RE prices are on a downward trend with falling wholesale prices, while coal and gas power stations are being shut down, writes Engerati analyst, Jonathan Spencer Jones.And while European utilities are fast learning to deal with the technical challenges of renewable integration, they are generally falling behind with the business realities, Capgemini has found in its latest annual European Energy Markets Observatory. [Europe’s energy markets – the new realities]

The net effect is a deterioration in utility balance sheets, while at the same time consumers are facing higher retail prices. In response, utilities need to adapt their business to these new realities both by restructuring their assets and/or shifting from being a commodity provider to an energy services company, says Capgemini.

Renewable data

While able to improve visibility of the grid over traditional SCADA systems, phasor measurement units (PMUs) are data rich devices that bring challenges to any operator who wishes to install them. For Finland’s TSO Fingrid, the requirement for PMUs emerged with the growing complexity of the grid specifically around renewables and an exponential increase in data flows of up to almost 2 billion samples per day. [Developing power system operations at Fingrid] To meet these demands Fingrid expanded the use of OSIsoft’s PI System with multiple servers to meet the various data intensive use cases.

Customer centricity and energy efficiency

Customer centricity is increasingly taking central stage in utility operations, but an area where it appears to be frequently lacking is in energy efficiency. A new study from ACEEE has found that in the US many utility energy efficiency programmes are designed around measures rather than people.  As a result they often appear to limit participant diversity. Buy-in cost, communication channels used and implementation methods can all play a role in participation. These findings will prove important in the UK where home decarbonization plays a major role towards attaining carbon targets. With full retrofits being prohibitively expensive for the national housing stock, targeted measures to combinations of housing and occupants will be necessary. [Energy efficiency – consider the customers]

Energy storage

California has played a lead role in the development of energy storage, envisaging its importance in the integration of renewables and with a long-term procurement plan supported with real-world experience from the utilities. Pacific Gas & Electric’s first storage devices to participate in the markets have demonstrated that frequency regulation is currently the most compelling application for battery storage. [PG&E demonstrates battery storage participation in California’s electricity market] Spinning reserves can make a modest addition to revenues but day-ahead and real-time energy revenues are currently not conducive to energy arbitrage.