Research and development

Amid the continuing shift in the energy industry, the need for innovation is greater than ever. Fingrid has the opportunity as well as the obligation to further the development of, for instance, a clean power system. In 2019, a total of EUR 3.4 (3.5) million was used for Fingrid’s own research and development. The projects are often carried out in co-operation with industry players and top experts to enable the industry to utilise synergy benefits and improve their impact. An estimated EUR 22 million was used for research and development projects (R&D) that Fingrid was involved in either directly or through a steering group in 2019. The majority of the projects span several years, but signs of the achievements of R&D work are already visible, making it possible to include renewable clean production as part of energy production, without compromising on the power system’s system security or cost-effectiveness. A focus on R&D work results in technical solutions, promotes the transfer to a clean energy system and creates new expertise and new business opportunities.

R&D work is integrated into the business operations. R&D projects are selected, on the one hand, based on short-term business needs and, on the other hand, on the company’s strategy and longer-term focal points.

Image: Fingrid’s R&D focal points as of 2020

The financing of R&D operations draws on the financial instruments of, among others, the European Commission (Horizon 2020) and national financiers such as Business Finland. Additionally, the Energy Authority’s innovation incentive enables investments in R&D operations by no more than one per cent of the turnover without the R&D costs weighing down allowed return.

During the year under review, there were more than 50 R&D projects underway. Close to 70 per cent of the projects were carried out using external workforce. The majority of the research and development projects are divided into four main groups: making the power system more flexible on market terms, securing the electricity supply in all situations, making data available to those who use it and improving the cost-effectiveness of maintenance management.

Image: The cost distribution of R&D projects by business area

Flexible power system enables emissions-free electricity production

The INTERRFACE project seeks solutions for flexibility services market platforms that enable the utilisation of distributed resources for both maintaining power system balance and the needs of distribution system operators as well as balance responsible parties. Of the northern European TSOs, Fingrid and Elering are involved and INTERRFACE is one of the research projects financed under the European Union’s extensive Horizon 2020 programme.

The CrossFlex project’s aim is promoting the large-scale utilisation of the flexibility provided by distributed decentralised resources locally, nationally and between Finland and Åland as well as between Finland and Estonia. The extensive project was prepared collaboratively by the parties and the European Commission granted Project of Common Interest status to the CrossFlex flexible resource project in October 2019. CrossFlex is a project proposal by Fingrid and the TSOs of Estonia and Åland.

In addition to the above, the independent aggregator pilot to be launched in Finland is intended to ease entry to the balancing energy market for small and decentralised flexible resources. The project enables new business models, and in 2019, it was expanded to include a larger target group than what was originally intended. Independent aggregators offer the owners of flexible resources options in offering flexible services and allow the participants to, for example, specialise in a specific technology. Flexible bids by participants outside the traditional chain of open deliveries require a significant overhaul of information systems, electricity markets’ data exchange and reserve contracts, so that fair and effective operating methods can be ensured.

The market access of flexible resources was facilitated by piloting a one-megawatt minimum bid size on the balancing energy market instead of the earlier five-megawatt bid size. The goal of the pilot is to ease entry to the balancing energy market and the transition towards the European balancing markets. In addition, Fingrid enables intraday trading within Finland until the start of the delivery hour in a pilot that started in September 2019. Currently, intraday trading closes within Finland and at the Finland–Estonia border 30 minutes before the delivery hour. The purpose of this arrangement is to achieve more market-based flexibility.

Different products required for flexibility must be developed in order to correspond to the need as well as possible. Nordic TSOs are adopting   a new type of Fast Frequency Reserve (FFR) to handle low-inertia situations. Low-inertia situations have become common in the Nordic power system and at times the volume of inertia is so small that current reserve products are unable to adjust quickly enough. A Fast Frequency Reserve allows large production units to operate in the power system also when the system has low inertia. During the year under review, a thesis carried out for Fingrid studied the developing flexibility products, which could offer local flexibility services that current products do not cover. The thesis proposed the development of three product categories: locational intraday, locational balancing products and competitive bilateral contracts.

