EM-Power Europe: Flexible consumers relieve the grid

EM-Power Europe 2024 presents a wide range of solutions for more digitalization and flexibilization

Electricity generation from renewable energies is currently driving the energy transition forward at a rapid pace. However, sun and wind cannot be switched on and off as required. This presents the future energy system with a number of new challenges. One key aspect is that a significantly higher degree of flexibility will be required than today in order to keep the supply and consumption of electrical energy in balance around the clock and every day of the year. Flexible consumers can and must make a significant contribution to this. The question of how this can be achieved in the near future is an important topic at EM-Power Europe, the international trade fair for energy management and networked energy solutions. The event presents new products, technologies and trends in the field of grid and energy management for more flexibility in the energy system.

The trade fair offering is rounded off by a diverse program of lectures and discussions at the EM-Power Europe Conference and The smarter E Forum. EM-Power Europe is part of “The smarter E Europe”, Europe's largest trade fair association for the energy industry, and will take place from June 19 to 21, 2024 in Munich alongside Intersolar Europe, “ees Europe” and “Power2Drive Europe”. The energy system must quickly become significantly more flexible, especially in the coming years: “According to EU calculations, the demand for flexibility will increase by 133 percent between today and 2030,” explains Michael Villa, Managing Director of the European industry association Smart-En. By 2050, an increase in flexibility of 25 percent will be required. In a recent study, Agora Energiewende came to the conclusion that by 2035, e-cars, heat pumps and home storage systems will be able to shift around ten percent of the annual electricity demand required in Germany. That would be around 100 terawatt hours. This flexibility on the consumer side will save the economy around 4.8 billion euros.

Using your own electricity correctly

An initial consumer contribution to flexibilization has already been state of the art for years: prosumers with their own photovoltaic system link it to a stationary battery storage unit, their own heat pump and charge their electric car with the self-generated electricity. The whole thing is controlled via a home energy management system (Hems). This not only minimizes their own electricity consumption from the grid. By maximizing their own consumption, they also reduce the load on the distribution grid, as the solar power they generate does not have to be fed into the grid.

On the electricity market, supply and demand are directly related. When the sun shines from a cloudless sky and a fresh breeze blows, electricity becomes cheaper on the European trading platform EEX. So far, consumers have hardly noticed anything. But from 2025, all electricity suppliers in Germany will be obliged to offer their customers a dynamic electricity tariff that reacts to the market situation. They will then be able to shift their consumption to times when cheaper electricity from renewable energy sources is available and thus save money. However, if many consumers consume a lot of electricity at precisely these times, the distribution grids are put under considerable strain.

Grid fees become flexible

Making grid fees more flexible could counteract this effect. Here, too, a market mechanism will take effect in Germany from 2025: in times of high grid utilization, the grid fees will rise, while in times of low utilization they will fall. The German Association of the New Energy Economy comments on this innovation: “Grid charges that change depending on the time of use provide an incentive to prevent grid congestion in the low voltage grid. This fundamentally simple model is important for making a start at using the available flexibility potential and gather experience. In the future, we will have to eliminate further obstacles to exploiting the flexibility potential.” The grid fees are not suitable for this in the long term, as they do not address producers and storage facilities, for example. This would require a fundamental reform of the grid fee structure.

Energy suppliers can and will also contribute more and more to flexibility. Their instrument is intelligent load management. If grid capacity threatens to become scarce, they can significantly reduce their customers' electricity consumption through their own actions. Special tariffs for heat pumps are an example that has already been successfully implemented in many cases: if a bottleneck becomes apparent, suppliers can automatically switch off connected heat pumps temporarily. Customers do not suffer any loss of comfort as a result, as thermal storage units keep their homes warm. In return, they receive the electricity for their heat pump at a particularly favorable price.

New: Throttling instead of switching off

An amendment to the Energy Industry Act (EnWG) allows grid operators to specifically throttle wallboxes and heat pumps if there is a risk of grid overload. In return, grid operators may no longer refuse to connect such consumers with reference to a possible grid overload. However, according to the BNE, it will be some time before this option takes effect in practice. This is because the necessary control equipment for consumers and the required measurement technology in the grids have so far been the exception.

EM-Power Europe: Meeting place for the industry

EM-Power Europe will offer trade visitors insights into the digitalized and flexible distribution grids of the future from 19 to 21 June 2024 in Munich. Every year, leading international players who offer products, services and business models for integrated energy solutions and stable electricity grids meet here. In addition, “The smarter E” forum in hall B5 at stand B5.550 will focus on digitalization and flexibilization on all three days of the trade fair. Accompanying the trade fair, the EM-Power Europe Conference on June 18 and 19 offers the opportunity to exchange ideas with international experts on the intelligent networking of decentralized renewable energy systems, grid management and much more. Grid flexibilization will be a particularly important topic on the first day of the conference. Sessions on June 18 will include “Flexible power grids and innovative grid management” and “Large-scale storage at grid level for greater supply and demand flexibility”. The range of sessions will be expanded on the second day of the conference to include the topics of energy sharing and making demand more flexible.