resources (DERs). This means that grid operators have little insight into how much, when, and where energy is produced by DERs, how this affects load on the grid, or the potential for DERs to sell their energy back to the grid and/or adjust their consumption patterns. ‌

Primary Enterprise Actors

Solution

Design open systems that allow grid service operators to identify and coordinate DERs via a system that is accessible to all relevant market participants. To do this, there needs to be a standard, shared method for:
  1. 1.
    Identifying DER assets via a shared, decentralized protocol (Decentralized Identifiers)​
  2. 2.
    Recording and verifying DER asset capabilities through Verifiable Credentials​
  3. 3.
    Communication standards among grid operators, aggregators, or other stakeholders and DERs

Applied Use Case: Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)

Key Industry Participants

  • ​Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) - manages the two sets of markets at the transmission level in Australia, the National Electricity Market (NEM) and the Wholesale Electricity market (WEM)
  • Distributed Network Service Provider (DNSP) - comparable to the role of Distributed Service Operator, manages the operation of the electric grid at the distribution level for a given territory
  • ​Aggregators​

Project Overview

Energy Web is partnering with AEMO, Microsoft and PXiSE to design a decentralized messaging messaging platform (the "Energy Demand and Generation Exchange" platform) for aggregators and DNSPs to facilitate DER participation in local and wholesale markets. Aggregators and DNSPs will use the platform to exchange data about DER capacity to maintain grid balance.
EW-DOS will provide the infrastructure for:
  • Identity and access management for all assets and market participants in the program
  • A decentralized messaging service
The marketplace will enable three key functions:
  1. 1.
    Exchange DER data between all actors in an efficient and scalable manner
  2. 2.
    Dispatch DER fleets to the wholesale market without violating distribution network limits
  3. 3.
    Facilitate open, scalable and competitive trade of DER Services in a way that keeps the local grid balanced

EW-DOS Components Used

EW-DOS Component
Function
​IAM Library​
Client library to manage DIDs, Verifiable Credentials and application enrollment
Decentralized messaging service for communication between aggregators, DNSPs and AEMO
​IAM Cache Server​
Stores information relevant to channels and application permissions and roles for fast read-query performance
​Switchboard​
User interface to administer DNSP and aggregator enrollments and permissions

Additional Info

Application 2: Emergency Demand Flexibility

Industry Challenge

Grid operators employ a variety of strategies to ensure that the grid operates reliably in times of extreme stress. One of these tools is demand flexibility: rather than treating electricity demand as fixed at any given time and adjusting supply to meet it, grid operators increasingly try to adjust demand as well.
Demand flexibility takes various forms, ranging from utility demand response programs, to calls for the public to voluntarily conserve in times of especially high demand.
Without a system of shared identity for customers and assets, it is difficult for grid operators to know what customers and what assets will be participating in grid flexibility programs and to what scale. This makes it difficult to forecast how effective demand-flexibility will be in balancing the grid supply.

Primary Enterprise Actors

Solution

Assign self-sovereign, Decentralized Identities(DIDs) to customers and their assets anchored on the Energy Web Chain. DIDs are crucial to having shared visibility into grid participants and their potential to offer flexibility. A self-sovereign approach ensures that personally-identifiable information is managed in accordance with legal requirements (e.g., GDPR) and consumer expectations.

Applied Use Case: California Independent System Operator (CAISO)

Key Industry Participants

Project Overview

California's power grid uses demand flexibility programs to maintain grid balance in periods of extreme weather and demand surge. Energy Web partnered with CAISO to enhance their existing 'Flex Alert' program with decentralized, self-sovereign identity.
CAISO encourages demand flexibility by administering the Flex Alert program, which involves voluntary calls for Californians to conserve energy in peak-demand hours, thereby reducing demand on the grid. Flex Alerts are communicated through several channels, including mass emails to Flex Alert subscribers and social media posts. Consumer conservation in response to a Flex Alert is completely voluntary; CAISO has no ability to enforce requests or manipulate respondents' utility services.
The initial Flex Alert system of communication was one-way: CAISO would send a Flex Alert, but recipients only read that alert and decided to adjust their behavior or not. CAISO had no insight into who would attempt to conserve or where participating consumers resided, which limited CAISO’s ability to forecast the level of impact a Flex Alert would have on the grid and adjust accordingly.
‌In conjunction to redesigning their outreach methods to be more bi-directional, CAISO employed Energy Web's method of Self-Sovereign Identification with Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs). Flex Alert participants now can subscribe to receive SMS messages or emails for Flex Alerts. They can choose to respond to the Flex Alert by indicating that they intend to conserve power during the critical period, and have the choice of providing their zip code, giving CAISO more visibility into where flexibility is coming from. Once they enroll in the system, participants are given a unique identifier that, in alignment with self-sovereign digital identities, is not linked to their personal data. CAISO can now encourage utility companies in zip codes with low Flex Alert participation to encourage customers to engage with the program.

Additional Information

Application 3: Application and IoT Management

Industry Challenge

Distributed grid assets such as residential batteries and PV inverters do not unique identifiers that comply with an open, shared protocol. This makes it challenging to have insight into these assets' life-cycle and performance. There is no existing and openly accessible way to collect and digitize rich, insightful data about renewable assets over their lifetime. Without this data, it's difficult to forecast their potential contributions to the grid.

Primary Enterprise Actors

Solution

Give assets a vendor-agnostic, digital identity at the time of manufacturing that is anchored to the Energy Web Chain and accessible to all energy market participants. Use this identity to amass verified data about the asset that can allow it to participate in markets and give greater insight into its activity and its performance lifecycle.

Applied Use Case: Battery Recycling in Belgium (EasyBat)

Key Industry Participants

  • ​BeBat - Environmental non-profit focused on managing electronic waste, including lithium-ion batteries
  • ​Fluvius - DSO in Belgium
  • ​Original Equipment Manufacturers - responsible for assigning digital identity and asset credentials to batteries at time of manufacturing
Energy Web partnered with BeBat and Fluvius to develop a decentralized application (EasyBat) for battery life-cycle management. This was in response to the European Union's Battery 2030+ policy to promote efficient and high-performing batteries that have the least environmental impact. Using EW-DOS technology, the application assigns each battery that enters the Belgian market a digital "passport" based on DIDs and Verifiable Credentials.
This digital passport enables the accumulation of performance data on the battery throughout its lifecycle and facilitates responsible disposal of the battery when it's retired. Reference to the battery's claim information is stored in the battery's DID Document, then stored on IPFS and viewable through the EasyBat's user interface. (You can read more about the role of IPFS in storing assets' Verifiable Credentials here.)
Claims at each phase of the battery's lifecycle are stored on the DID Document
You can read more details on this project on the EasyBat website.

EW-DOS Components Used

EW-DOS Component
Function
​Energy Web Chain​
Store DIDs and DID Documents for system participants and provide on-chain verification
​IAM Library​
Create and manage DIDs and verifiable credentials for battery assets
​ID Registry​
Interact with smart contracts on the Energy Web Chain

Additional Information