Energy crisis: Data helps us save energy

Friday 09 Sep 22


Henrik Madsen
Professor, Head of section
DTU Compute
+45 45 25 34 08

Facts about the FED project:

  • FED = Flexible Energy Denmark24 participants from universities, utility companies, businesses and public organizations.
    A 4-year-long (2019 – 2023) scientific project with commercial potential.
  • Total budget DKK 44 million. Innovation Fund Denmark has granted DKK 30 million.
  • The project is data-driven and is to enable the development of digital solutions for the control of power consumption in Denmark.
  • Learn more

Behavioral change, digital solutions, and energy data in real time can help us reach the climate goal and get through the energy crisis more easily.

There was a reality before 24 February – and a reality after. When the war in Ukraine began, the price of energy rose significantly in Europe, and many countries - including Denmark - are currently presenting energy-saving plans to get through the winter without using Russian gas: Lower the temperature to 19 degrees in public buildings, shorten the heating season, limit outdoor lighting, save energy in general. 

At the time of writing, the price for one kWh is just over DKK 4 including transmission and taxes, and has been over DKK 8. So there is a lot of money to be saved by being flexible, especially if you have a heat pump or EV - but also on dishes, laundry, and lighting. And people are interested. According to Green Power Denmark, apps that show the electricity price are a hit right now in Denmark. It is necessary and at the same time a great starting point for Denmark, because there is a need for behavioral change all around, and here data and visualization of data play a key role.

DTU is a partner in the large Danish energy project, Flexible Energy Denmark (FED) supported by the Innovation Fund Denmark - where we work with flexibility in the energy system. At the Climate People's Meeting in Middelfart, Professor Henrik Madsen from DTU Compute and three other FED actors talked about our digital solutions to make the best possible use of green energy. The solutions will also limit the need for expansion of the existing infrastructure in the electricity grid.

"The war in Ukraine is terrible, but the energy crisis and the high prices mean that people now come to us and want such solutions. So it promotes the green transition," says Henrik Madsen.

The FED project has developed solutions that can contribute to Denmark saving DKK 31 billion and help to reach the climate target of 70% reduction in 2030.

TREFOR and EWII: Need for energy data in real time

Since the infrastructure in the electricity grid originates from before we ever thought of EVs and heat pumps, it will be necessary to expand the electricity grid to some extent, but data can make it cheaper because of flexibility, says Per Sørensen, Director for Electricity Supply at TREFOR and Director for TREFOR-El-net & El-net Øst:

"We come from a normal where electricity production has adapted to electricity consumption. The new normal is the other way around, where our consumption must adapt to electricity production with renewable energy from sun and wind, which changes over the day and season. Society must change its behavior if it is to succeed. We have to use the electricity when it is produced. Of course, the power can be stored, but it is expensive. So we need to use more solutions - and here data is central."

"The war in Ukraine is terrible, but the energy crisis and the high prices mean that people now come to us and want such solutions. So it promotes the green transition."
Henrik Madsen, Professor at DTU Compute

A major problem for grid companies is that today you do not get real time information from the outside about the particular electricity grid that you are trying to operate.

"It is clear that the better we can follow what is happening in the grid - and in the entire energy system - right now, the better we can optimize it. Here, real time data will make it possible to find the areas where flexibility can be created. It is difficult to establish a joint data collection across the entire energy system. But we have to do it in the future," says Per Sørensen.

The multi-supply company EWII A/S recognizes the need for real time data. Like other suppliers of electricity, EWII helps customers visualize their data, when they logon to their accounts and see their energy consumption. EWII hopes to offer new digital self-service solutions soon, where people could be nudged to use energy on specific times a day when it supports the green transition and the balance of the energy system. For example, they must be able to compare their consumption with other families or receive notifications about important things.

"Here, data is an important player, but today the data could be up to five days delayed - or the energy consumption may not be specified over the 24 hours of the day - but only on a daily basis. So you cannot act super wisely on it. We want a solution where people can see how much, for example, a shower costs right after," says Director of Marketing and Communications at EWII A/S, Mette Daugård.

She emphasizes that customers only get financial benefits from using electricity when it is cheap if they have an electricity agreement that supports this – i.e. variable prices and not fixed prices.

However, EWII is very optimistic:

"The greenest and cheapest energy is the one you don't use. In the past six months, Danes have saved 9 percent on electricity consumption compared to the previous year, so there is great potential. We see an increasing tendency for people to look into their own electricity consumption. People switch off standby consumption, video surveillance, etc.," says Mette Daugård.

DTU Compute notices an increased focus on flexibility

Real time data is high on the agenda at FED, where we test solutions through various types of living labs

One of them is in Høje-Taastrup Municipality, where we shift energy consumption with district heating in schools. Another is cold stores at the Port of Aarhus, where we freeze goods (if it's food safe) to a lower temperature - when there is a surplus of green electricity, but turn off the electricity when the energy comes from fossil fuels. A third example is summer homes in Blåvand, where we 'store' surplus wind energy by heating swimming pools a few degrees more - and switching off at other times a day.

At DTU, researchers develop mathematical models (artificial intelligence models) with the help of data from the living labs for use in the digital tools that make it easier to utilize green energy, explains Henrik Madsen:

"When we have an overview of the data and get it in real time, it is possible to create tools to use flexibility. These are relatively simple techniques, but we need to learn how to use them in different places with the citizen, at the sewage treatment plant, in the supermarket, etc. It provides huge financial savings when we work together to turn the energy system upside down."

According to the professor, we now see automated solutions on the market. These solutions use real time data, so consumers do not have to keep an eye on the energy price themselves, and the interest in being flexible has grown significantly.

Flexibility has to play a role in the EU

And the real time data is coming. The data streams from the six living labs in the Flexible Energy Denmark project, for example, flow in and out of Center Denmark, a digital data hub for energy data that collects data across the entire energy system. Already today, some data comes in on a per second basis.

The strength of Center Denmark's so-called data lake is that it standardizes data within electricity, district heating, and water so that it can be used across the energy system for flexibility and to develop new digital tools or services.

Right now Center Denmark, Flexible Energy Denmark, and DTU participate in the negotiations about how to standardize energy data across national borders in relation to the so-called data spaces. These platforms are supposed to facilitate the exchange of data - including data in real time, which can also bring flexibility to the EU, in general.

"We provide input for the future data spaces because there will not be a large unifying platform that contains everything. It will be a lot of different platforms that have to learn to talk to each other. If we are to support Danish industry and Danish companies, it is important that we are involved, because when we develop new Danish business solutions, they should be scalable in Europe to strengthen competitiveness," says CEO at Center Denmark Søren Skov Bording.

Flexible Energy Denmark til Klimafolkemødet torsdag den 1. september. Fra venstre Anne Marie Damgaard (Dansk Center for Energilagring), Per Sørensen (TREFOR), Henrik Madsen (DTU Compute), Mette Daugård (EWII) og Søren Skov Bording (Center Denmark), Credit: Hanne Kokkegård, DTU Compute

Flexible Energy Denmark at the Climate People's Meeting in Middelfart on September 1, 2022. From left Anne Marie Damgaard (Dansk Center for Energilagring), Per Sørensen (TREFOR), Henrik Madsen (DTU Compute), Mette Daugård (EWII), and Søren Skov Bording (Center Denmark), Credit: Hanne Kokkegård, DTU Compute 


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