Distributed generation, the new paradigm for electricity consumption

30 / 01 / 2020

Distributed generation, the new paradigm for electricity consumption
Digitalisation, sustainability, the technological revolution...

We are undergoing a time of constant change in which the world of energy has become one of the leading protagonists. The energy industry is suffering real disruption as a radical change is emerging in the traditional way we understand energy consumption, and Dominion is positioned to be a strategic player in this. 

The increase in the demand for electricity is due to several factors, as the energy projects operations director Manu Barandiaran explains: "One the one hand, the gradual roll-out of the electric car has forced the replacement of fossil fuels by electricity; and on the other, domestic and industrial demand for electricity continue to rise because of the increasing demand by homes, businesses and society in general." Faced with this new paradigm, distributed or decentralised generation, also known as microgeneration, is making more and more sense. This is a new concept in power generation in which the user is the one to produce and store their own electricity, so becoming a "prosumer" and playing an active role in the field of energy production.

Distributed generation allows the owner of a small power generation installation, normally photovoltaic or mini wind, to sell the surplus they do not use to the grid and receive payment for this. While this system night seem complex, Dominion has extensive expertise enabling it to implement turnkey power generation and electric vehicle charging system solutions, and to follow a One-Stop Shop strategy meaning that distributed generation only needs one two-way meter and legislation that offers small investors legal security.

Distributed generation is characterised by four basic advantages:

Its proximity to the places where it is demanded avoids losses and reduces the saturation suffered by power distribution and transmission lines. This boosts efficiency and keeps costs down.

It uses renewable energies, largely photovoltaic or mini wind.

It helps to diversity the sources of electricity generation and therefore helps to guarantee supply in the event that one of them fails. Microgeneration improves the reliability, quality and security of the electricity system.

"All these features give distributed generation increasing importance because it also adds to the autonomy of Smart Cities in terms of their continuing dependence on large generating plants. Today we can see simple examples in solutions like street lights equipped with solar panels, or photovoltaic installations installed on the roofs of some factories or detached homes," explains Manu Barandiaran.

But one of the most important changes will come with the electric vehicle. The operations manager stresses the impact electric cars will have in a few years on global energy demand, to a point where it might lead to saturation of existing electricity distribution infrastructures.

Faced with this, Manu Barandiaran states that the self-generated alternative is a good option for considerably cutting the load on these infrastructures. Added to this is the fact that distributed generation will make the new electric vehicles into small stores of electricity able to recharge their batteries at times of day when more power is generated than consumed, and at the same time able to feed electricity they do not need into the grid at times of high overall demand. The use of electric vehicles as stores and small generating plants connected to the grid will lead to significant energy savings: in the United States alone 30% of power plants work less than 500 hours a year.

Coping with all these changes on the prosumer market calls for tools to enable every user to monitor both their power consumption and the electricity they feed into the grid, and to know the best time to charge their vehicle or to be aware of their overall consumption needs.

"The Dominion Multitechnical Services unit is specialised in starting up installations of this kind and offers turnkey solutions for setting up generators and electric vehicle charging points. Moreover, thanks to Alterna, our own energy provider, Dominion can offer a total solution that includes buying back surplus electricity, building client loyalty and even financing generators under its Smart House concept," he explains. 

The expertise built up by Dominion in the electricity sector, together with its technological core and its knowledge of processes, give it a leading role in the process of turning existing networks into Smart Grids by means of digitalisation, monitoring and real-time process analysis. This process, together with the use of tools based on the Internet of Things and peer-to-peer Blockchain technology, enables it to carry out the buying and selling of electrical power between companies and individuals, and to set up a platform to maximise saving for each prosumer. 

It is small in size compared to conventional generating plants.

Dominion has the technological knowledge and know-how it needs to lead this change in the energy model, in which prosumers will play an active part in demand and generation compared to the role traditionally played by the big companies.

Manu Barandiarán

Manu Barandiarán

| Operations manager in Dominion Energy

All these changes represent major progress towards a more efficient, sustainable energy model, in which Dominion plays a strategic role in managing overall demand for energy, in line with its commitment to the aims of the struggle against climate change.