Research to create a more flexible energy system
The transition to an energy system based on predominantly renewable energy requires greater flexibility for integration, to satisfy a growing energy need and the involvement of consumers. Research is currently being conducted on this topic at Mälardalen University and is carried out in collaboration with companies such as Mälarenergi, Northvolt and Amazon Web Services.
Jinyue Yan is Professor of Energy Engineering and is Head of the research project.
“The energy issue is very important in relation to future development and not least to Sweden's ability to reach the emissions targets. There, the goal of becoming fossil-free is a major new challenge, as renewable energy sources are more variable from day to day. We must be able to manage that it may not be windy every day and that the sun does not shine as brightly every day. Consequently, when we make the transition from petrol run cars to electric cars, the energy demand also changes. This means that we need to change our energy system so that it becomes more flexible, and we also need to integrate consumers into the energy system in a completely different way than previously.
Involve consumers in the energy system
A completely new business model that encourages consumers to become part of the energy system is needed, according to Jinyue Yan. For example, people who install solar panels on their houses can sell their excess electricity. It is a new challenge to change the energy system so that it can incorporate new variable sources and "prosumers".
“People are no longer just consumers; they can also be producers. But consumers need to be involved and encouraged to be part of the system and thereby influence decision-makers. Decision-makers, in turn, need to encourage people to use the new technology. The market must also be convinced to support society's energy transition effort,” says Jinyue Yan.
Create a higher degree of flexibility
The research project known as the Flexergy research project helps to create more flexibility in the energy system and involves both energy suppliers and end users, to increase flexibility in the energy markets.
The project consists of three different sub-projects:
- Innovative solutions for the provision of flexibility in the energy system.
- Flexibility markets and new business models.
- Data mining and deep learning techniques for improved flexibility in the energy system.
The project includes municipal energy companies such as Mälarenergi and Eskilstuna Energi & Miljö, that produce and distribute district heating and electricity together with end users. Different types of property owners are also included (Castellum, Hemsö, Aroseken and Rocklunda Fastigheter) as well as Region Västmanland, The County Administrative Board Västmanland County, Västerås City and Eskilstuna Municipality. Also involved in the project are technology providers such as Northvolt and Amazon Web Services, who are important partners in the development of smarter solutions for cities, energy systems and buildings. The project is financed with funds from KK-stiftelsen (The Knowledge Foundation), and the parties involved, and the total funding is SEK 29.9 million.
Predict energy demand more efficiently
Flexergy also investigates the possibilities of merging different data sources and big data, to predict energy demand more efficiently and accurately (spatial, time-based). But also, to build new tools in order to forecast short and long-term demand and strain on the electricity grid.
“There are many dimensions. For example, at peak loads of the electricity grid, it would make a substantial difference if all households turned off one light. It wouldn't make much difference to the individual person, but the overall load would decrease considerably. But how will the consumer know when this is required? Does the individual person need to know? Or can technology help to drive this development? There are many solutions, and technology is an important part, but not the only one," says Jinyue Yan and concludes:
“Renewable energy can compete with fossil fuels. That is the most important message right now. Renewable energy is just as good or even better.”
The research is linked to the UN’s Global Goals for sustainable development, in particular Goal number 7, Affordable and Clean Energy and Goal number 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities.