Europe’s ‘Nice Grid’ project aims to change the grid as we know it

‘Smart grid’ has been a buzzword in the renewable energy/electricity sphere for years now. A European pilot program – ‘Nice Grid‘ – seeks to make the renewables-friendly, distributed generation-centric microgrid dream into a reality.

Nice Grid is one of 6 demonstration projects under the GRID4EU program. The overarching goal of these projects is to demonstrate how electricity infrastructure can be reimagined and redesigned from a system based on centralised electricity generation plants – like coal, gas and nuclear power – to one based on distributed resources like rooftop solar and energy storage.

“The initiative will test the potential of smart grids in renewable energy integration, electric vehicle development, grid automation, energy storage, energy efficiency and load reduction,” says Think Grid about the initiative.

“The project brings together 6 DSOs [distribution system operators], covering over half of metered electricity customers in Europe, and 27 other partners, including utilities, energy suppliers, manufacturers, and research institutes.”

Nice Grid Network Energy Manager

The Network Energy Manager is the brain behind Nice Grid’s smart grid.

One of the key features of the demonstration smart grids in the GRID4EU program – including Nice Grid – is its focus on the role of ‘prosumers’ (electricity producer-consumers) such as solar-plus-storage system owners as active network players who sell and trade their electricity. This allows third-party organisations to aggregate distributed generation with the aim of meeting demand on the network.

Nice Grid NEM cycle

How the Network Energy Manager manages distributed generation to meet demand.

The Nice Grid approach is a sharp contrast to the way that distributed resources are currently dealt with in Australia – where solar system owners are not currently rewarded in a real way for exporting their power to the grid (some might even venture that they are almost punished for doing so).

Change is on the horizon, however, with a small, ARENA-backed pilot program in which six energy storage-equipped ACT homes are selling wholesale power into the grid is already underway. This arrangement is similar in its essence to the one being trailed under the Nice Grid program – albeit significantly less comprehensive. With this option available to solar-plus-storage households, it may only be a matter of time before Australian homes become electricity market players as a matter of course.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd