Enabling consumer engagement in the future electricity networks

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Conference Papers
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J. Vasiljevska
A. Mengolini
G. Fulli

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Today's electricity system is facing the challenge to respond to growing environmental concerns while assuring sustainable, secure and cost-effective power system operation. Although large scale integration of generation close to load appears as a promising solution to cope with these challenges, much effort is still needed in engaging consumers to take a bigger role in managing their power consumption. In this context, consumer engagement may play a key role in sustaining policy developments that entails an increased share of renewable energy sources in the electricity use together with a more efficient use of electricity energy.

Sustainable energy consumption will require a shift towards a two way communication and power flow between consumers and power suppliers in order to optimize the use of renewable energy resources and at the same time to minimize the use of less efficient power generation and network infrastructure investments. In this context, the aim of the present paper is to provide an insight on current trends and development on consumer engagement strategies in smart grid projects in Europe.

The paper presents some first results of a periodic survey on European smart grid projects that the Joint Research Centre carries out. One of the aims of the survey is to collect information on ongoing activities at European level on consumer engagement strategies in European smart grids projects. The analysis shows an increase in the interest in consumer engagement in European projects in particular in the residential sector, with ongoing projects being mainly at R&D or demonstration level.

Distribution System Operators (DSOs), challenged by the need to integrate increasing shares of renewable and distributed energy sources while ensuring security of system supply, are inherently interested in enhancing flexibility through energy efficiency and dynamic pricing so as to enable consumers responsiveness. Indeed, the survey shows that DSOs have started developing projects aimed at getting to know the consumers' preferences and behaviour and the impact of their choices on system's operators. DSOs, the results show, are acting as one of the key enablers for consumer's integration in the distribution network operation and planning.

The paper also presents some results on the main motivational factors behind consumer engagement in smart grids project and finally discusses challenges and strategies in consumer engagement. One concrete example of a successful smart grids deployment program is presented and possibilities of projects scalability are discussed.