Various energy supply companies are currently in the decision-making process to replace traditional ripple control. Aargau's AEW Energie AG recommends acting proactively and is convinced that the realization of smart metering and load management on the same technology offers a lot of synergy potential in the introduction and operation.
A new world requires new technologies. The increasing decentralized feed-in or the increase in electromobility requires of local energy distribution companies, above all, one thing: Flexibility. The replacement of conventional ripple control offers challenges such as local overvoltages or the management of new load peaks in the grid, but also new solutions with which such emerging dynamics can be flexibly managed. With GridFlex Control, for example, all heat pumps, night storage tanks, boilers or street lighting can be grouped in a supply area, regardless of where the individual devices are physically connected. This allows flexibility to be freely and dynamically organized, grouped or separated.
As a long-standing partner of Landis+Gyr, AEW Energie has positioned itself as a leader in load management and digitalization and has also been a pioneer in the adaptation of the latest technology in the rollout of smart meters and since 2020 in the planning and implementation of the GridFlex Control solution. AEW Energie has proactively dealt with new solutions, as the future challenges in the distribution network according to the energy distribution company cannot be solved with the classic ripple control. The change of household electricity meters therefore goes hand in hand with the replacement of the ripple control for AEW. “Our goal is to replace conventional ripple control by the end of the smart meter rollout,” says Patrick Hauser of AEW Energie AG. “According to current planning, this will be at AEW Energie by 2030 at the latest. In many AEW municipalities, the replacement has already been completed.”
G3-PLC — A challenging introduction but great potential
The first generation of the combined solution of smart metering and load management based on the PLC-PLAN+ technology was quickly introduced and operated in a stable manner. According to AEW Energie, the new PLC-G3 generation offers more potential and many new possibilities, but there were delays and challenges in the project. As a pioneering project, the technology was still in its early stages, leading to complexities in planning and setbacks. In addition, there were other resource-intensive projects in the AEW at the time of introduction. "But now we are confident that we will achieve the goals set," Hauser said. The smart meters now take over the function of today's ripple control system and offer significant advantages. The ripple control signals control, among other things, high and low tariff times as well as blocking times of consumers such as electric boilers or heat pumps. Previously, signal changes had to be made at customers via the ripple control on site. The new technology allows bidirectional communication and thus central control and maintenance of individual commands on the system.
“We are convinced that the realization of smart metering and load management on the same technology offers a lot of synergy potential in the introduction and operation,” explains Hauser. “Basically, the main challenge in both areas is the stable communication with a large number of end devices at our customers.” As part of the smart meter rollout, all customers carry out on-site work for the device change, which is a major logistical and coordination task for the energy supply company. Hauser notes: “The effort for the installer is only insignificantly smaller if the ripple control receiver is replaced in addition to the counter. The simultaneous replacement therefore offers great savings potential, which we wanted to use.”
In the future, the GridFlex Control solution will be used to control various applications such as grid peaks, load shifts and electric vehicles (EVs). Although only a few cases can be used nationwide at present, the AEW hopes to be able to operate its network in a stable manner in the future, even with increased requirements, and to be able to provide the necessary capacities for production plants and consumers. “This with the aim of offering our customers a high quality of care at all times.”
Proactive action needed when replacing ripple control
Various energy supply companies are currently in the decision-making process to replace traditional ripple control. Although there is currently little need for action on the part of most distribution system operators, since the distribution systems are sufficiently large, Hauser recommends acting proactively. Because: “This is likely to change in the future with the expansion of PV systems and the spread of electromobility,” says Hauser. “If you only act when problems arise on a large scale, you will be too late. In addition, the costs for a later retrofit will be much higher.”
About AEW Energie AG
AEW Energie AG is an independent company of the canton of Aargau in Switzerland. With its safe and climate-friendly energy supply, AEW makes a significant contribution to the attractiveness of the site and the quality of life in the region. It aims for climate neutrality (net-zero) by 2040 at the latest. As an integrated energy service provider, AEW is committed to the production of electricity and heat/cold as well as being a leading grid operator and supplier for its customers. For electricity production, AEW focuses on hydropower as well as solar and wind energy. It also provides services in network and energy-related areas as well as in telecommunications.
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