Frequency Regulation

Frequency Regulation

The backbone of the electrification system is the transmission network, which is managed by the Transmission System Operator (TSO) - for the Czech Republic, this is ČEPS, but each country has its own TSO. The TSO provides balancing services, i.e., every second of the day it ensures a balance between the consumption and production of electricity in the transmission system to avoid blackouts.

Transmission balancing in the European grid

Maintaining the frequency of the transmission system at 50 Hz is crucial for the grid's stability - this applies to continental Europe. Deviations from the ideal frequency occur all the time. Electricity consumption is only partly predictable; no one tells us when to turn on the oven or the electric boiler. As solar and wind power plants become more integrated into the energy mix, our estimates of electricity generation are less accurate than with centralized generation sources such as coal-fired power plants.

So the challenge for ČEPS is not to keep the frequency precisely at 50 Hz all the time - that is impossible - but to minimize the deviation from that target. If the deviation from 50 Hz is more than +- 0.01 Hz, ČEPS will start actively compensating by using the balancing services contracted in the balancing markets (explained in detail here).

Frequency regulation example

How the TSO deals with a deviation from 50 Hz is more or less up to the national TSO, but ENTSO-e, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, provides them with digital platforms (such as MARI, PICASSO, and TERRE) that make the activation of balancing services cheaper on average. However, this necessarily requires that the parameters and characteristics of these services are identical in all countries.

ENTSO-e, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, is a cooperation association of transmission system operators. With 39 member TSOs from 35 countries, ENTSO-e's mission is to ensure the secure and coordinated operation of the European electricity system, the largest interconnected electricity network in the world.

In practice, we can imagine a simplified version of balancing in the Czech Republic (and other European countries) as follows:

  • ČEPS determines the need to compensate for the deviation from the required 50 Hz frequency caused by excess electricity demand over electricity supply or vice versa.
  • ČEPS goes to the cross-border electricity market, buying so-called balancing energy from other market participants. These are often large power plants (for the Czech Republic, this role has typically been played by coal-fired power plants), but the market has also started to open up to smaller energy sources (cogeneration units, biogas plants, backup generators, and others), which is what we at Nano Energies specialize.
  • As ČEPS is part of a pan-European network, it uses standardized frequency regulation tools or different types of ancillary services in the following order:
    • The first tool to be used is the primary control reserve, the FCR (Frequency Containment Reserve). This is the first tool used by ČEPS and is a rapid response within 30 seconds. The FCR operates as a fully automatic service, i.e., a safety net that ensures rapid correction of frequency deviations without human intervention.
    • The second tool is called aFRR (automatic Frequency Restoration Reserve). This secondary reserve must be activated within 7.5 minutes in the Czech Republic and is also automatic.
    • For tertiary reserve, ČEPS uses mFRR (manual Frequency Restoration Reserve). A ČEPS employee must manually activate systems operating in mFRR mode within 12.5 minutes.

The three phases of regulation are switched in sequence and build on each other. Almost all the time, the FCR itself is "running," very often, we have to add aFRR, and in even more challenging situations for the transmission network, we add a third tool, the mFRR.

The positive result of the interconnection of European markets is greater efficiency and, therefore, lower costs for the operation of ancillary services for transmission system operators. Lower prices are then passed on to the end customer. On the other hand, if there is a significant power outage on the other side of Europe and the weather is not favorable in a large part of the continent, this will harm the prices for balancing services for ČEPS, even if such events do not directly affect the Czech Republic.

Czech companies can also participate in balancing the European grid. How can they?

If you are a business owner, you may be interested in ways to get more value from your assets. Nano Energies has expertise in ancillary services and can help you optimize the operation of your assets and increase their value. By working with us, you can use our advanced technology and expertise to make informed decisions about how best to manage your energy assets. Please contact us to learn more about how we can help you.

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