Energy experts believe that a transformation of the electricity sector in Poland is about to take off, due to expected changes in customer behaviour.
Poland's progress towards smart energy has so far been rather laborious, mainly because of the uncertain cost-benefit ratios. However, electric utilities are now endeavouring to respond to customer energy consumption behaviour by incorporating more smart components into their power grids. These findings emerge from a study by international business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan Research, which reveals that the increase in decentralised electricity generation over the next ten years, driven by the rise of the Polish ‘prosumer’ (a customer who both consumes and produces power) will be high enough to force network operators to adopt more innovative approaches. In order to lay the groundwork for this transformation and to be able to capitalise on it,utilities will have to invest substantially in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
Power sector change driven by prosumers
At the present time, utilities in Poland are facing rather unstable smart energy framework conditions, especially when it comes to data management and opportunities for dynamic pricing. Frost & Sullivan Research analyst Ewa Tajer points out that while the Polish Energy Regulatory Office has taken a number of initiatives, the move towards smart energy has not received much direct support from government. “The role of the authorities in the deployment of smart grids in Poland consists more in setting the regulatory framework than initiating research and development projects,” she explains. Thus at the present time, “the Polish government and members of Parliament seem to be focusing more on the potential advantages of smart grids – e.g. making energy savings and promoting energy supply security – than on the technologies that will actually make this happen,” stresses Ewa Tajer. However, a number of measures have been taken to help integrate renewable energy into the system. Given the growing interest shown by Polish people in renewable energy and in micro-generation (small-scale electricity production units), all the local power distribution companies have now launched smart metering projects.
ICT investment boost from micro-generation
According to energy experts, the phenomenon of micro-generation will stimulate investment in automated grid connection systems for power sources, and in smart grid management fed by internal and external sources of data (weather conditions, consumer habits, invoicing services via mobile, and so on). The rise in ‘distributed’ (multi-source) power generation will expand the market for ICT companies as micro-generation requires both smart metering and grid automation and protection. Outdated analogue grid management systems will have to give way to digital technologies which enable the creation of self-adapting energy networks. The aggregation of distributed supply and demand will mean both that new infrastructure has to be built from scratch and that significant investments are made in ICTs, ranging from intelligent devices with M2M modules to fixed or wireless communication networks. After installing smart meters, power utilities should then also invest in Customer Relationship Management tools, with up-to date billing systems using dynamic pricing,” underlines Ewa Tajer.