Sustainable Cities: How Volue Helps One of the Largest Cities in Norway Power the Grid

In the future, the energy system will rely on local energy production and distribution. In the city of Trondheim, the first energy-positive city district in Europe is emerging and Volue is a partner.

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In the heart of Trondheim, one of the largest cities in Norway, the first energy-positive city district in Europe is taking shape.

Thanks to PV, batteries, vehicle-to-grid chargers, flexible consumption and a local energy market, the energy-positive community of Brattørkaia will contribute to the grid and to the energy balance.

It’s a great example of how the energy system will work in the future, with energy produced and distributed locally.

“The energy system is decentralising," says Klaus Livik, Chief Strategist at Volue. “Now more energy production is happening very close to the consumer. This is a paradigm shift. We are moving away from the centralised model where energy is produced in huge power plants and transmitted to the end-user over long distances.”

This transformation has put the industry under enormous stress.

“It’s complicated. You need to think about the grid, energy production, IT, meters, trading. It’s not something power utilities and power grid companies can solve with an excel sheet. You need smart energy software to do the heavy lifting.”

As part of the Brattørkaia project, Livik’s team is developing a local market platform – software that makes it possible to trade PV, wind, flexibility and battery storage locally. It also makes it possible for the grid operator to purchase local system reserves.

“We are also working on another software that is able to calculate the best design for a local energy system. In the future, it will be very important to avoid stressing the distribution grid. Grid calculations, including load-flow analyses based on local topology, are crucial for planning and operating a local grid which feeds in from local generation and realised flexibility.”

By using such calculations, Livik’s team can check if e-mobility will stress the local grid because cars, chargers, and carpools can really stress the system.

Recently, he introduced the tool to the municipality of Trondheim.

“They are planning new areas and a rollout of an e-mobility scheme in the city. They may have several new buildings and local car-sharing hubs with up to 150 electric cars charging in one area at the same time. The city planners were eager to find out if our tool could help them understand where to locate the car-sharing service and how to design local energy resources.”

It’s not something power utilities and power grid companies can solve with an excel sheet. You need smart energy software to do the heavy lifting.

Klaus Livik Chief Strategist at Volue

Livik already sees that city planners are no longer planning for one building at a time.

“They plan whole city areas or cluster ten buildings together. That would mean that three of the buildings would have PVs on the rooftop, two would have batteries, and the rest would have equipment for charging. You have to approach the new buildings as a system.”

Livik is confident that the Volue team is ready to take on the technological challenge and meet the industry’s needs.

“We already have the domain expertise and the solutions to make this transition smooth for city planners and all parties involved, including grid operators.”

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As technology advances, regulations need to catch up

Under current regulations, the Powerhouse at Brattørkaia has to sell the power it produces to the power grid and then buy it back at a much higher price.

To Livik, this doesn’t make sense.

“In Norway, just like in Europe, we have regulations that were put in place 25 years ago for a centralized energy system that is quite different from what we are beginning to see today and will see in the future.”

Over the past few months, he has worked to identify the regulatory barriers to local energy production and distribution in Norway as part of an EU funded +CityXchange project.

Like many in Norway, at the end of last week, he carefully followed a long-awaited energy briefing by the government.

“Norway is committed to electrification. It acknowledges the new grid and grid constraints. But there was still nothing about local energy systems, energy communities or future-proofing of the energy transition. In the regulations, the grid is still king.”

Having studied the regulations, Livik knows that an array of decisions need to be taken at a political level in order to arrive at legislation fit for the future. “It’s a process.”

To be able to realize the innovation and demonstrate the advantages of the technology his team is developing for Brattørkaia, the project team will ask to be exempt from existing regulations that hinder the demonstration.