Interview: Dr. Henning Schuster, E-Bridge Consulting - Making power grids more flexible by integrating storage systems

Interview: Dr. Henning Schuster, E-Bridge Consulting - Making power grids more flexible by integrating storage systems

The transformation process in the context of the energy transition is leading to increasing demand for flexibility in the energy system. Storage technologies are playing an increasingly central role in this. Integration into the distribution networks in particular is a key issue. You have worked intensively on distribution networks and their future development: What relevance do storage facilities have in the short-term processes and in the long-term plans of network operators? And how do you assess this?

Distribution grids in Germany are facing a huge challenge. Within a very short time (from the point of view of the energy infrastructure), unprecedented levels of renewable power generation will have to be integrated into the power grid. At the same time, numerous new electricity consumers such as electric cars and heat pumps will be connected. My thesis is: The power grid will not be able to cope with the new requirements in the coming decades, as the speed of grid expansion will practically not be able to cope with the new grid connections even under ideal conditions.

The network operator is therefore in urgent need of flexibility, and here storage facilities are at the forefront. In many joint studies with network operators, we have found that storage can offer considerable advantages in both short-term processes to ensure network stability and in medium- and long-term network developments - provided they are positioned in the "right places" in the network and coordination of the operating mode is possible.

An important, but due to procedural and regulatory hurdles still largely unused application area of battery storage is congestion management. At the same time, concepts such as Redispatch 3.0 are already being discussed, in which grid bottlenecks are to be solved in a decentralized manner by AI-based forecasts. ‍Whatrole do you see storage systems playing in redispatch now and in the future, and what hurdles must be overcome before they can fulfill their future role in redispatch?

The valuable flexibility of storage is still insufficiently utilized, and there are two main reasons for this: Grid operator processes and systems vary widely in sophistication and are often not yet ready, and the regulatory framework does not allow flexibility to be used to its full potential. Our mission at E-Bridge is to overcome both of these obstacles so that storage can reach its full potential. Ultimately, this benefits not only grid operators and storage operators, but also the energy transition as a whole.

To this end, we are developing innovative solutions together with network and storage operators that enable the flexibility of storage to be utilized even under the given system conditions. We are also making concrete proposals for shaping the regulatory framework. However, we have to be realistic about both challenges: Experience from the introduction of Redispatch 2.0 has shown that the implementation of new concepts in network management often takes longer than originally assumed.

The question often arises as to the state of our electricity system in terms of security of supply. What challenges do you see, particularly in the area of network infrastructure, in order to ensure a high level of supply security in the future? What role do the steadily increasing share of renewable energies and the increasing decentralization of power generation play on the one hand, and storage facilities on the other?

The growing share of renewable feed-in is less significant for supply security than the simultaneous shutdown of conventional power plants. This secured capacity is lacking in Germany, but fortunately (from a German perspective) security of supply must be evaluated within the framework of the European interconnected system. There is still considerable capacity here. However, storage facilities are already making a significant contribution to balancing power in Germany as well - and our European neighbors are also benefiting from this.

In the future, security of supply concepts should be increasingly considered in a decentralized manner. Storage facilities could play an important role here, for example in the area of black start and islanding capability by providing regional contributions.

In your opinion, what is the most urgent agenda item that needs to be tackled in order to accelerate the integration of storage systems into the grid in the short term and thus secure Germany's expansion targets?

From my perspective, accelerating grid connections of storage is critical at this time. Many grid operators are concerned that storage, especially in regions with high renewable feed-in, could potentially exacerbate grid problems instead of solving them. Another important challenge is that the rate of change in performance of storage is simply new to grid operators. To address this challenge, near-term solutions are needed to enable the rapid and efficient construction and connection of storage facilities. These storages can gradually unleash their full potential of flexibility for the market and the grid - exactly where they are urgently needed.

As Managing Director of E-Bridge Consulting, Dr. Henning Schuster combines his passion for the energy transition with many years of experience in management consulting to design pioneering solutions and forward-looking strategies for grid operators, market players, ministries and authorities. His approach is based on a comprehensive understanding of technical, economic and regulatory aspects - a foundation he also laid through his doctorate in electrical engineering with a focus on grid planning and operation at RWTH Aachen University. Together with his team at E-Bridge Consulting, I am passionate about making the energy transition efficient and successful.

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