Smart energy management: finding the right balance between supply and demand

Smart energy management: finding the right balance between supply and demand
Smart energy management can benefit users in many ways. One of them is finding the right match between what’s being supplied by the utility companies and what’s being consumed. The Internet of Things and the data generated by devices can play a role in this regard.

Part of the user's need to optimize consumption is driven by electricity prices, which can be volatile depending on supply. Adjusting the level of consumption to these fluctuations in real time, therefore, can be hugely beneficial. “Even within one day, prices can be at certain moments 200 euros per megawatt hour, and a few hours later they can be 5 euros. This is a huge spread we see. If we increase consumption when prices are at 5 euros and reduce consumption when prices hit 200 euros, then you can imagine the kind of optimization this will be when compared to just continuously consuming,” said Cedric De Jonghe, Manager for Utility Practice at Actility, an energy management solutions provider.
 
Actility’s platform connects with sensors and meters at an end-user entity, be it a water plant or a healthcare facility. Meanwhile, it also connects with utility firms and the energy market in general. This way, the system can tell the user when to adjust consumption, and by how much, according to prices and the amount of supply at the time.
 
According to De Jonghe, the company’s solution can benefit various types of end-user entities, for example water companies, which usually have hundreds or even thousands of pumps in operation, drawing water from the reservoir and delivering it to the distribution network. “What we are doing is, the moment we see there is a lot of renewable power being produced, we'll start turning on water pumps. At other moments when the electricity grid is in a shortage so there's not a lot of power available, and the electricity price is spiking, we'll turn off the pumps,” De Jonghe said. “By doing so we can reduce electricity consumption.”
 
The solution is made possible by IoT devices, for example sensors and water meters, as well as the data they generate. “We capture this data, bring this data together in our database, and then we can use our intelligent algorithms to ... help make decisions on how to operate this process,” De Jonghe said. “We can make smart decision in real time, based on the data we captured.”
 
In the event of an impeding shortage or blackout, Actility can directly intervene by telling its end user partners to lower consumption or switch over to the user’s backup power system. In one example, Actility is working with a major European telecom operator with over 7,000 fixed base stations and broadband internet routing sites, each equipped with a high-capacity array of small back-up batteries. In case of an unexpected demand surge, the local utility operator sends load curtailment requests to Actility, which then translates those requests into control requests to the base stations. The stations will then switch over from distribution grid supply to using a maximum of 50 percent of the energy stored in the batteries, maintaining the resilience of the site.
 
From a utility company's perspective, this is doing them a service by helping prevent shortages and blackouts. As such, Actility is working with a rather interesting business model: It gets paid by the utility for providing such service, and shares the money with its downstream customers. “Actility drives additional revenues for occasional grid balancing, considering real-time price opportunities and reacting to demand response requests from the grid operator,” De Jonghe said.


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