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Skip to 0 minutes and 23 seconds My name is Santi Martínez, I’m the executive director Estabanell Energia. Estabanell Energia is an electrical company established in 1880, during the 60’s and 70’s the company became really an electrical company distributing electricity all along from the Pirinees to Granollers, which is more or less one hundred kilometres distance. We are in 26 municipalities, where we are always in the old city centre. And then with the liberalisation in 1997 we started with retail, currently we are in the EV charging also and were exploring anything which is in the border or in the boundaries of the traditional electrical business.

Skip to 1 minute and 10 seconds We have to explore anything just to try to see what’s going to happen in the future, because the future will be changing and we must be aware of it.

Skip to 1 minute and 23 seconds Micro-grid for any electrical company, first of all, is an issue. It will be a problem how to manage it with our ways of doing, the current ways of doing. I’m very lucky because I have some young engineers in the company who are really motivated with new technologies, with the evolution of the electrical grids… And really micro-grids within the grids, I mean not isolated micro-grids, it’s really a challenge.

Skip to 1 minute and 55 seconds Technology is never the limit, the limit is regulation. We have been working very strong in order to have ready the technology for managing a micro-grid which is connected to the grid, or independent of the grid in any way, to get the best of any possibility. Producing locally and consuming locally is the perfect situation. Then you dimension properly and in short distances, so with less losses, more acceptance by the community, because the community understands properly what is going on. They see the PV cells, they see their small windmill, and they are consuming. Distributed energy resources increase the complexity of managing a grid, any grid, unpredictability, so congestions, and peaks… It’s an extra complexity.

Skip to 2 minutes and 52 seconds So if we reduce the problem, if we limit the boundaries of each island it’s quite easy to manage. We have already tested it. It’s very easy, very predictable. it’s unpredictable, but within certain boundaries but you can more or less manage. If you take a whole country and you say we will increase prosumers and small generations, we cannot even imagine how to afford, to manage at technical level, at the data level. That say the aggregator.. is a mystery no? It’s coming. Everybody knows that it’s a must for the system, if we want to manage flexibility, if we want a managed distributor resources.

Skip to 3 minutes and 37 seconds The route is already there we already paved for it, so is not what we should consider, maybe, but not now, we shouldn’t consider getting rid of the existing grid, it’s already there. So making use of it with a positive mentality, a positive role, it’s relevant. You can participate. You can imagine two micro-grids and they decide to share their energy, or their market. Instead of local market, to make a county market. They need a grid. They need something to be connected. So we are grid owners and grid operators so of course we are in favour of the grid. But micro-grids must make use of the existing grid. Data and communications is the issue. Years ago when the liberation of the telecom,

Skip to 4 minutes and 32 seconds you had a pair of copper in your house and you were asking for DSL and sometimes they said: “I’m sorry, you cannot have DSL because your connection, your Telecom Central, is too old.”

Skip to 4 minutes and 47 seconds Imagine at this point that someone comes to our house and offers aggregator services and says: “but I’m sorry, your distributor is so bad, your network is not smart at all, there is no data communication. So we cannot offer you aggregation services although you have PV cells, you have an excess, and you could, but I’m sorry, your distributor is not the smart enough.” This is the constraint I suppose. At this point customers, consumers, active consumers will start to have complaints about the quality of the network which is providing them with electricity, because at this point it’s not any more a question about electricity, it’s question about service.

Skip to 5 minutes and 38 seconds The distributor of the future will be a service provider. A service provider for connectivity. People will have many devices in the Internet of things aiming at being connected to the data, to the cloud, but also many devices aiming at be connected to the electrical network. And the distributor has to say yes and facilitate it. And this is the role that we think that digital distributors of the future will have to play. The best practices we have seen where in California, where there is no unbundling so they are vertical companies, with low regulation and they are really performing extraordinarily well and they are really in the future according to our point of view.

Skip to 6 minutes and 24 seconds Here really we are unbundled and we need good regulation. Currently for a digital world, we have an analogue regulation. But when we think about this future, we even think of a future in which we will be paid by transactions, not any more by quality of service or losses. This will be a must. Of course losses are the minimum, and maybe we were going to be paid by transactions, we don’t know. I think technology is there, the wish of the citizens and the society of going quick is there, so the regulators must follow. There’s no question. In USA where the companies are vertically organised, there are a lot of batteries.

Skip to 7 minutes and 7 seconds They are using batteries for delaying investments, so in an area that is growing, instead of changing transformers, they have batteries. Here we cannot do it, a distributor in Europe is not allowed to manage batteries. But when we will be service providers, we foresee that maybe some neighbours will have batteries, and we, as distributor, we’ll pay them for allowing us to make use of the batteries. This could happen. We’d be paying instead of being paid. But these are basic. A car for us is a battery with wheels.

Skip to 7 minutes and 44 seconds Maybe not only frighten for flexibility but for a shifting consumption times, according to the prices because if the prices are lower overnight because of the excess of renewals this can be useful loading a battery.

Skip to 8 minutes and 7 seconds Clean energy package as it is, it’s great. It’s what the society in Europe needs. Unfortunately there will be a time for debate, and lobbyists will be very active. There’s this one lobby, which will not be active, because it doesn’t exist which is the lobby of the innovator customers, the lobby of the active customers. Nobody will represent them in the fight for getting the final directives and regulations. Then we have the transposition to the national regulations.

Skip to 8 minutes and 43 seconds As it is right now, is the perfect tool for a future with aggregators, with local energy communities, with active customers defining all the parameters, all the environment, the situation needed for developing the markets of the future, we’ll see… there is time to come to see what are the changes.

Skip to 9 minutes and 11 seconds In Vallfogona del Ripollès, part of the paradise, which is in Catalonia, we learn a lot. We have 27 final houses which are connected in the grid, they are connected by our four secondary substations, in three of the substations we have implemented a power electronics forecasting so intelligence. And these 27 houses can become isolated or connected to the grid depending on the weather circumstances, agreement between prosumers and consumers, about prices, times of consume…. There’s a forecasting for a generation and for consumption. We have learned, first of all, about our society. The landscape, there’s infinite- infitine is not right, but there’s infinite place for installing PV cells, or small, micro or mini windmills, and the consumptions are so low.

Skip to 10 minutes and 11 seconds We were there because the technical difficulties. The orography is against you, the telecommunications are not there, are not existing… so We took this place for making a pilot because everything was very difficult, so if things are working there, it can be used anywhere. This is in the middle of the Pyrenees and the distances between some houses are incredible and we are happy because we succeeded. We have the unique, the only micro-grid right now in the world were they could create a local market of energy because really there have power electronics that are auditing any transfer between consumption and production, or crossed by any prosumer and any consumer. They can get agreements between them.

Skip to 11 minutes and 2 seconds The network is self-sailing, depending on the external conditions. We are very happy because this is our micro-grid which is performing very well, it is already for some months now up and running every day. We are getting a lot of knowledge of managing micro-grids. I don’t know the date on which this will really go up, but there’s no way back. This is for sure.

Meet the expert: The perspective of an electrical company

In this interview, you will meet Santi Martinez, CEO at the electrical company Estabanell Energia, who will explain how producing and consuming local energy is the optimal situation as it minimizes losses and enhances the acceptance of the community.

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This video is from the free online course:

Smart Grids for Smart Cities: Towards Zero Emissions

EIT InnoEnergy