Robustness and flexibility of the energy system

Our current energy system is geared to certainty: the production of electricity and gas is geared to a predicted variation in energy demand. The grid has a very high level of reliability. This certainty is vital for our economy and for our comfort. Future scenarios show that the Dutch energy system will change significantly over the next 10 to 15 years. It is unlikely that our current energy system will be able to continue to guarantee reliability in the face of a rapidly growing and fluctuating share of solar and wind power. The rise in electricity production from wind and solar energy requires a system that also focuses on flexibility in order to be able to cope with large variations in supply and demand.

The demand for flexibility in the electricity system will double between now and 2030. In the years that follow - between 2030 and 2050 - demand will triple. This increasing demand for flexibility - in addition to an increase in the consumption of electricity - is mainly caused by a rapidly growing share of sun and wind in the production of electricity.

It is only by giving flexibility a more prominent role in our energy system that we can make it more sustainable and future-proof. Only then will the transition to a sustainable energy supply be feasible.

TNO combines domain knowledge of energy with that of large-scale and complex IT systems. TNO develops technological and digital innovations to be able to respond quickly to fluctuations in the supply and/or demand of electricity, such as various forms of energy storage, constantly adjustable energy generation and systems such as PowerMatcher that match the electricity demand of building owners, housing corporations and/or small business users to the supply. Each option has a specific functionality and application. A combination of different options will be needed.

TNO knows how central and distributed control of hybrid energy systems can be achieved with due regard for the local situation. We have knowledge in the field of stability of the electricity grid, matching supply and demand of electricity and heat, electric transport and system integration from an energy system perspective.

We have tools/products available such as the PowerMatcher which aims at balancing the supply and demand of electricity on the basis of a price mechanism using our own developed generic interface to devices (EF-PI) and the HeatMatcher that aims to balance heat supply and demand.

A blueprint for the future cannot, of course, be given. The energy systems of the future will be equipped with mechanisms capable of handling large numbers of connections, products and services from a wide range of parties.  For parties who want to contribute to the development of useful flexibility in the energy system by means of practical experiments, TNO has set up a test site where new technologies can be tested under real conditions. In the Hybrid Energy System Integration (HESI) facility, TNO supports companies in bringing their innovations to market more quickly. HESI is the first facility of its kind in Europe and is able to perform real-time simulations per home, office, street or district/municipality for up to 100,000 connections via the fastest available internet links in direct contact with energy labs in the United States and elsewhere. This TNO test facility tests hardware and software innovations for companies in a controlled, realistic environment, thus enabling them to go much faster from prototype to market.

Towards a reliable, affordable and fair energy system