One might venture to say that no matter where you were on the Earth, you would most likely have a problem with your energy source and electricity. If you were lucky enough to have it, it would probably be too pricy, harmful to the environment, or unstable. As a society, we face a myriad of problems linked to energy and its distribution, e.g. climate change, energy transition, inequality in distribution, blackouts and political abuse. Nowadays, as the whole World is on a verge of an energy crisis, these problems and questions strike even more.
Being aware of those problems, in recent years we have been observing a growing interest in renewable energy, as it seems to be a solution to problems mentioned before and many more. Unfortunately, it is not that easy, as green energy alone causes many complications. The main one being the issue of lack of stability of the energy supplies. However, there might be a solution – Virtual Power Plants.
What is VPP?
Virtual Power Plants (VPP) is a system that controls many dispersed power plants, energy resources and storage facilities. It creates a network of power generating units, coordinates it, enhances power generation, and trades and sells power on the electricity market. Virtual Power Plants is extremely useful when it comes to green energy sources, because of their instability caused by the laws of nature and physics – e.g. increased production of energy by windmills during storms or the lack of production at night by solar panels. VPPs use new technology and artificial intelligence, which helps with predicting the consumption and storage of energy.
This system has benefits such as the ability to deliver peak-load electricity or load-following power generation on short notice. Such a VPP can replace a conventional power plant while providing higher efficiency and more flexibility, which allows the system to react better to load fluctuations, therefore avoid blackouts. The drawback is a higher complexity of the system, which requires complicated optimization, control, and secure communications.
Virtual Power Plants are becoming more and more popular across the globe. According to analysts from Allied Market Research, the global market for virtual power plants will reach revenues of USD 5.9 billion by 2027. These systems have already been implemented in many countries, also in Europe, mostly in Germany but also in Finland, Spain, or Italy.
The technologies connected with VPP in recent years have also occurred in Poland, however, Poland has not kept pace with its neighbors yet. A positive breakthrough occurred only after the launch of subsidy programs for prosumer installations. At the same time, the costs of initial renewable energy installations are falling. For this reason, a boom in photovoltaic panels has begun in Poland. However, Poland is just at the beginning of a pro-ecological transformation.
VPP in Poland
The virtual power plants in Poland have started to play a more significant role in the market in recent years, due to investments in this field by electrical corporations and private companies as well as the rise in popularity of solar panels and electric cars. Even though these systems seem to be more visible, it will still take many years to get rid of conventional power plants and replace them with the VPP technology.
There is a growing number of business in Poland using virtual power plants. The leader on the polish VPP market – Virtual Power Plant Sp. z o.o., has helped many private businesses and private facilities to store and optimize the usage of energy from reusable power sources. This power plant, which is still in building, has a temporary capacity of over 100 MW, but it is planned to increase it fivefold. Polish virtual power plants are cooperating with the European leader in this field – Germany. The usage of this technology has led to better implementation of the climate neutrality goals.
In order to activate the energy flexibility of buildings, VPPlant has developed an innovative technology called Enabler DSR for modern large-volume buildings equipped with forced ventilation and air conditioning systems. The virtual power plant is built after installing the DSR Enabler on hundreds of buildings equipped with forced ventilation, air conditioning and heating (HVAC) systems. The energy consumption profiles of the buildings improved in this way are adapted to the current transmission capacity of the network, the comfort of building users is improved and savings are generated.
As was mentioned before, Poland is just starting its journey with VPP technology, also regarding legal regulations. It was not until the year 2021 when the regulations on virtual prosumers were introduced in Poland, as the results of implementation of the European Directive on Renewable Energy, which in many countries was implemented in 2019 or earlier. What is more, these regulations are not yet binding, as they will enter into force in July 2024. The Polish act on renewable energy still does not regulate the technologies concerning virtual power plants as such. The rules must be drawn from the provisions on the mentioned above virtual prosumers. This solution however has many limitations, due to the fact, that according to the Polish regulations ‘’A virtual prosumer produces energy solely for its own needs and this is not its predominant economic activity.’’
Having this in mind, we can predict, that because of the growing popularity and increase in investments in the VPP field, the Polish law will try to catch up with the trends and, therefore, we can soon expect some amendments to the existing acts as well as utterly new regulations.