Research highlight: Using electric heating to integrate more renewables in the Finnish power system

We live in the era of changes, as the mitigation of climate change requires actions on reducing the usage of fossil fuels. To change our current energy system, we will need to rely more on renewable and variable energy sources like wind and solar energies. However, these sources are variable and operate by weather conditions and not by the demand of consumers. This can be supported by ICT technologies and smart functions that can help matching the electricity consumption to the production from the variable renewable energy sources. Unless large electricity storages become more common in the future, we need to study and utilize the flexibility of our electricity consumption to ensure the stability of the electricity grid and to help in the energy system transformation.

Electric heating is studied in the master's thesis of Jari Pulkkinen, as a potential source of flexibility of the electricity consumption in the building. Located in north Europe, Finland is a heating dominated country with cold winters and cool summers where electric heating is commonly used and has a high impact on the energy system. Combining the popularity of electric space heating with the forthcoming changes in the energy systems and the high demand of heating power, the flexibility of the electric space heating may become an important aspect in the change. Consequently, this Thesis was conducted for creating a model to estimate how flexible electric space heating is in terms of economic gains, reducing environmental impact and to ensure the thermal comfort of the resident in today and 2050 from the household point-of-view in a detached house in Finland. Hence, both the behavior of the building and the delivery of heat from the electric heating systems were modelled and a 2050 environment created by basing it on the current profiles and today’s estimations. The studied electricity systems include the utilization of one or a combination of building automation, real-time pricing (e.g. Elspot, the Nordpool spot price), local generation (PV panels) and electric and thermal storages (batteries and the mass of the building).

The results indicate that electric space heating is a flexible part of the building’s electricity consumption and can be shifted or altered with utilizing the thermal mass of the buildings and by considering indoor temperature boundaries to prevent too cold and warm temperatures. Local generation showed potential in reducing both electricity invoices and environmental impact, but currently, its utilization in electric space heating with and without battery systems seem to be unfeasible due to their high payback times. This may change in the future as the electricity prices rise, making the usage of PV panels without battery systems economically more attractive in 2050, even on their current prices. The utilization of real-time price with building automation was found to be more economically feasible, as it allows using cheaper hours in heating, as the temperature does not drop too much during the high price times allowing the deferral of the electricity consumption in space heating.

This research will continue, as part of the Smart Energy Networks 2050 (SEN2050) project. The model will allow studying the combination of other electricity consuming parts of the building with the electric space heating and the total flexibility of the building’s electricity consumption.

Ref.: Jari Pulkkinen (2019) Demand side management potential of using electric heating in Finnish buildings: current and prospective technologies.


Last updated: 20.2.2019