Energy Innovation Austria

Bridges vol. 41, October 2014 / Feature

By energy innovation austria, BMVIT & the Climate and Energy Fund

This quarterly publication presents current Austrian developments and results from research work in the field of forward-looking energy technologies. The content is based on research projects funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology and by the Climate and Energy Fund.

Current Developments and Examples of Sustainable Energy Technologies: Making Electricity Networks Flexible

New Austrian Technologies and Concepts for Tomorrow‘s Energy Supply System

An ”intelligent electricity network” brings all players in the electricity market together into a comprehensive system optimized for all market participants, by coordinating interactions between generation, storage, grid management, and consumption. Smart Grid technologies form the basis for increased integration of decentralized electricity generation, particularly from renewable energy sources, and help to provide a secure supply as well as flexible generation and consumption. Together with European partners, Austrian researchers are developing pioneering strategies in order to create a sustainable energy system supported by smart technologies.

Smart Grid technologies

Part of the sustainable integrated energy system

The massive expansion of solar power, biomass, wind energy, and hydropower will lead to decentralized energy generation and weather-dependent fluctuations in electricity supply. An increasing number of small generation facilities spread across the landscape will feed electricity into existing networks, presenting a great challenge for grid management.

Energy supply and demand need to be coordinated and optimized through intelligent management and crosslinking. Network operators will become managers of the energy system; many enterprises and households will consume and generate electricity simultaneously, i.e., become ”prosumers.” Along with intelligent grid control, the energy consumption of industry, buildings, electric vehicles, and households must be flexibly and efficiently organized. 

Smart Grid technologies – together with flexible components and information and communication technologies – create the technical basis for intelligent electricity networks that connect all energy system actors (generators, storage devices, and consumers) and make optimized interaction feasible.

In order to be able to make significant use of Smart Grid technologies, it is necessary to push ahead with international standardization and to intensify transnational cooperation.

In the ”European Strategic Energy Technology Plan” (SET Plan), a key issue is to integrate renewable energy sources into power networks. This, among other programs, is being developed further internationally within the ”European Electricity Grid Initiative” (EEGI). For years, Austria has contributed towards the European goals in the shape of R&D activities. In programs funded by the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT) and the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund, technologies and strategies have been developed and implemented as part of demonstration projects in Austrian Smart Grid model regions. 

The Smart Grids 2.0 strategy process, initiated by the BMVIT, actively supports further development of power supply systems in collaboration with experts from electricity companies, industry, and research. Their goal is to jointly evaluate the current results from research and implementation and, from that point, to develop medium-term strategies and hands-on action plans for Austria.

The process focuses on: developing a Technology Roadmap for Smart Grids in and from Austria (responsible Technology Platform Smart Grids Austria), holding a series of expert workshops (BMVIT / B.A.U.M.), and working out a Strategic Research Agenda with 2035 as a timeframe (AIT Austrian Institute of Technology).

The future focus will have to be on embedding Smart Grid solutions in an integrated energy system that meets the requirements of markets, customers, and grids. The special solutions already developed (e.g., for active distribution networks, electric vehicles, load, and demand-side management) must be brought together based on the results so far. The Austrian projects presented here, partly conducted in collaboration with international partners, reveal some new research approaches for integrating Smart Grid technologies in an energy system suitable for the future.


Macroeconomic effects of Smart Grids 

The Institute for Higher Studies Carinthia (IHSK), with initiative by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund, conducted a macroeconomic evaluation of the smart expansion of Austria’s power supply system. They compared the costs and advantages of a conventional and a smart development track using three projected scenarios (with variations in the share of decentralized renewable energy generation and demand flexibility). From these comparisons, a picture emerged indicating that the volume of investment in the distribution network would be considerably lower if the smart modernization option were chosen. The most advantageous overall effects show up in the scenario ”Flexdemand,” which was calculated on the assumption of high load-redistribution flexibility and a high degree of energy self-sufficiency among consumers. 

