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Winning on the energy market
Winning on the energy market
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Winning on the energy market

Making a power plant flexible in responding to balance problems of the Dutch electricity grid is a sustainable objective, but will such an investment be profitable? And what kind of choices should the administrator make? BECC Energy Hub searched for the optimal solution in consultation with Greenchoice and Spectral.
The fact that we succeeded so quickly with BECC is a special achievement.
Jurgen Duivenvoorden from Greenchoice

Variable returns

With prices that can change every 15 minutes, contracts that look one day ahead, and the uncertainty about the yields of solar and wind, the Dutch energy market requires 24-hour attention. Apart from the necessary permits, doing it alone is impossible for a company like BECC Energy Hub. That is why commercial and technical control contracts have been signed with energy companies Greenchoice and Spectral, which develop software to control combined installations.

Generated energy that BECC does not supply as heat to the neighbors on the industrial estate is intended for the electricity grid. In other situations, for example, when the wind is blowing hard and the sun is shining abundantly, the Energy Hub can actually purchase and store electricity. However, not everyone is allowed to make such a connection because of the risk of disruptions that could affect the entire Dutch grid, and that's where Greenchoice comes in.

"We provide access to the energy market for all BECC assets, i.e., the biomass power plant, the battery, and the e-boiler," says trading & forecasting manager Jurgen Duivenvoorden of Greenchoice. As a supplier of exclusively green electricity, Greenchoice has its own interest in the collaboration. "The combination of storage and flexible use of the e-boiler is crucial for an energy company to make more room for solar and wind energy on the electricity grid. We can determine the optimal use for BECC, both for commercial returns and for the contribution to the balance in the power supply."

BECC particularly fast

Greenchoice has experience with battery systems at its wind farms Hellegatsplein (since 2020) and Hartelkanaal (2019), where they store electricity when the wind blows so hard that it produces too much power for the demand of companies and consumers. That was still a new development at the time. But now, hundreds of projects are in the pipeline - although, according to Duivenvoorden, it is not easy to implement them. "The fact that we succeeded so quickly with BECC is a special achievement. Grid operators have difficulty executing these types of projects within the current rules, however important it is to accelerate the energy transition."

For Spectral, the biomass power station and the e-boiler in the Energy Hub were new phenomena. Julian Croker, Technical Project Manager Team Lead: "Once again, we have learned a lot about integration. There are many touchpoints, interfaces, and stakeholders, each with its own expertise. For us, it is all about the optimal strategy to align the Energy Hub's markets and services and achieve returns."

An important part of the puzzle was the question of whether the BECC connection to the electricity grid should be reinforced. Always pleasant from a technical point of view, but such a measure would cost a lot of time and money. Croker: "On the existing connection, the battery, the e-boiler, and the biomass plant had to remain in balance in all possible situations. That is an interesting optimization question. We had to ensure we ticked all the boxes financially, in regulatory, and for equipment. That's complicated, and it's the most important thing Spectral does. For example, we have made it possible to invest in the battery and the e-boiler while yield and impact are optimal within the existing connection to the grid."

Despite everyone's experience and detailed preparations, it remains exciting to see whether reality matches expectations in 2023. However, BECC Energy Hub is confident, says Gertjan de Jong: "A highly innovative project like this fits perfectly with BECC. We always seek renewal and innovation, even if some financial risks are involved. Because we believe, based on our experience, that innovation ultimately leads to extra returns."

Duivenvoorden of Greenchoice is also convinced that the Energy Hub will immediately prove itself: "We keep the secret of this success to ourselves. The basis is that we are an involved party for the network operator and have made clear agreements about what we can and cannot do with the Energy Hub. Being a reliable partner is our joint strength in these types of projects."