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Equigy – Crowd Balancing Platform

The increase in renewable energies is causing greater volatility in electricity production. Consumption is also becoming more volatile as electric vehicles, heat pumps and the electrification of industrial processes increase. As a consequence, there is more fluctuation in the electricity grid, which represents a challenge for transmission system operators such as Swissgrid.

As electrical energy cannot be stored in the power grid, the quantity fed in and withdrawn must remain the same at all times. Even minor deviations must be compensated continuously. New and additional sources are required to ensure that the increased demand for balancing energy can be met in the future. So why rely only on flexible power plants such as pumped storage power plants for balancing energy, but not on the many small, decentralised producers and storage facilities? This is exactly what the Equigy project is testing.

Equigy is a Crowd Balancing Platform launched in Switzerland by the transmission system operator Swissgrid and initialised by a joint consortium with TenneT and Terna (TSO’s in Netherlands/Germany and Italy). Using blockchain technology, the platform aims to integrate small, decentralised units such as photovoltaic systems, batteries, heat pumps or electric vehicles into the balancing energy market. Owners of these small units could make their capacities available to the transmission system operators with the help of third parties, known as aggregators. TenneT has already been able to confirm technical feasibility with a trial in the Netherlands and Germany. Between June and December 2020, a similar pilot project is taking place in Switzerland, in which Alpiq is also involved.

What contribution does Alpiq make to Equigy?

As one of the largest electricity producers in Switzerland, that already provides balancing power from a flexible power plant portfolio and that markets decentralised third-party plants such as wind power stations, biogas plants or batteries, Alpiq is ideally suited to the role of a commercial aggregator. As such, we form the link between the technical aggregator, which controls the plants, and the transmission system operator. Alpiq offers aggregated flexibility on the system services market and provides primary control power.

Why are batteries particularly suitable for providing balancing energy?

The Crowd Balancing Platform is intended to prove that many small production, consumption or storage units are just as suitable for providing balancing energy as flexible hydroelectric or gas-fired power plants through their aggregation via blockchain technology and IoT. Battery storage systems are also of particular interest. Like no other system, batteries can react to grid changes in millisecond intervals. Permanently installed large or home batteries, as well as mobile batteries such as those used in electric vehicles can provide both positive and negative control power using the emerging vehicle-to-grid technologies. In other words, they can feed electricity into the grid when required, but also draw off and store it when there is a surplus.

Why is Alpiq the right aggregator?

Alpiq has been active in pooling balancing energy from decentralised electricity producers for several years. We also manage battery storage facilities on behalf of customers and provide ancillary services. The 1.2 MW battery storage facility at Maienfeld was the first battery storage facility in Switzerland that Swissgrid prequalified for secondary control power. From Q3/2020, a 20 MW battery will go into operation in Brunnen (SZ), which is currently the largest battery storage facility in Switzerland and also provides secondary control power.

How does the blockchain technology work in the background?

For Equigy, blockchain is used as a data repository. A range of live information, such as the flexibility bids made by the aggregators or the amount of effectively provided reserve energy, is stored in the ledger. This information can be retrieved by other participants at any time to perform tasks, such as triggering the assets.

To date, no smart contracting has been used to automate information processing on-chain, but this may be widely used in the future.

Which technology is used?

We use Hyperledger Fabric. This is a distributed ledger developed within the Linux Foundation. In the case of Equigy, IBM operates the nodes and provides APIs that allow other actors to retrieve and input data. The IoT devices do not yet interact directly with the Crowd Balancing Platform, but eventually they should have cryptographic identification so that they can send their data sets directly to the chain.

Why is this important for Europe?

It’s seen as the most viable collective approach among initiatives in Europe. The platform will allow small producers to help provide flexibility to the grid via an aggregator, and so play an active part in grid-balancing.

The new platform will set a new European standard and allow four, and possibly more, of Europe’s national Transmission System Operators (TSOs) – the entities tasked with transporting energy and balancing supply and demand – to work together to enhance and improve the green energy market.

Questions that we want to answer with the Equigy pilot project:

  • Is blockchain technically capable of supporting the process for providing primary control power?

  • How rational is it to set up a blockchain network between Swissgrid and a few aggregators? 

  • How easily can aggregators and plant or storage owners integrate the blockchain interfaces?

  • How and with what accuracy can we as an aggregator estimate the available capacity? 

  • Are we able to provide the capacity with the required reliability?

  • What would be the future business models between the grid operator, a commercial aggregator like us, a technical aggregator and the plant owners?

We will be happy to keep you informed about the development of our questions and the Crowd Balancing Platform Equigy. 

Further Information