Comprehensive plan for virtual power plants in European markets

In the course of various EU research projects, the first few market-driven approaches for virtual power plants have been developed, focusing on trading in selected energy markets. These Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) make use of curtailing aggregated loads, distributed generators, and stand-by generation capacities (e.g., back-up power supplies) as resources for services, which can be traded in European energy markets. However, there are other concepts for technical or grid-driven virtual power plants, in which loads and electricity generation are controlled to keep the parameters of the distribution grid within permitted limits, thus improving the security of supply. In most European countries, these approaches cannot be implemented yet as successful business models within existing regulatory frameworks. 

Researchers at the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) are currently developing a concept for a virtual power plant that combines both grid-driven and market-driven approaches. The hybridVPP merges the advantages of economic and technical VPP solutions into a comprehensive concept. The dual aim is to ensure operation of the secure distribution network even during massive demand-response activity and to improve the economic viability of technical demand-response solutions for operation of the distribution network.

The project hybrid-VPP4DSO involves the simulation-based evaluation of operating a virtual power plant with respect to its impact on the network, the technical-economic simulation of demand-response aggregation, and the simulation of suitable business models. Every area of the distribution network is graded in real time in categories ranging from ”not critical” to ”very critical.” In addition, the network operator may request switching measurements from the hybridVPP. From this input, the hybridVPP calculates possible-switching options based on short-term requirements from network operation and electricity trading, and determines the least costly option. Requirements from network operation take priority over those from electricity trading. 

After a technical proof-of-concept laboratory test run, the approach will be tested in actual grid sectors in Slovenia (ELEKTRO LJUBLJANA) and Austria (Stromnetz Steiermark GmbH). The test is coordinated by the AIT. STEWEAG-STEG GmbH, Elektro energija (Slovenia), Vienna University of Technology – Energy Economics Group, Institute for Energy Systems and Electrical Drives, Jan W. Bleyl, cyberGRID, and the Graz Energy Agency are also partners in this project. On top of this, the hybridVPP concept affords the possibility of adapting the business model to country-specific regulatory requirements in various European states.

SGMS Integra
Model for grid-driven and market-driven operation of Smart Grids

The Smart Grid model region Salzburg (SGMS) is the first area in Austria where innovative technologies and solutions from various fields of Smart Grid implementation are systematically brought together. In order to make use of potential synergies and to ensure the secure operation of the network, it is necessary to embed the specific pilot applications (e.g., integrating renewable energy into distribution networks, building integration, households and electric vehicles, and making loads more flexible in business and industry) in a comprehensive system. At the same time, market and grid requirements have to be coordinated.

So far, partial solutions have been considered independently of one another, and the requirement of system interoperability has not been taken into sufficient account. That is why, for example in the field of ICT, various protocols and interfaces compete with each other. This is where the INTEGRA project steps in, conducted by Salzburg AG in collaboration with Siemens AG Österreich, AIT (Austrian Institute of Technology), the Vienna University of Technology, and the German OFFIS – Institute for Information Technology.

On the basis of the results obtained so far from the Smart Grid model region Salzburg, an internationally standardized Smart Grid reference architecture will be developed, making it possible to bring local intelligent distribution networks and transregional virtual power plants in line with demands from European energy markets, while concurrently satisfying security and privacy guidelines. To justify the claim to international status, the project is being conducted in cooperation with the German partner project In2VPP

The focus is on how to organize secure and stable operation of the electricity system while Smart Grid services influencing and depending on each other are part of the equation. Aided by known tools from other areas, such as Model Driven Architecture (MDA), a comprehensive picture of the existing partial Smart Grid solutions is systematically assembled in the course of the project and investigated with respect to the entire energy system.

In order to bridge “missing links,” i.e., gaps in the transfer of data within the Smart Grid regarding the requirements of the market, customers, and the network, a so-called ”Flexibility Operator” (i.e., a configurable data distribution platform with integrated business logic) will be developed and tested in the model region Salzburg. Aided by modular tools such as interfaces and software modules, individual systems will be made interoperable.

Smart Grid model region Salzburg

The Smart Grid model region Salzburg (SGMS) encompasses a total of 23 projects largely funded by the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology and the Climate and Energy Fund. Pioneering solutions for active distribution network operation are implemented and evaluated in the course of demonstration projects (currently in the medium-voltage grid in Lungau, in the Smart Grid model community Köstendorf, and in the residential scheme Rosa Zukunft in Salzburg Taxham) in actual grid sectors. Apart from technological development, there is special emphasis on analyzing customer behavior and acceptance.

