MARI, PICASSO, and TERRE are digital platforms for energy balancing across Europe. They connect national Transmission System Operators (TSOs), aggregate activation bids from member states, and decide on the activation of individual bids (mainly checking whether there is sufficient cross-border capacity to transport energy from country to country). These platforms are governed by the European Commission's Electricity Balancing Guideline (EB GL), which aims to ensure a pan-European balancing market that secures efficient energy-sharing between countries and minimizes costs. The existence of platforms such as MARI, PICASSO, and TERRE increases the efficiency and liquidity of the balancing markets.

MARI, PICASSO, and TERRE: platformy pro řízení regulační energie

MARI = Manually Activated Reserves Initiative
PICASSO = Platform for the International Coordination of Automated Frequency Restoration and Stable System Operation
TERRE = Trans European Replacement Reserve Exchange

How do we balance the grid in the EU?

The backbone of the electrification system is the transmission infrastructure, 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.

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 electricity balancing services contracted in the balancing markets (explained in detail here).

Udržování frekvence na 50 Hz

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 exchange balancing capacity 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 service 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 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 electricity balancing services for ČEPS, even if such events do not directly affect the Czech Republic.

How do the MARI, PICASSO, and TERRE platforms work?

We have already briefly explained the FCR, aFRR, and mFRR products. Now we can relate them to the digital platforms on which the cross-border exchange of balancing energy occurs.

In addition to MARI, PICASSO, and TERRE, you will also find information on the so-called IGCC - the international platform for exchanging deviations of interconnected electricity systems. In contrast to MARI, PICASSO, and TERRE, the latter prevents the activation of balancing energy. In general, we have several digital platforms for the exchange of balancing energy in Europe, and new ones are being created all the time. For example, the new ALpACA platform will be launched next year.

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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