The power grid of the future

The NorFlex project aims to enable electricity customers to pay lower network tariffs in return for being flexible in their electricity consumption. Enova has given NOK 22 million of funding to the project, which is being led by Agder Energi.

“We are delighted to have received support from Enova. It will play an important role in stimulating our investment in digitalisation to find new, better ways to use the power grid in the future. The grant shows that Enova is helping to spur on the digital revolution we are in the midst of” says Tom Nysted, the Agder Energi Group’s CEO.

Agder Energi, Statnett, Glitre Energi, Mørenett and NODES are partners in the project.

“I think it is very positive that Statnett are taking part in the project. That will enable us to explore this at all levels of the Norwegian power grid”, explains Nysted.

A smarter, more flexible grid

The current grid wasn’t built to supply large amounts of electricity in a short space of time, as is needed to charge electric vehicles, for example. According to the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), there is a need to invest NOK 140 billion over the coming ten years.

“We believe that continuously upgrading the power grid in line with the growing number of electric vehicles and population growth isn’t sustainable in the long run – for us, our customers or the country as a whole”, explains Nysted.

The project partners will therefore use the Enova funding for their own projects designed to reduce the need for grid upgrades in their respective areas. In the case of Agder Energi, that means building on a project that has already been started at Engene substation in Arendal.

Flexible electricity consumption that doesn’t harm customers

At times, this substation was overloaded due to growing demand for electricity. For a long time, the only solution appeared to be investing in a new transformer, at a cost of NOK 50 million.

However, Agder Energi managed to develop a solution that avoided the need for that investment. Using historic data on weather conditions and electricity consumption made it possible to estimate how much demand there would one day ahead. In order to reduce total electricity demand in the area, the underfloor heating at the local sports centre and industrial cold stores were disconnected for short periods of time.

“We believe that this pilot project represents a good starting point. At Engene we have already shown that we can work with customers to enable more flexible electricity consumption. Without affecting the comfort or business operations of our customers. Now it will be exciting to see how we can use the technology that we have already developed to create new, intelligent solutions for both business and domestic customers”, explains Nysted.

Quick facts about NorFlex

The NorFlex project has received a NOK 22 million grant from the state-backed energy fund Enova.

The grant shall be used to develop the power grid of the future.

NorFlex has a budget of NOK 55 million.

The project period is 2019-2021.

The project is a partnership between Agder Energi, Statnett, Glitre Energi, Mørenett and NODES.