by Nikolas Hatzigeorgiou (BSc, MSc, MEDEA)
Electricity Market Officer, Green Energy Group
One of the goals of the so-called “Energy Transition” is the decarbonization of the electricity networks of the Member States of the European Union (EU). Cyprus, a peculiar case of an isolated grid, with a high dependence on imported fossil fuels and an ever-increasing penetration of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) in its system, has been facing in recent months a serious problem that endangers the stability and security of its grid.
The reduction in construction costs due to technological maturity, the presence of favorable conditions for investment development, the support at the political level and of course, the abundant sunshine that characterizes our island, reasonably drew the attention of policy makers and investors to Photovoltaic (PV) systems, both in the form of small domestic and non-domestic units, but also in the form of large parks (network scale). Indicatively, the total installed capacity of PV systems to date amounts to 476 MWp, more than double the corresponding value at the end of the previous decade. This development allowed Cyprus to meet its contractual obligations regarding the EU's energy targets for 2020, with the RES share reaching 16.9% of total electricity production against the national target (13%).
However, the effort to reach the respective goals for 2030 has to face (among other things) the big obstacle of the rejection of “green” energy from the grid, due to the heterosynchronization between PV production and consumer demand. This phenomenon leads the Cyprus Transmission System Operator (TSO) and the Distribution System Operator (DSO) to cut energy produced from RES due to the difficulty of managing it, an expected phenomenon for isolated networks with significant penetration of RES and no possibility to store excess energy, such as in the case of Cyprus. The problem of cuts is now also affecting the smaller systems and in particular, the residential consumers who now also see their own production being rejected when the need arises (for the systems equipped with Ripple Control).
The numbers are relentless and speak for themselves. Since the start of the publication by the DSO of the estimated RES cuts (January 2022), more than 40 thousand MWh of “green” production have been rejected to date. As a result, approximately 28 thousand tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (tnCO2e) were released into the environment. The situation can be described as tragic, observing the rapid increase in the monthly RES curtailment rate per month, which reached record levels in April 2022, since it is estimated that 32.23% of the energy produced from RES was rejected by the system. Similarly, the number of days in which Administrators perform cuts increased from just a few days for the first few months of 2022 to 20, 22, 28 and 29, for each completed month of 2023, respectively. For this year alone, 99 out of 120 days in the first four months (82.50%) were RES cut-off days, while April this year saw around 13.5k MWh dropped from the system, more than the around 10k MWh for the whole in 2022!
April this year was therefore a difficult month, both for the power system, but also for the RES Producers themselves, who see the energy produced by their investments being rejected due to the inadequacy of the system to manage it. For example, the (otherwise sunny) Easter Sunday (17/4/2023) was the worst day in years for PV systems, with RES cuts lasting a full 9.5 hours, reaching a (daily) record rate of the order of 70.10% and reach 1.2 thousand MWh, resulting in more than 760 tnCO2e being released into the environment.
In addition, despite the fact that RES Producers and independent Suppliers within the Transitional Regulation (who primarily use energy from RES) are accountable each month for the correct (within certain limits) forecast of their production, they are not able to forecast the expected of RES cuts, nor any indication of appreciation by the Operators to factor this energy loss into their contracts. In short, they have to predict their expected energy (injection and absorption, respectively), when due to system inadequacy 1/3 of the “green” energy produced in the last month was thrown away. More importantly, in the absence of appropriate action immediately, the problem is expected to intensify even more, especially as new PV systems join the grid, thus posing obstacles to meeting the national 2030 target.
The solution is known, already successfully used abroad and is a one-way street. Although it should not be considered as a panacea, but part of the solution to the problem, Energy Storage and specifically, in the form of Battery Systems at various points in the grid, will allow the storage, management and further utilization of “green” energy produced by RES . Despite its current high cost (which through technological development is decreasing over the years), a large portion of professionals in the field consider it to be the shortest and (under the circumstances) most appropriate way to solve the above problems, which contributes and in the reduction of CO2 emissions, in contrast to the alternative proposal for the use of smaller conventional production units (whose contribution in any case is considered equally important).
Battery Systems are useful both for large PV parks, but also for small building PV systems (for which the integration of a Battery System is already supported), so that PV production can also be used at night. Such systems have already been used with great success in recent years as pilot installations in houses in Nicosia, in the context of research projects. As for the larger systems, it is expected in the coming months that there will be grant schemes from the state to encourage Battery Systems at all points of the grid, while Cyprus could follow good practices of other European countries that are more “ahead” of Battery Systems, without having to “reinvent the wheel”.
Specifically, Battery Systems, as carriers of flexibility, can offer solutions at various levels of the network, i.e. at the points of consumption (households and non-residential), at the points of dispersed production (PV and wind farms) and at the Transmission and Distribution Systems. What is of particular importance is the fact that, despite their high cost, Battery Systems are the solution to a problem that, unfortunately, has not been considered in time, but has not yet been effectively addressed, so their evaluation at an economic and technical level must take into account and the cost of “zero action” or otherwise, the negative impact that the continuation of the present situation with the rejection of large amounts of net production will have on an economic, social and environmental level, but also in relation to our contractual obligations as a State – Member of the EU.
In conclusion, it is understood by all that the present situation is not only not expected to correct itself any time soon. In fact, in the absence of immediate radical action, the situation will worsen in the near future, leading to thousands of lost “green” megawatt-hours being trashed, thus denying the opportunity for further utilization of even the already available clean sources of production in the context of the Energy Transition.
GREEN ENERGY GROUP
Nikou Pattihis 107B
3070 Limassol, Cyprus
T. +357 25 734800
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