New Technology & Innovation in Smart Grid Flexibility: Exclusive Interview with Anne van der Molen of European associations of Distribution System Operators - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Interview]

Posted to Energy Central in the Grid Professionals Group
image credit: Anne van der Molen
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Energy Analyst Chester Energy and Policy

Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

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  • Sep 17, 2019

With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart grid and smart meter technology, and rapid advancement in distributed grid assets, the age of the smart grid and its related flexibility appears to be underway in the utility industry. As the power industry continues to move into this unchartered territory, there is of course reason for great optimism. With such changes, though, careful and deliberate planning and forecasting of industry trends are of course critical.

One such way in which those in the industry can make sure they are well-prepared for what’s to come is by gathering with their peers, sharing their lessons learned, asking the hard questions, and putting their heads together to answer those questions. Industry conferences are one of the best one-stop-shops for this type of activity, and the upcoming Smart Grid Flexibility 2019 conference is a prime example. Anne van der Molen is on the technology committee of the European associations of Distribution System Operators (E.DSO) and chairs a working group on flexibility and storage with Netbeheer Nederland. This experience made him a prime choice to be a chairman at the Smart Grid Flexibility conference.

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In anticipation of this great event, Anne agreed to answer a few questions about what the industry is facing and what he’s expecting from this event:

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Matt Chester: Can you start by giving a background of who you are and what led you on the path to being a thought leader in the grid flexibility space?

Anne van der Molen: I’ve been active in the smart grid space since 2008 when I did my first project in smart metering. Until then I had worked in telecoms for a major Nordic services and infrastructure player, where I had been involved in systems integration and managed services; running networks, introducing and growing new services like prepaid, music and video streaming, and location based applications.  So, I knew a bit about network management, growing new business network shortage, and network growth.

In 2011, I began working for Stedin, a Dutch DSO, on smart grid strategy.  For Stedin at that time, smart grid strategy meant three things: customer focus, network reliability, and DER integration.  For me it meant applying skills in a new technology domain. There was already a smart grid practice in place at Stedin and we continued developing it, which we still do. As part of our development activities, I got involved with E.DSO, got to chair the expert group on Flexibility and Storage at Netbeheer Nederland, and became research fellow Digital Power Systems at Eindhoven University of Technology.


MC: As a member of the E.DSO technology committee, can you share insights into what you think for when evaluating potential technological and what your role is in their implementation?

AM: E.DSO is the association of European Distribution System Operators. E.DSO has over 30 members across 25 EU member states. More than 200 million EU citizens are connected to E.DSO grids. The distribution part of the electricity system is our expertise and this is the part of the system where you will see the majority of the DERs popping up, where EV is happening and where consumers become prosumers.  So, there is a lot going on in Europe on legislation, innovation, and technology development to make that happen. At E.DSO we, as we like to call it, represent the voice of the Distribution System Operators in those discussions. So, we are stakeholder in EU policy development and are running H2020 and other smart grid innovation projects. For as far as technology is concerned, flexibility is obviously one of the topics we are working on.


MC: You also look deeply at energy storage as a tool at Netbeheer Nederland. Can you comment on what you think the rate of integration of energy storage as a grid solution is? Obviously, the costs are still dropping, but are you encouraged by the rate of adoption or do you think it really needs to pick up in order to achieve necessary goals?

AM: In the Netherlands, we have worked the Paris Agreement into a national Climate Deal, het klimaatakkoord. The climate deal got all major players on the table in five domains: industry, agriculture, transport, area planning, and electricity.  The purpose of this setting was that the Paris Agreement should feel as a common goal for each domain and that solutions should be found and developed in collaboration.

Netbeheer Nederland, the association of the Dutch Grid Operators, was involved in almost all tables. Storage was listed as a potential solution in a few tables. In industry, for instance, there is a need for heat storage and industrial processes could form a means to bring flexibility in the electricity system. In area planning, we see a need for seasonal storage;  in transportation EV cars provide a storage facility; and in electricit,y we see an increasing need for services around grid balance.


MC: When considering potential grid flexibility tools, how do you balance the simultaneous goals of flexibility, reliability, and decarbonization? Do these goals pull in different directions or do you more find that it’s easy to move them together holistically?

AM: The Clean Energy Package, which will enter force between 2020 and 2025, already says something around that topic.  The package describes pretty much all aspects of flexibility: whether it is services, ownership of storage and flexibility components, tariff structures and allowed investment, and business models. So, the layout is there.  But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I am curious into how this will materialize in the next few years.

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MC: As chairman of the Smart Grid Flexibility 2019 Conference, what part of the conference are you most looking forward to? Do you have any particular topics or specific presentations that you’re most eager to hear more about?

AM: What I like about this conference is that it combines strategy and markets with technology and operations. This gives quite a comprehensive picture of state of play in just a few days. I hope it also brings people with different backgrounds and skill sets together. Personally, I am also interested in solutions that have crossed the chasm, have proven itself in pilots, and embark on the journey towards growth.



If you're interested in learning more about the advancements in smart grid and utility flexibility, be sure to attend the Smart Grid Flexibility 2019 conference this upcoming October in London, UK. You can learn more about the agenda and register for the conference here.


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