A good example of a motor-driven system with built-in buffer capacity is water management.
Driven primarily by pump systems with electric motors, water management, purification and desalination score high on nearly all flexibility criteria. Moreover, it is a sector of growing concern because of the increasing need and decreasing availability of fresh water sources in many regions of the world, including Europe. In short, this sector represents a growing opportunity to make motor systems participate in demand response.
Industry has worked hard to improve its energy efficiency, with impressive results so far. The new challenge is to make energy demand more controllable, able to fluctuate to respond to the electricity market conditions. Such flexibility can be in conflict with energy efficiency. Industrial operators will have to deal with additional parameters to optimise their economic output. In any case, both energy efficiency and flexibility are great tools for decarbonisation.
Those values are useful to compare the energy efficiency of a cogeneration system with that of separate generation. But seen from a distance, aren’t they relics from another era? If you exchange an electricity grid connection and a natural gas boiler for a solar PV panel generating the electricity for both your house and your heat pump, isn’t that also a cogeneration system? Moreover, one with infinite efficiency? That is, if you are going off-grid, which is unlikely, because you will have difficulty to match supply and demand.
This brings us to another weakness of those efficiency calculations: they don’t take the time of electricity and heat production into account, while in fact both vary considerably in value over time.
It could make sense to match fluctuations between commercial buildings, where heat demand is highest during the day, and residential schemes, where it’s higher in the mornings and evenings.
This concept could benefit millions of EU citizens with locally produced heat, e.g. from solar collectors, biomass-fired boilers, or micro-scale combined heat and power (CHP) plants.
Rather than every building optimizing its own heat supply, will the future bring communal heat services through local cooperatives or small-scale utilities?
Will we have thermal power stations in a low-carbon economy? If so, a number of conditions need to be in place (see ). What will be the economic performance of a biogas-fired, combined-cycle thermal power station? How will it compare to the cost of a variable renewable electricity power plant with an energy storage solution?
Today, beyond efficiency, flexibility is key for utilities to be profitable. Capacity remuneration mechanisms are naturally evolving from rewarding base load towards incentivising flexibility in all its forms.