Digitization to prepare electricity grid for green transition

Electricity supply Energy systems
Over the next four years, four Danish universities—headed by DTU—will conduct research into how increased digitization of the electricity grid and energy supply may promote the green transition.

The entry of electric cars on the Danish market, the construction of new data centres, more heat pumps, and increased electrification in manufacturing companies. These are just a few examples of how we in Denmark are rapidly expanding the use of electricity, often as a replacement of fossil fuels.

But even though more and more of our society’s most energy intensive sectors are gradually being converted to electricity, and although we are still increasing the production capacity, when it comes to green energy, Denmark’s total CO2 emissions are increasing, and our coal consumption is—in particular—going in the wrong direction.

We must become better at exploiting the green energy we are already producing
According to Henrik Madsen, Professor at DTU Compute and Head of the Centre for IT-Intelligent Energy Systems in Cities, the explanation is to be found in problems integrating and using the ever-increasing green energy production in the electricity grid:

“Denmark and the rest of the world are facing major challenges in integrating all the wind and solar energy produced in the electricity grid, and—unfortunately—the result is often that green power goes to waste. It’s depressing that wind turbines are relatively often stopped because of problems selling the wind energy produced. There is a need for a smarter—and more flexible—electricity and energy system. This will markedly reduce both CO2 emissions and energy costs for end users.”

And this is precisely the object of the Flexible Energy Denmark project (FED), a national partnership between the Danish technical universities, operators of electricity and district heating grids, IT companies, component suppliers, and end users.

“FED will develop the smart electricity system of tomorrow using digitization, big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and IoT solutions. These solutions will be developed and demonstrated in one or more of the eight living labs connected to the project and distributed throughout Denmark,” explains Senior Researcher Per Sievert from DTU Management Engineering.

System integration and consumption-based management instead of new infrastructure
Green energy sources such as wind and solar energy in Denmark are not only sustainable solutions for the future, they are also major energy suppliers already today. And in line with the increase in the share of green energy in the electricity system, we will need to exploit this resource better.

But this is difficult, as long as production is dependent on wind and weather, while consumption is not. An efficient green transition will therefore make new demands on how we produce and consume electricity. Data-intelligent linking of energy systems with better consumption regulation and the possibility of—for example—storing thermal energy in the district heating grid will increase flexibility so much that we will not need better battery storage or a radical reorganization of the electricity grid.

“With the FED project, we’ll have an opportunity to conduct research into better exploitation of green energy. Including by using new digital solutions as a basis for a development of products that can promote the necessary flexibility—both in the overall energy system and with end users. The current electricity systems have predominantly been designed so that production is geared to consumption. With the FED solutions, we’ll have the opportunity to obtain technological solutions that will mean that electricity consumption will follow electricity production more closely. The FED project will contribute to a reduction in climate impact, improved profitability, and greater security of supply in the electricity grid,” concludes Henrik Madsen.

Living labs and Center Denmark

As part of FED, 8 living labs are established which will form the nucleus of a new lab partnership under Center Denmark; Denmark’s new digitization hub for smart energy systems.