The aim is to implement “Smart Infrastructure Salzburg,” an intelligently acting energy system that matches electricity generation and consumption, taking into account regional differences. Thus, a high share of volatile renewable energy input will be viable and grid congestions can be avoided. Smart Grid technologies are utilized for intelligent network control as well as for exercising control over flexible loads and storage facilities in industry, buildings, and electric vehicles.

Energy policy turnaround = renewables + energy efficiency + smart grids

“In future the grid operator will acquire a new role; as a higher share of power generated comes from renewables (sun, wind), which are weather-dependent, there will be a good deal of unavoidable fluctuation. The key question is therefore how to maintain the electricity grid in a stable state in spite of fluctuations in generation and variations in demand. Supply and demand must be coordinated (balanced) by means of intelligent management and cross-linking. The grid operator thus develops from a power distributor pure and simple to a system manager.“

Michael Strebl, CEO Salzburg Netz GmbH

Network and market conditions in Smart Grids

The diagram shows various states of the electricity market resulting from particular network scenarios. Depending on the state of the grid, various different energy or system services will be needed to keep the entire system functioning normally so the market can operate without restrictions. Ideally, access to these services would be automated.

Pioneering control strategies for a flexible and secure power supply

Modernization of traditional distribution network layouts offers the opportunity to improve the flexibility and supply security of power networks by adopting new control strategies. The implementation of ICT, combined with active operation facilities, electric vehicles, and stationary storage devices, makes it possible to automate network operation increasingly and to influence specific generation units and consumers. Scientists at the Vienna University of Technology (Institute of Energy Systems and Electrical Drives) are conducting research on innovative control methods capable of maintaining a flexible and secure power supply.

In the SORGLOS project, researchers are developing methods and algorithms to achieve blackout robustness in individual network sectors (microgrids) via existing local producers and storage devices and by means of installed Smart Grid technologies. The research goes into black-start capability, secure network decoupling during blackouts, regulating generation, influencing loads, managing storage devices, and support during network reactivation.

Representative rural and urban Smart Grid network sectors with their differing characteristic generation structures form the basis of the project. First of all, individual components of the networks under examination are modeled. To represent a rural medium-voltage network, a pumped-storage power plant with a Francis turbine is emulated, to provide power during an outage. For the small-town low-voltage network with no access to additional power plants, a dynamic model is constructed of a backup diesel generator that would ensure supply security.

Functioning of the algorithms developed is simulated in a virtual demonstration with real data from Austrian Smart Grid projects (Great Walser Valley/Vorarlberg and Eberstalzell/Upper Austria).

Within the framework of the aDSM – Active Demand-Side-Management through Feed-In Forecasting, hierarchically scalable systems with distributed intelligence are being developed to bring the consumption of households and electric vehicles in line with the power fed in by in-house photovoltaic equipment as efficiently and flexibly as possible. Load redistribution or controlled charging activities are processed actively and, looking ahead, aided by an optimized feed-in forecast. A model settlement with 126 households and a high proportion of renewable energy (photovoltaics) provides the basic data, showing a representative cross-section of building and residential conditions at the low-voltage level. 

Demand from individual households is regulated or postponed through the control algorithm. Electro-thermal consumption (electric heating, circulation pumps, water boilers, refrigerators, and freezers) can be timed flexibly while staying within a time limit for power cutoff. Electric-vehicle batteries whose state of charge is greater than 50 percent are recharged under a controlled regime. For washing machines, clothes dryers, and dishwashers, specific programs are on hand in which the starting time can be delayed. If demand cannot be satisfied at the local level, higher system levels (up to the transmission grid) or energy storage devices should intervene in a coordinated fashion.

The results show that the local aDSM approach increases the ratio of solar electricity consumed internally to that generated, and increases the degree of self-sufficiency (i.e., the ratio of solar electricity consumed internally to overall electricity consumption) of households, while also reducing the actual average household expenditure on electricity. Compared with unmodified consumption

Patterns of aDSM, the share consumed internally can be increased from 20 to 28 percent, the degree of self-sufficiency from 24 to 35 percent. Decisive factors contributing to this outcome are the scale of the photovoltaic equipment and use of electric vehicles.

