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Gotland: the epicentre of the EU's smart grid project

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The island of Gotland, approximately 90km east of mainland Sweden, has become the epicentre of a three-year smart grid trial aimed at meeting the EU's climate change target of reducing carbon emissions by 20% before 2020. How will the Gotland Project contribute to Sweden's future energy efficiency and the EU as a whole?

Thwarting the risks associated with climate change is a major area of concern for the European Union. As a result, Europe has been working hard to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global warming at less than 2ºC.

In order for the EU to achieve an energy-efficient, low-carbon economy, the world, according to scientific data, must reduce its emissions to half of the 1990 levels by the middle of the 21st century.

While the EU has dedicated itself to reducing emissions 20% by 2020, it has proposed increasing that target and decreasing emissions 30% by 2020, in the event that other emitting countries in the developed and developing worlds also decide to partake in global emission reduction efforts.

According to the EU, continuing to tackle the impact of climate change and investing in green technologies will therefore bring about an improvement to the economy, produce jobs and reinforce Europe's competitiveness in the world.

Upgrading the current smart grid

"Europe has been working hard to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global warming at less than 2ºC."

Gotland will play its part in that reduction by requiring greater flexible and sustainable energy systems, as well as more intelligent and efficient electricity networks than those that are available today.

US-based Echelon Corporation is working in association with companies Vattenfall, ABB, Gotlands Energi AB (GEAB), the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Schneider Electric (formerly Telvent), as well as the Swedish National Grid, and will be partly financed by the Swedish Energy Agency.

The current Swedish grid was constructed in the late 20th century to move electricity from various hydro and nuclear power plants to consumers across the country.
Swiss power technology company ABB has predicted that the future grid will derive electricity generation from scaled-down wind power farms, which will then be linked to electricity distribution networks.

Because the current grid in Sweden is not suitable for a more advanced type of power generation, the Gotland smart grid will be used as an example of how such outdated electricity networks can be modified to work with modern technology.

Gotland is an area capable of producing an immense amount of wind power, an energy source which currently produces 40% of the total energy used on the island.

The project will essentially create new approaches towards constructing and ensuring the functionality of the smart grid while incorporating wind power into the overall distribution system.

It will be used as an example that highlights the development of a sustainable way to generate electricity that can then be transferred around Sweden and worldwide.

A comprehensive view of the island's smart grid

The project will follow two phases, according to Swedish power company Vattenfall. The first will involve supplying the electricity metering system, which will require developing and installing 600,000 residential meters in the homes of Vattenfall customers living in the central, northern and western regions of Sweden.

"Gotland's smart grid will be used as an example of how such outdated electricity networks can be modified to work with modern technology."

The second stage will incorporate a management service and an operating system that will enable Vattenfall to be in accordance with Swedish legal regulations concerning billing procedures, while improving customer service efficiency. This phase will also involve managing metering information, reporting all the data attained and maintaining the technology involved in the project.

Echelon's director of global business development and marketing, Larry Colton, says the purpose of the Gotland project is to "cost-efficiently increase the hosting capacity for wind power."

According to Colton, Vattenfall "wanted to showcase novel technologies that could improve their grid as far as power quality and as far as the efficiencies of it." Colton further explained that Vattenfall intends to "also create possibilities for demand-side participation in the market by customers, so where they can shift loads from peak load hours to peak production hours."

While the trial period for the Gotland Island smart grid will only last until 2015, the grid project itself will not end there.

Further analysis will take place, according to Colton, which will reveal the data taken from the smart grid.

Echelon's product manager of grid applications, Jon Dayton, explains that the project "is a testing period after which they will decide how they want to move forward." Dayton adds that Vattenfall "will also be looking at the use of some in-home displays (IHD)" during the trial period.

The purpose of analysis during the project, explains Dayton, is to "determine whether their plans and their goals are feasible."

The customer end of the smart grid project

"While the trial period for the Gotland Island smart grid will only last until 2015, the grid project itself will not end there."

In terms of the of the technology involved and how the customer will be affected, Colton reveals that Vattenfall will be using Echelon's meter sensors to capture hourly data that they can put up on a web portal, which these customers will have access to.

According to Vattenfall's Johan Söderbom, R&D manager, customers will receive a "commercial offer from the retailer that is part of the project."

He adds that "they are all currently on a variable price or a monthly spot price as well as having a high consumption electric heating of some kind. Since the consumption is rather high with these customers, there will be a real opportunity to affect the total cost for electricity."

As far as whether the project will be more cost effective for the customer in the long run, Söderbom explains this will be dependent on the development of electricity prices and more so on the development of the variations in price over the day. He further details that "on larger account it is also dependent on the development of the market as such."

When it comes to who will be involved in the installation of the smart meters, Söderbom reveals that "there is already a 100% roll out of smart meters in Sweden. In the project the customer buys (as part of the contract) equipment for dynamic pricing control of the heating systems. Since some of these need fixed installations this will be done by a service company. In addition," he adds, "there are a number of customers (about 3,000) that get upgraded meters, but that is part of another subproject that is looking into power quality and LV monitoring and control."

Future plans for the smart grid

While 2015, as mentioned previously, will not be the conclusion of the project, Vattenfall plans to use its findings in several ways throughout Sweden.

Söderbom explains that "tested retail products will be offered to the rest of the market and the LV monitoring systems will be implemented in many similar networks."

However, he reveals that there will be changes to the Gotland Project as far as its R&D activity "with high probability that other actors, than the project's partners, are offering these services or technical solutions."

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