Frequently Asked Questions

What is a common communication protocol?

Communication protocols provide a set of rules and guidelines to facilitate information exchange between two or more entities.  In the context of demand response, a common communication protocol (in this case OpenADR®) serves as the backbone for effective and efficient data transmission between various components of the system.

These protocols define the rules and standards for data exchange, ensuring compatibility and interoperability between different devices and systems such as the electricity distribution network and solar and wind generation, and EVs.

The tools to deliver a protocol are the set of agreed cooperating software applications that enable the submission, processing, and storage of information in an automated, electronic exchange.

A ‘common’ protocol means that the same tools are used across the industry.

What are the benefits of open communications and industry-wide standards?

Across Aotearoa New Zealand there are 29 electricity distribution businesses and one transmission business, who will all need to decide what technology they might use to enable demand flexibility.

Without a standardised approach, they could develop and implement different protocols, meaning we risk losing, or vastly under-utilising, demand flexibility and consequently hinder proper grid integration.

Standardisation simplifies the integration of different systems and components, reducing complexity and ensuring consistency in communication.  The true benefit of standardising means that any flexibility supplier entering the market can "plug and play" with any EDB without having to create bespoke solutions.  This ability to adopt and participate creates market competition, and ultimately results in lowering price to the consumer (via their electricity bill).

Other benefits include:

  • Enhanced Interoperability which ensures that devices and systems from different manufacturers can communicate seamlessly.
  • Real-time data exchange ensuring timely access to accurate information.  This real-time data is vital for making informed decisions and responding quickly to dynamic energy demand, improving the overall effectiveness of demand response programs.
  • Common communication protocols can improve scalability and flexibility by being able to accommodate both small-scale and large-scale deployments.  This alleviates limitations of communication infrastructure, lowering the barriers to entry and enabling wider participation.

Early insights from participating in the trial of OpenADR suggest the best outcome is an open and standardised communication protocol for demand flexibility.  Real-time testing and industry-developed guidance, such as will be delivered via this project, will help the electricity supply industry to prepare for, and support this.

Why was OpenADR® selected as protocol for trial?

OpenADR® was chosen because it is an open, highly secure model and global, smart grid IEC standard.  It standardises the message format used for demand response and the management of distributed energy resources, so that signals can be exchanged in a uniform and interoperable way among network providers, flexibility suppliers, home energy management systems and smart devices.

As part of the project, we are reviewing a range of protocols and seeking external advice on those that exist and the rationale for adoption internationally.  We understand that the country’s needs will evolve and so we are not limiting the solution to one protocol i.e., there may be a place for one or more as more DER enters the system and we transition to clean energy future.

Who else uses OpenADR®

Adoption of OpenADR® 2.0 is occurring across Europe and Asia, as well as throughout many parts of North America including California, Nevada, Texas, Florida, Arizona and Hawaii.

The OpenADR® Alliance was created by industry to help organisations around the world standardise demand response, demand flexibility and distributed energy resources communications, automate processes, simplify customer energy management, and eliminate stranded assets.

In New Zealand, Transpower and Cortexo are also members of the OpenADR Alliance.

What are the flexibility programmes being tested in trial?

For Part A, the programmes were:

  • Dynamic (short-term) non-price responsive - where the EDB procures the ability to secure a pre-agreed change in capacity to reduce the impact of an unplanned event, and
  • Immediate emergency response (non-price responsive) - where the EDB procures the ability to secure a pre-agreed change in capacity to reduce the impact of a grid emergency.

For Part B the additional programmes are being tested:

  • In advance, non-price responsive - where the EDB procures, ahead of time, a pre-agreed change in capacity over a defined time,
  • Price responsive bid - where the EDB provides offers to flexibility suppliers specifying the amount they will pay for different levels of capacity.  This programme is procured at short notice to provide market and system support,
  • Price responsive discovery – where the EDB requests, ahead of time, bids to be put forward by the flexibility supplier detailing the load reduction they can offer at a specified price, and
  • Dynamic operating envelopes – where a signal is sent to the flexibility supplier to maintain a certain load limit (for the assets they control).

What is the difference between Part A and Part B of the trial?

Part A tested only one-way communication using simple signals, while part B has been testing two-way communication and more complex requests for flexibility such as actual load reductions and pricing signals.

In Part A, two of the six industry designed flexibility programmes were tested allowing three participating EDBs and two flexibility suppliers to participate in dynamic (non-price) and immediate emergency requests for demand flexibility.

Part A was also only targeting EV charging however, with the introduction of Solar Zero into Part B, we have been able to test communication with batteries as well.

What did Part A find?

Part A has demonstrated interoperability, with EDBs and flexibility suppliers able to send, receive and act on requests for demand flexibility using OpenADR 2.0a communications protocol and their internal systems.

Part A has also provided insights into the wider implications that need to be considered.  For example, it has been identified that further work is required to define the roles, responsibilities, and potential regulatory settings as this will help industry navigate the transition to greater electrification.

What’s next? 

This work is the first step in investigating how we integrate distributed energy flexibility within our distribution networks to optimise energy use.  We expect the outcomes to be published in April 2024 to provide guidance as to FlexTalk assessment of OpenADR as a protocol fit for NZ context and where the next stage of research and trials need to go.

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