The use of consumer data for optimizing smart grids for electricity and district heating

Carl Dalhammar, Lund University

The Smart Cities Accelerator (SCA) project is an InterReg project that involves a number of Swedish and Danish municipalities and universities. The Malmö and Lund municipalities in Sweden are among the project partners. The aims are to develop new local smart grid solutions, and optimize current grids for district heating and electricity. The context of Sweden and Denmark is unique, for several reasons. The Nordic countries established one of the first common electricity markets, and this was accomplished despite the fact that the Nordic countries have quite different electricity mixes and quite different support schemes for renewables.  Both Sweden and Denmark have a very high share of district heating in the energy mix. The Swedish heating market, as a whole, has a net heat demand of around 100 TWh per year, whereof district heating covers around 50%. It dominates the business to business segment with over 90% of the market share for multi dwelling buildings and around 80% of the market share for non-residential buildings.

One of the issues to be investigated in the project concerns how to optimize current district heating grids, and improve the performance, by making changes in e.g. temperature, pressure, and the use of heat pumps – delivering heat just in time. This optimization will require access to high quality user data. A related challenge concerns how to make better use of waste heat from industries and research facilities for heating purposes. This is especially relevant in Lund where the new state-of-the-art research facilities MAX IV (a synchrotron radiation facility) and the European Spallation Source (ESS) will produce a lot waste heat.

Having access to consumer data is complicated by rules related to data integrity. Such rules have implications for the potential to collect, store and make use of the data. Most notably, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force May 2018 and has to be taken into account when it comes to processing private data in smart grids.

At the European Union (EU) level, there are now guidelines for the use of consumer data in electricity grids. There are however no such guidelines for data in district heating grids. The guidelines for electricity grids are not directly applicable to district heating, as there are substantial differences between the two systems. For instance, in electricity grids the Swedish rules require ownership unbundling to split electricity generation (electricity production) from transmission (electricity from electrical generating station to a distribution system operator or to the consumer). For practical reasons, no such unbundling is required for district heating.

The aims of this contribution are 1) to provide an analysis of the legal issues related to consumer data collection, storage, and usage in electricity and district heating grids and 2) discuss the implications of our analysis for grid owners that aim at optimizing the grids. Thus, the outcome is to provide the main legal barriers, as well as potential opportunities, to make more use of consumer data in order to optimize grids.

The methods employed will be 1) an analysis of law and policy documents and 2) semi-structured interviews with experts. Interviews will be a useful complement to the policy analysis as many of the relevant rules are new and can be subject to interpretation.

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