In our modern energy system, flexibility and smartness in the electric power grid is essential for sustainability. Here, flexibility means the degree to which producers, consumers and prosumers are able to react to the fluctuating supply on the electricity market.
Particularly, if electricity from intermittent sustainable sources continues to increase, the demand will have to be geared to the supply, in some way. Heat pumps are important components of a smart grid.
They are perfect for demand management in smart grids, since they convert electrical energy into thermal energy. By combining heat pumps with thermal storage, the heat pump can be applied as a regulatory instrument. In addition, they are flexible in the sense that they can start up relatively quickly.
However, if heat pumps are installed on a large scale in existing buildings, there is a potential grid load peak that needs to be managed, especially in countries that rely on natural gas as the sole energy carrier. Furthermore, these heat pumps have to be managed in a smart way since they otherwise have a large simultaneity factor: "when it is cold, they all switch on at the same time."
Although smart-grid pilot projects and studies have demonstrated the advantage of smart-driven heat pumps, commercially available heat pumps are not provided with communication as a standard. Neither can the grid communicate with heat pumps.
The Internet of Things is rapidly becoming the solution expected to bridge this dilemma, enabling smart heat pumps to interact with a standard grid. The approach of this annex is to have each participating country consider some key questions, and then compile and discuss the answers.
Key questions include the size and urgency of the country's grid problem, possible scenarios including heat pumps to solve these problems, the cost for each of these solutions, and conclusions regarding the road ahead.
The results from this Annex will make it easier to plan and implement smart grids, drawing on the advantages of heat pumps. In this way, the advantages of smart grids will be optimized: balance in the energy system, decreased energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
To gather information for governmental and non-governmental policy makers and decision makers on energy systems in urban areas concerning the possibilities and barriers related to the implementation of heat pumps in smart grids;
To develop strategic information for the heat pump industry, including its supply and consulting chain. Further, in the long run, to contribute to the implementation of smart grids, for -
Balance between supply and demand in the energy system;
Reductions in energy use;
Reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.
The business model behind heat pumps in smart grids was assumed to be in flexible tariffs, which would tempt users to adjust the on/off switching of their heat pump device.
One of the results from Annex 42 was that flexible tariffs may not be as effective as was anticipated, since they have limited potential to influence the end user.
The generally accepted perception in 2012 of a smart managed grid that rules and serves 'dumb' heat pumps has proven to be outdated in just four years' time.
On the other hand, smart heat pumps, with their flexibility and versatility (based on the Internet of Things) aggregated by a totally new type of companies, will form an entirely new perspective on the start-up of 'heat pumps in smart grids'. This is a potentially strong instrument for managing 'smart cities'.