RWE Launches Scalable C&I VPP Using AWS Partner Generac Grid Services’ Concerto Solution
German energy company RWE used AWS Partner Generac Grid Services’ Concerto software to build a virtual power plant on Amazon Web Services (AWS) capable of managing hundreds of thousands of mixed distributed energy resources (DERs) across multiple electricity markets. To have its DER assets participate in wholesale power and ancillary service markets, RWE needed a robust system capable of optimizing the flexibility from large commercial and industrial loads, backup generators, batteries, and other assets. By using Concerto, built on AWS, RWE can scale to manage all its connected DERs in near real time, optimizing its electrical assets across several markets to balance renewables in the grid and monetize customer assets.
Evolving the Energy Industry
Europe’s power grids are changing as the industry moves toward renewable energy and integrates digital technology into the electrical system. While many large conventional power plants are phasing out, a growing number of renewable electricity-producing assets—from wind to solar—are coming into play. Other new multiple-use-case applications, such as behind-the-meter batteries, backup generators, or industrial loads with untapped flexibility, are expected to enter the market as well. These distributed energy resources (DERs) bring new opportunities and challenges to the electricity market.
German energy company RWE, with a clear target to be carbon neutral by 2040, has an increasing number of DERs in its energy portfolio. The company works with grid operators, energy service providers, utilities, electricity retailers, and individual commercial and industrial (C&I) customers to customize and implement DERs that respond to real-time information on grid conditions and pricing, enhancing power generation and trading power on the electricity market. Using AWS and software from AWS Partner Generac Grid Services, RWE implemented a new virtual power plant (VPP) solution to aggregate, operate, and optimize its DER assets in highly scaled portfolios by using advanced IT and metering infrastructure. “The Concerto solution from Generac Grid Services provides the control we need to optimize a large fleet of mixed distributed assets,” says Patrick Luig, product owner for the D-Central Program at RWE.
Orchestrating the Optimization of DERs
RWE is a multinational energy company headquartered in Essen, Germany. It generates and trades electricity in Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America. RWE also supplies large industrial customers—paper and aluminum industries, data centers, and car manufacturers—and municipalities with energy and provides energy-related services. In the late 2000s RWE started to control the onsite generation of its customers. Over time, the company needed to adapt its processes and system infrastructure to manage the increasing number of DERs and to adjust to the changing industry. In this context, RWE launched the D-Central program, where customers can integrate their flexibility assets into RWE’s VPP and benefit from participating on the energy markets.
The D-Central service is powered by Concerto, a solution from Generac Grid Services. In 2018, Generac Grid Services won a competitive bid process to become the VPP solution provider for RWE’s mixed asset C&I portfolio. Generac Grid Services provides distributed energy control solutions to utilities and energy companies around the globe. The Concerto solution bundles DERs to virtual pools and controls and optimizes them in near real time to respond to the needs of the power grid and the energy markets, helping customers earn revenue, save money, and reduce risk. “Because of Generac Grid Services’ experience in international power markets and the Concerto solution’s ability to expediently adopt new customer functionality, we were confident that we would adapt the solution to the requirements of the European balancing markets,” says Luig.
Meeting Scale and Flexibility Challenges
The Concerto solution runs on AWS and is architected for massive scalability, an important factor for RWE. “We need computing power to run the optimization algorithm at scale, so not only the system but also the entire architecture behind it needs to be scalable,” says Luig. Scalability was a reason why Generac Grid Services chose to use AWS when developing its software. “Using AWS helps us scale—and scale quickly,” says Troy Anatra, vice president of market development at Generac Grid Services. “Our customers need the software infrastructure to scale as the solution evolves and as the number of DERs on the grid continues to increase.”
RWE runs Concerto on dedicated instances on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. “The ease of standing up an instance on AWS makes implementing Concerto quick and repeatable,” says Anatra. “When we have a new customer, we can set up the software and have it operational in 1 day.” Because RWE runs the solution on its own AWS instances, it maintains full visibility of the security of its VPP, and using AWS makes the administration of the environment simple.
Using Concerto, RWE optimizes its electrical assets across several power markets simultaneously. Concerto has a sophisticated optimization engine that automates much of this process. RWE has a variety of DERs in its VPP—backup generators, gas peaker units, electrical boilers, large commercial and industrial loads, and batteries in the 1–40-megawatt range—each with its own specificities and technical permits.
RWE receives metered telemetry data from these DERs and processes it using Amazon Kinesis—a service to collect, process, and analyze real-time streaming data—and AWS Lambda, a serverless, event-driven compute service that lets users run code for virtually any type of application. The owners of these units give RWE control of the DERs through the D-Central VPP, and RWE activates or deactivates these assets to balance the power based on signals from the transmission system operator and/or price signals in the various power markets. “Our customers decide when and to what extent they want RWE to market their assets, and through Concerto, RWE makes sure the dispatches meet operational and asset-specific requirements,” says Luig. RWE’s customers can now profitably market their capacities on various power markets, which is precisely what helps to better balance the increasingly weather-dependent renewable power generation in the grid.
Expanding to Future Energy Markets
The VPP is designed to respond quickly to market changes to capture emerging revenue streams in a new decentralized power system. Using Concerto, RWE started its VPP operation in German power markets in 2021. The company is also considering a rollout to other countries, especially because its architecture is on AWS and would be simple to replicate. Generac Grid Services also plans to expand the capacity of its solutions so that customer deployments can handle millions of assets and integrate new types of DERs, such as electric vehicle charging infrastructure. “With D-Central, we offer a digital solution that facilitates fast and variable market access. And the Concerto solution brings us the flexibility to adapt to whatever comes next,” says Luig.