BCDC thesis: Everyone wants flexibility – But how do you integrate it into the electricity market?

BCDC Energy research project welcomes everyone to Florian Kühnlenz’s thesis defence, which will be held at the University of Oulu’s Linnanmaa Campus Saalasti Hall on Tuesday 5 November 2019, at 11 a.m. Opponent is Professor Peter Lund from Aalto University and custos Professor Ari Pouttu from the University of Oulu.

In this BCDC’s interview Florian tells us about the content of his doctoral research, the research methods, and the results and the applicability of his results in a multidimensional manner. In addition, he discusses the importance of his research in achieving a wider target and goals; that is, for electricity and energy systems’ disruption and climate change mitigation.

Please, tell us who are you, and where did you conduct your doctoral thesis?

My name is Florian Kühnlenz and I conducted my doctoral studies and research in Centre for Wireless Communications (CWC) and as part of the BCDC Digital Team, Oulu University.

 

What is the topic of your thesis and what are the main contents of it?

My thesis is titledAnalyzing flexible demand in Smart Grids. It deals with the complexity of steering the demand in Smart Grids.

In the near future, the demand from consumers will be an important source of flexibility, and while several ideas exist about how to make use of this flexibility, our research found they are often too simplistic.

Our research shows – through collaborative work – that a simple exposure of consumers to market prices will most likely not lead to the intended outcome of using renewable energy when it is available. Instead the flexibility needs to be integrated into the wholesale markets to be allocated efficiently.

 

What kind of new information and new results does your doctoral research offer?

In previous works about integration of consumer flexibility electricity markets have often been assumed to work more or less straight forwardly. However, electricity markets are a rather complex structure interacting in intricate ways with the physics of the grid. They have been designed and tuned over the years, so the incentives for the participants lead not only to an efficient use of resources but also to a stable power grid.

In the thesis it is demonstrated that these links should be considered to avoid unwanted outcomes when exposing consumers to market prices. In other words, the simple idea that electricity should cost more when it is more expensive to produce, is not as easy to implement as it sounds.

 

What is the role of your doctoral research and its results in relation…

…to the research tasks, targets and goals of the BCDC project and the Digital Team?

My thesis gives important guidelines about how the interaction between customers and providers of flexibility should be structured. For example, we – the authors of the research – encourage a mechanism that includes flexibility of consumers into the price formation of the market instead of making them just react to the official wholesale prices after they are formed and made public. Therefore, the thesis is closely linked with the goals of BCDC to help flexibility of consumers to reach the grid. Which in turn is necessary for the increased use of intermittent renewables like wind and solar.

…to the targets and goals of Strategic research?

BCDC is part of the Academy of Finland’s Strategic Research Council funded Disruptive Technologies and Changing Institutions (2015–2021) research program. How does your research relate to the goals of this research program?

In my thesis I strived to support the change from pure customers to prosumers by providing guidelines both economically and technologically, how the interactions between markets, grids and prosumers should be structured. In other words, it gives answers to the question asked by the Strategic Research Council: What changes are required in human activity, institutions and operational methods?

… to the development of the future electricity system, wider disruption of energy system, and to the targets and goals to mitigate climate change?

The only long-term solution for reducing CO2 output, is to expand the use of renewables. Renewables like wind and solar, however do not follow a production schedule like traditional power plants. We therefore have to adjust the consumption pattern to the production pattern, which is the opposite of how things are currently done.

This change will be brought on by all kinds of storage technology. One important storage technology is hidden at the consumer site in the form of flexible demand. Where the usage of electricity is shifted in time, just like it would with a grid side storage.

My thesis is trying to better understand the interaction of economics, grid physics and consumer behavior to make the integration of renewables possible.

 

Which actors etc. can benefit from the results of your thesis?

I hope that my thesis is helping future flexibility aggregators to orient their business model, as well as the policy makers and the public by avoiding unnecessary cost for balancing energy that might occur from consumers that are driven by wholesale prices.

 

What method did you use in your research and what do you think about this method’s role for your research? Was this a successful choice?

I have used mainly agent-based models in my thesis to model different actors very independently of each other, and to be able to have multiple actors of each kind interact in ways not necessarily confined by other types of mathematical frameworks.

I consider the methodology a successful choice, yes. It helped me to think more clearly about the structure of the problem and made it easier to interpret the results.

 

Lastly: How is it going on now? Where are you working and what kind of issues do you work with?

I am working now in Germany, at an energy and flexibility aggregator, named energy2market (e2m), applying many of the things I learned in practice during my thesis process.

The e2m is aggregating many different kinds of assets, from bio-gas power plants, wind and solar farms to batteries as well as flexible demand like electric cars. All of these are managed through a virtual power plant, which enables the e2m to offer their production or consumption to the wholesale markets and their flexibility into various reserve markets.

My job is the optimization of production schedules as well as generating more profitable strategies for bidding into the reserve markets.


BCDC congratulates Florian and wishes success to his current and future works!
 

Florian Kühnlenz’s thesis is part of the 6G Flagship research led by the University of Oulu and appointed by Academy of Finland. The Finnish 6G Flagship is a vigorous research and co-creation ecosystem for 5G deployment and 6G innovation.

“Future power systems needs 6G”, says in this video professor Ari Pouttu who is the director of 6G Flagship Energy Research.

DOCTORAL THESIS (PDF-FULLTEXT)

The University of Oulu’s dissertation ad (eng)
Oulun yliopiston väitösilmoitus (fin)

Power grid photo: Pixabay
 

The interview was published on 28th October 2019 on BCDC Energy research project website.


 

 

Last updated: 28.10.2019

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