Flexibility resources offered to the market will quickly become commonplace due to rapid technological development. Electricity storage is a key source of flexibility, in which electrical batteries enable extremely fast power control. Fingrid was involved in the three-year research project at the Suvilahti energy storage facility in Helsinki, which looked into how the energy storage facility can simultaneously adapt to different purposes and the needs of different parties. In addition to Fingrid, the project parties included Helen as the owner of the battery and Helen Sähköverkko as another party using the flexibility. The energy capacity of the energy storage facility is some 600 kWh. It can deliver and consume a maximum of 1.2 megawatts of active power and the maximum reactive power is 900 kvar.

Real-time snapshot and preparing for exceptional circumstances secure a reliable supply of electricity

Fingrid took part in the MIGRATE project, in which it developed, as part of a larger whole, new methods for assessing the amount of inertia in a power system. The MIGRATE project studied the impacts of increased power production connected to the grid through power electronics, such as wind and solar power, on the use and protection of the power system and power quality. The new solutions developed in the project enable the connection of a larger volume of wind and solar power to the power system than before.

At Fingrid, AI was used to improve the forecast accuracy of Finland’s electricity consumption. This gives a better picture of the power system’s situation and improves the predictability of various operational situations.

The renewed power quality measurement system and new travelling wave fault locator improve the power quality monitoring and investigation of disturbances in Fingrid’s main grid. The improved picture of the current situation also increases transmission reliability. Investments in new measuring equipment enable a more effective prediction, location and debriefing of faults threatening the grid. The electrical safety of the grid also improves.

The FINEST19 and JÄÄTYVÄ 2019 training exercises developed operating models and practices for exceptional circumstances. The FINEST19 exercise addressed cooperation in responding to a critical infrastructure cyber crisis affecting both countries. The goal of the JÄÄTYVÄ exercise was to increase the operating capacity of authorities, municipalities and businesses during a severe power outage. In addition, the exercise was used to develop the availability of technology and different IT systems during fault repairs.

An R&D project looked into preparing for long-term power outages, piloting a fuel cell solution to meet the 24-hour capability requirement for Fingrid’s substations. The Emergency and Restoration network code provides a 24-hour operability requirement for “critical tools and facilities”, control rooms and substations. The auxiliary energy of Fingrid’s substations is secured mainly with batteries. Fingrid piloted a methanol fuel cell in order to ensure 24-hour capability of the Tuomela substation’s 220-volt batteries. The fuel cell starts up automatically when it detects a disturbance in electricity transmission. The fuel cell derives its power for start-up from the substation batteries and once it starts up begins charging the batteries. The fuel cell produces energy from a water-methanol mixture.

Emergency preparedness has also been developed in a four-year project that ended in 2019 called “HILP - Analysis of extraordinary events in power systems”. As a result of the project, a method was created with which the operating capability of a power system in exceptional circumstances can be analysed in order to assist decision-making. In addition to Fingrid, participants in the project were Statnett, Sintef, NTNU and NVE from Norway.

Data available to all – added value for customers, developers and market participants

The My Fingrid electronic service portal was developed to be easier to use with the help of five pilot customers. My Fingrid contains transmission metering, invoicing and reactive power information as well as a new map service that features all of Fingrid’s and Finland’s distribution networks. My Fingrid serves users in various issues, all integrated in one location.

Fingrid increased real-time market data of balancing energy. This increased the transparency of the electricity markets and improved the joint operating capabilities of the markets for all participants.

Fingrid also started publishing the real-time inertia of the Nordic power system together with other Nordic TSOs. The new material can be downloaded from the Open data service and can be viewed on Fingrid’s website.

Data on carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production was also made available in real-time. The volume of carbon dioxide emitted by electricity production is a figure that interests many parties with global climate agreements steering them to find ways to minimise carbon dioxide emissions.

Cost-effective maintenance management through digitalisation

The objective of the project is to modernise asset monitoring through a modern solution. The maintenance of the grid is currently based largely on periodic inspections and measurements. This means that insight into the condition of equipment between measurements is inadequate and maintenance work is based on assumed averages for the entire equipment base. The project is developing a whole that utilises modern sensor technology, cloud platform solutions and real-time, comprehensively-produced condition data from various data warehouses. This enhances maintenance operations and improves system security, when changes can be addressed proactively. The project is based on agile development and new partnerships with different partners.