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Another first for Centrica Business Solutions as Virtual Power Plant is activated in both directions in Belgium

For the first time in Belgium, a virtual power station has been activated in both directions – helping to support the Belgian electricity network even more efficiently with a sustainable, battery-powered alternative to gas plants.

The progress comes as part of a battery project managed by Centrica Business Solutions for Terhills NV, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based investment company LRM. It is the first time in Europe that a Virtual Power Plant (VPP), based solely on batteries and industrial processes, has been activated to supply both the primary reserve and secondary reserve at the same time, for Belgian grid operator Elia. It is a further step towards the opening up and decentralization of Belgium’s electricity markets.

The VPP was activated for the first time in both directions on 18 December 2020, with Centrica's algorithms accurately controlling the batteries and industrial processes – and seamlessly following Elia’s requested activation. Thanks to the battery installation at Terhills NV, Centrica can support the grid without emitting CO₂ and at a lower cost than power plants. In practice, the battery absorbs electricity when there is a surplus and injects it back into the grid when there is a shortage.

Pioneering in the market

The development comes after the move by Elia to gradually open up the various electricity markets to demand management. Until a few years ago, Elia's balancing reserves were only accessible to conventional natural gas power plants. In 2018, LRM and Centrica Business Solutions achieved a milestone by becoming the first to valorise an 18MW Tesla battery into a 32MW Virtual Power Plant (VPP) within Elia’s primary reserve, at the Terhills site. This primary reserve makes it possible to keep the grid frequency in balance without interruption, which is necessary for the stability of the grid.  Then, in October 2020, Centrica Business Solutions reaffirmed its position as the pioneer in the flexibility market by being the first flexibility aggregator to use a battery in the Belgian secondary reserve market, which had been recently opened by Elia.

This secondary reserve takes over from the primary reserve when the latter is depleted due to long-term peaks in electricity consumption or production. An example would be a large injection of electricity produced by the offshore wind farms off the Belgian coast. In the meantime the VPP, using batteries and demand response, has taken the lead in supplying the primary reserve. Arno van Mourik, Director at Centrica Business Solutions International, explains:

These new ‘virtual power plants on batteries’ will be further developed in Belgium. They offer a cost-effective, efficient and ecological alternative that adapts perfectly to the real-time balance of the electricity grid. These alternatives do not emit any CO2 and represent a much lower investment cost.
Arno van Mourik, Director at Centrica Business Solutions International

Centrica Business Solutions offers LRM its many years of expertise in electricity storage, based on battery valorisation on all electricity markets open to demand management. This expertise is based on some 10 large industrial batteries that – together with flexibility from more than 100 industrial consumers – form several virtual power plants, both in the Belgian market and in other markets in which Centrica Business Solutions is active.

We continue to do pioneering work with the battery park at Terhills, together with our energy partner Centrica. In 2018, the 140 Tesla Powerpacks, good for 18MW of power, were the first to be switched on in Elia’s primary reserve. Today we are making history again together by partly using the batteries in the secondary reserve market recently opened by Elia. It's a further way of making the investment project profitable and pushing the boundaries of technology. LRM invests actively in innovative climate investment projects, based on a pronounced sustainability focus in its investments, with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as its compass. In October, LRM received the official SDG Pioneer certificate from UNITAR, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, for its sustainability efforts.
Tom Vanham, General Director at LRM

About LRM NV

LRM is an investment company which develops and stimulates economic growth in Limburg, in the Netherlands. It provides a solid basis so that companies and projects that create jobs in Limburg can grow. Its financial resources and expertise, together with the assets of Limburg, provide a unique breeding ground.