Automated planning of active distribution grid operation

KNG-Kärnten Netz GmbH‘s ProAktivNetz project researches how to integrate renewable energy sources (photovoltaics, wind, and hydropower) under all circumstances (e.g., maintenance work or occasional disruptions) that might occur during real network operation.

The power feed-in of renewable local generators depends directly on local weather conditions (amount of wind, sunshine, and water). The distribution network operator must be able to anticipate how much power these generators will supply, and switch the grid at the appropriate time, in order to deliver power to customers within a guaranteed voltage band at all times and keep the distribution grid within its limits. 

The aim of the ProAktivNetz project is to ensure security of supply and a maximum of renewable energy integration in any operating situation, through automated solutions. The project is being implemented in cooperation with AIT, the Vienna University of Technology, and industry partners Siemens and Ubimet.

In the course of the project, an algorithm for optimized active operation of distribution networks will be developed and tested, taking into account the current and forecasted behavior of local electricity generation (mainly from renewable sources).

For the first time, the cross-links and interactions between individual influencing factors are being analyzed in detail and solutions worked out to make automated planning possible for a defined time frame (48 hours). Timetables and generation anticipated from local generators, plans for disconnections due to maintenance work, and disruptions occurring in the distribution grid are used in the calculations.

ProAktivNetz will lay the groundwork for operating future active distribution networks with an optimized schedule, which reconfigures the network by switching in line with the anticipated demand and generation situation. Building on the project‘s findings, it will be possible to develop appropriate industrial products for use in distribution networks.

Opportunities and perspectives for Smart Grid technologies from Austria

In recent years Austria has invested a lot in researching, developing, and demonstrating Smart Grid technologies. How successful have these activities been so far?

By now Austria has three large Smart Grid model regions in Salzburg, Upper Austria, and Vorarlberg; in each region different aspects are tested and researched, such as the intelligent integration of customers into the network, active operation of distribution networks, ICT for Smart Grids, or integrating small photovoltaic units into the grid efficiently. These are all internationally recognized demo projects and a great success for our activities so far. The model region Salzburg was even awarded the Core Label by the European Electricity Grid Initiative in 2013, and is thus recognized as a European lighthouse project. 

Austria has taken up its position early, e.g., by founding the Technology Platform Smart Grids Austria, which does an excellent networking job in Austria among the relevant players from industry, electricity companies, and R&D organizations. During the last few years, a lot of R&D funding went into developing intelligent electricity networks. As a result, Austria is now at the forefront of the European SET Plan Initiative for power grids. Within the D-A-CH cooperation setup, experience with model projects is exchanged between Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. In addition, experts from Austria have worldwide contacts with top institutions (e.g., from the USA and Korea) through the ”International Smart Grids Action Network” (ISGAN).

What are the next steps on the path towards a sustainable power supply system?

The electricity grids have to be upgraded to meet higher challenges, e.g., integrating local electricity generators. That is how security of supply can be ensured in the future, too. Intelligent solutions expand the capability of grids. Smart Grids make it possible to pursue a conventional network expansion very selectively and efficiently. Smart Grids are not just a single technology, but need to be developed and tested according to regional network requirements. Thus, it is still necessary to provide targeted and transparent funding for Smart Grid technologies and to implement further large-scale demonstration projects. This is essential if we want to maintain and expand Austria´s pioneering role in integrating renewable energy sources and load management.


SGMS – Integra
Salzburg Netz GmbH
Contact: Robert Priewasser
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AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH
Energy Department
Contact: Michaela Jungbauer
Marketing and Communications
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aDSM & Sorglos
Vienna University of Technology
Institute of Energy Systems and Electrical Drives (ESEA)
Contact: Christoph Maier
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KNG-Kärnten Netz GmbH
Contact: Reinhard Iskra
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Technology Platform Smart Grids Austria
Contact: Angela Berger
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Information about the Austrian Smart Grids Model Regions and Projects:

energy innovation austria presents current Austrian developments and results from research work in the field of forward-looking energy technologies. The content is based on research projects funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology and the Climate and Energy Fund.