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Insights
23/11/23

'We needed a new, extremely scalable and robust IT system'

Paul web
In July this year, energy company Eneco launched its Virtual Power Plant (VPP) with a press release and other tools such as an infographic video. For the construction of this essential IT system for Eneco, the company partnered with Utilus, a supplier of custom IT project solutions. An interview with Paul Hendrix, managing director of business development at Eneco, on how important this project is for Eneco, and on the collaboration with Utilus.

To start with: why is this an important project for Eneco?

‘Because we need the Virtual Power Plant for the further development of Eneco. Until recently, the electricity that Eneco supplies to private and business customers came largely from a few so-called large centralized assets: gas power plants, large offshore wind farms, and so on. We could monitor these assets on a dashboard and make adjustments if necessary. There was an outdated IT system that was still based on this centralized world.’

And that changed?

‘In the energy transition, Eneco is rapidly connecting all kinds of new, mostly smaller assets. Think of solar panels from companies and consumers, small wind farms, charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs), and the EVs themselves, and so on. From a few large assets, we first went to dozens of assets and then to hundreds. Now we are heading towards thousands of assets.’

The existing IT system couldn’t handle that anymore?

‘Exactly. A few years ago, we realized that we would outgrow our IT system, and that we needed a new, extremely scalable and robust IT system for this development. This became our Virtual Power Plant platform. This VPP system also has a name: Myriad.’

So, the VPP is a digital infrastructure that links assets that generate energy – a platform, actually?

‘It’s more than that. A VPP is the sum of its parts. It’s about the IT platform and the assets that are connected to that system, and everything in between.’

‘The IT part is an extremely scalable platform to connect energy assets. Additionally, the system is also used to monitor, predict, and manage electricity generation.’

Can you give an example?

‘Energy from wind turbines, solar panels, and also charging stations, is not constant. Myriad continuously receives data on how much energy is being generated and also has access to external data such as weather data. This allows us to monitor very closely and also predict how much electricity Eneco has and will receive.’

How can this be managed?

‘For instance, by slowing down wind turbines or completely shutting them down when there is excess capacity in the network. Hence the term Virtual Power Plant – the whole functions really like a large, complex power plant.’

How did you end up with Utilus for the construction of this IT system?

‘Online you can find various information about virtual power plants – so there was already some technology. But most of the VPP technology was either too limited in use case scope for Eneco or not scalable enough. We really needed something new.’

‘The team at Utilus had already examined some of our existing IT systems and development trajectories. So we knew that they delivered quality work. Moreover, since they’ve been with us for a while, they have a lot of knowledge about the energy transition. So, we asked what they could do to help.’

And what exactly was that, also compared to your role?

‘My role was first that of initiator of Myriad and then that of coordinator. I arranged the budget, generated enthusiasm internally at Eneco, and put together and started the core team. Right from the start, a few professionals from Utilus were involved. We benefited a lot from that. As I said: they deliver quality people.’

‘By now, about 40 people are working on this system, including – last time I checked – twelve from Utilus. Myriad is really in full swing now!’

For Eneco’s press release and video, see here.

 

Rolf Bonninga


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