Intelligent networks are the key to controlling economics in fields such as information technologies, transportation and energy. Market deregulation, greater reliance on renewable energy sources, climate protection and the growing demand for electricity have placed new demands on the generation, transmission and distribution of electrical energy. RWE Deutschland AG is working with partners to develop solutions to these challenges so it can create a vision of smart energy.
The Virtual Power Plant
Intelligent networking begins at the power generation stage. Small plants, in particular, have a difficult time holding their own in energy markets. For this reason, a solution was developed to bundle the power of small power plants, what is known as the virtual power plant. No power is generated in the virtual power plant. Instead, the power plant connects small distributed power plants, such as wind power plants, block-central cogeneration stations, photovoltaic plants, small hydropower units and biogas plants.
This system makes it easier to bring power to the market. The plants are controlled from a dispatching center. Virtual power plants benefit more than the single plant operators. Grid operators benefit as well since virtual power plants enable more consistent utilization of regional grid capacity, thus optimizing the use of the grid operator's resources.
Together with Siemens and Lister-Lennekraftwerke, RWE has finished a trial of nine renewable energy plants. Through this project, RWE and Siemens have proved the technical and economic advantages of virtual power plants and also gained insights into other potential applications. Additional distributed generation plants such as block-central cogeneration stations and biomass and wind power plants could be added to the network. The aim of coordinated use of distributed generation plants also has to help improve energy market integration.
An Energy Marketplace
Networking is not just an issue for generating electricity. RWE also is testing models that use intelligent solutions in energy trading. One example is the E-DeMa project, which is sponsored by the German government. This project is part of the utility's aim to actively incorporate consumers, small generators and volatile generation (for example, by wind turbines or photovoltaics) in the energy market. E-DeMa stands for development and demonstration of locally networked energy systems.
As part of this project, consumers become active participants in the energy market by backfeeding their surplus power — such as the power generated from a µCHP in a cellar, a cogeneration plant in a garden or a photovoltaic system on a roof — into the distribution network. Each household becomes a “prosumer,” both a producer and consumer of energy. The goal of E-DeMa is to increase energy benefits and efficiency for power generators, municipal utilities, appliance manufacturers and, above all, customers.
Customers can then purchase energy when it is least expensive. This benefits not only the individual prosumers but also Germany's entire energy supply system, which will become more flexible and thus more efficient. This project will establish an energy marketplace that connects not only the RWE Rhine-Ruhr distribution networks but also the Krefeld municipal utility distribution network.
E-DeMa is creating an integrated infrastructure for controlling consumption, which actively involves consumers, and on this basis, additional energy services can be established.
For these innovations to work, each participant must have a powerful communication infrastructure, which needs to be tested on a large scale. In 2009, RWE initiated a pilot project in Mülheim — the Rhine-Ruhr area, the largest metropolitan region in Germany — for this purpose. As part of the project, RWE equipped more than 100,000 households with a smart meter, from which the current consumption can be read at any time and which can be used to establish communication between the grid operator and the household.
Producers and customers who consume electricity without feeding power back into the network benefit from smart metering technology. Until now, consumers received very little information on their energy consumption during the year. Only at the end of the year were they able to see how much electricity they had consumed.
In the future, all consumers will be able to obtain information about their electricity consumption using tools such as special software installed on their computers. This transparency is the first step toward efficient energy consumption. Power-hungry appliances can be identified quickly and replaced. This not only helps to reduce electricity bills, it also helps to protect the environment.
Smart metering creates opportunities for even more applications and convenience. In the future, smart meters will enable intelligent control of household appliances. Washing machines, dryers and chargers for mobile devices will switch on automatically when energy on the market is least expensive.
Customers will become electricity purchasers. Household appliances within the smart home also will be designed to be controlled and programmed using the customer's cell phone. The customer will be able to decide when and which appliance to run. This will let the customer determine the operating regime for each individual device and enable the programming of entire scenarios linking the functions of multiple appliances:
Customers will be able to program window blinds to open, and the heater and coffee maker to switch on when the alarm operates in the morning.
The cooker, coffee maker and iron will be able to be switched off, window blinds closed and the alarm activated when the customer leaves home. This technology will not only make the customer's lifestyle more convenient, it also will help save energy.
Customers will be able to program their heaters to reduce output automatically when windows and doors are opened to prevent energy from being wasted.
