- Micro-generation's growing popularity gives ICT vendors a reason to feel optimistic
LONDON, July 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Poland's progress towards smart energy has been laborious, because of energy companies' unclear vision of implementation models and uncertain cost-benefit ratios. However, there is a perceptible shift in momentum, as utilities are responding to customer behaviour and incorporating more smart elements in their energy networks.
The rise of prosumers in Poland will drive the smart grid movement, wherein information and energy flows become bi-directional across the energy system. Prosumers not only consume but also produce energy using micro-generation assets; if they so choose, they can sell the excess energy generated back to the grid, based on dynamic and openly available price signals.
"Some Polish energy experts believe that the increase in decentralised energy production within the next ten years will be high enough to force grid operators to adopt more innovative approaches to load balancing," noted Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst, ICT, Ewa Tajer. "To prepare for this trend and to capitalize on it, utilities have to invest in ICT."
Many more prosumers will jump on to the micro-generation bandwagon once technology costs fall and small-scale energy production becomes more viable. A cost-effective way to meet the overall increase in energy demand is to install on-site wind or solar generating units.
The rise in distributed generation will widen the market for ICT companies, as micro-generation requires smart meters and grid automation and protection, especially in the low- and medium-voltage networks. Outdated analogue systems for grid management have to give way to digital technologies to enable self-adapting energy networks.
"An effective way to integrate micro-generation assets into the grid is to utilise virtual power plants (VPPs), which are clusters of energy producers acting together to overcome output variability," noted Tajer. "As VPPs are not limited to micro or small generating units, the concept can be adopted by bigger energy producers to feed more renewable energy into the grid without increasing load fluctuations."
So far, Poland has not had a single VPP, which translates to abundant untapped opportunities for hardware and software suppliers and communication service providers. The aggregation of distributed supply and demand will require building an infrastructure from scratch and a significant investment in all ICT layers, ranging from intelligent devices with M2M modules (smart meters as well as sensors and actuators across the grid) to fixed or wireless communication networks.
Other IT infrastructure requirements include VPP control centre middleware that enables data acquisition and integration, monitoring of activities, and event processing. VPP owners will also invest in software applications for data mining, modelling, grid optimisation, load management and automatic fault prevention and detection.
"As interest in micro-generation and renewables grows, there will be higher pressure on the government to revise laws and on energy utilities to make appropriate investment decisions, which bodes well for the ICT market," remarked Tajer.
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SOURCE Frost & Sullivan