Additionally, a network of sensors could be installed so the control system would be aware the home was unoccupied, so all installed appliances could be automatically switched to standby.
An efficient, sustainable energy supply is a challenge when customers are at home and when they are on the road. Automobile traffic and shipping transportation play a major role in climate change. New driving mechanisms are required in these areas, and RWE is banking on electromobility.
In the future, customers will be able to drive without producing CO2 by switching from a combustion engine to an electric drive that runs on electricity from renewable energy sources. Even with today's energy mix, electric buses use less energy than conventional drive mechanisms.
RWE is investing in technological development and developing the infrastructure to make e-mobility mainstream. The aim is to offer a competitive charging infrastructure that meets customer requirements for security of supply, operating and billing convenience, and charging times. Only in this way will the electric car be able to prevail as a means of transportation in the near future.
RWE and Daimler initiated a pilot e-mobility project in Berlin in September 2008. It is the world's largest joint project for environmentally friendly electric cars. With support from the city of Berlin and the federal German government, the first electric cars from Daimler were driven through the capital in 2009. They will run on electricity from renewable sources available from RWE charging stations. Located throughout the city, the RWE charging stations will be available around the clock. The primary aim of the project is to gain practical expertise to make e-mobility feasible for everyday use.
Platform for Innovative Business
The distribution network infrastructure of the future will be expected and designed to meet the challenges presented by the development of a smart grid. Network stability, reliability and balancing are all issues facing a grid operator. To achieve an efficient network, the grid operator has to develop long-term demand forecasts, preferably for periods of 20 to 40 years, based on the life cycles of the network assets. To undertake this task, concepts need to be developed on the type of future network infrastructure that will be required and the network assets that will be necessary to satisfy the energy demands of prosumers.
RWE, ABB and Consentec, together with the University of Dortmund, started a project in 2009, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics, to analyze the needs of network infrastructure changes and establish the network operating rules to be applied in rural and urban areas in North Rhine, Westphalia. This project is considering electricity, gas and heating grids on the distribution level. Completion of the project is scheduled for 2011.
There are two main questions facing the project consortium: What level of automation and conventional technology will be required on the existing distribution network to fulfill the project's range of objectives? What investment will be needed to transform the existing network into a smart grid in terms of microeconomics and macroeconomics?
A Global Goal
RWE is determined to establish a smart grid to demonstrate that the world of energy is in transition toward a more efficient and sustainable use of energy in the form of electricity, gas and heat. RWE's aim is to simply reconcile the generation and supply of energy to the demand. To achieve this goal on a global basis, the electricity industry needs to develop intelligent solutions that are commercially attractive to the market and have the capability to combine economic efficiency and climate protection.
Joachim Schneider(email@example.com) started his career at ABB in Mannheim, Germany, following his studies of electrical engineering, and he earned a Ph.D. in the field of electrical equipment and energy economics in 1994 from the Technical University of Darmstadt. Schneider is responsible for RWE's technical department. In September 2009, he was appointed a member of the management board of RWE Rheinland Westfalen Netz AG, and since 2011, he has been a member of the board of RWE Deutschland AG.
Thomas Wiesner (firstname.lastname@example.org) was awarded his Ph.D. in 2002 for exploring the impact of a large number of decentralized energy conversion systems on the distribution networks, and he has created the vision of an integrated services power network. Prior to Wiesner's responsibility for asset management affairs in electricity and gas distribution networks at RWE, he was a member of the department for asset management and regulatory affairs. He is a leading expert in the future networks, the so-called smart grids, is head of a working group at the German Federal Association for Energy and Water, and is a member of the Innovative Utility Alliance.
Michael Laskowski (email@example.com) obtained his Ph.D. in 1990 at the Ruhr-University of Bochum in the field of automatic control engineering and, in 2006, was awarded the title of honorary professor by the University of Applied Sciences in Dortmund. Following his position as head of electricity processes at RWE Energy in September 2009, Laskowski was given responsibility for smart metering services in electricity and gas distribution networks at RWE Rheinland Westfalen Netz AG. During his career, Laskowski has been a board member of two information technology companies. Currently, he is the project leader of E-DeMa, one of the six German E-Energy projects sponsored by the German government. Since 2010, he has been managing director of RWE Metering GmbH.
German Federal Ministry of Economics www.bmwi.de
RWE Deutschland AG www.rwe.com
University of Dortmund www.uni-dortmund.de