CE&E Case / Belgium

LINEAR - Local Intelligent Networks for Energy Active Regions

Belgium: LINEAR – Local Intelligent Networks for Energy Active Regions


Project Title LINEAR – Local Intelligent Networks for Energy Active Regions
Location Ghent, Leuven, Genk, Flanders, Belgium
Time Period of Project May 2009 – December 2014
Link to Project Website www.linear-smartgrid.be
Key Word Demand Response, Household, Energy Storage, Energy Consumers


Project Background

In Belgium’s electrical network, the generation of electricity corresponds closely to demand at any given time. This is the principle that underlies the functioning of the network. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Our traditional generation capacity is dropping: energy producers are shutting down older and unprofitable plants, and we are also in the process of gradually phasing out nuclear generation. At the same time we bring additional sources of generation online, mainly in the form of wind and solar energy. But those energy sources are driven by the weather, not by the demand for energy.
Sometimes this results in energy surpluses, as was the case in Belgium during the Pentecost weekend of 2012 and on Easter Monday of 2013, when we generated so much surplus energy that the power grid almost failed. By the same rule, this also increases the risk of energy shortages, which can arise on cold, grey and windless winter days when demand is high.

Figure. Household based Demand Response

With the help of two remuneration models and four business cases, Linear is studying ways for households and producers or power grid operators to better tailor energy consumption in relation to energy generation. Households can be encouraged to adjust their energy consumption patterns by providing them with a financial incentive (rate control) or by operating their equipment automatically (automated control) and rewarding the households for the degree of flexibility they provide. The future of decentralised generation presents power grid operators and energy suppliers with many challenges. The trick is to deploy the right solutions for the least amount of cost. Linear is studying four challenges for which demand-side management could be a sound technical and economically profitable solution. Throughout the entire field test, we will also be examining the best ways for energy suppliers to encourage consumers. We are encouraging participants by means of a financial incentive that corresponds to the actual cost savings.

The current changes in the production model can be solved in part by reversing the inherent logic: by tailoring energy consumption to the supply. Via the Linear project, twenty different partners are researching the best and simplest ways for adapting residential energy consumption based on the availability of solar and wind energy with the help of 250 test households.  A Smart Grid integrates electricity, gas, heat and communication networks into a single system that maximises the generation and distribution of energy and which makes it possible to utilise a larger share of green energy. Smart grids do a better job of coordinating consumer demand with the supply of energy from producers. Linear is part of the larger global effort to study smart grids for supplying energy in the future, and is focusing on the consumer.

Figure. Connection of Smart Appliances


Linear Intelligent Networks is a research platform of residential demand response. The platform was built for multi stakeholder smart grid approach to demand response system. Demand response is seen as an important smart grid technology to contribute to mitigating the effects of

  • the increasing share of intermittent renewable energy production,
  • the increased electrical load due to the shift from fossil-fueled towards electrical equipment
  • and the decreasing investments in controllable (fossil-fuel) plants.

Although demand response (DR) is increasingly deployed in the industry, the large potential in the residential sector remains hitherto unused, as other criteria apply; comfort protection is a basic requirement to enable sustained participation of families in demand response schemes, the  sources for flexibility are small in energy but their numbers are large,… As such, the technology needed for residential DR is fundamentally different from the industrial equivalent. Because of the comfort requirements, Linear selected and deployed 2 types of smart appliances that offer large amounts of flexibility and can be automated for a minimal comfort impact.First type are the postponable appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines and tumble dryers, 445 of which are deployed in the Linear pilot. Second type are the buffered appliances, such as smart domestic hot water buffers (15) and electrical vehicles (7).

Additionally, 110 families are equipped with smart meters, appr. 2000 submetering points are installed and 94 houses have photo-voltaic panels, representing a total of 400 kWp. The architecture can support different Home Energy Management Systems and Balancing Responsible Parties, hence taking into account the complex European deregulated energy market.
With standardized interfaces appliances can exchange information and constraints in order to optimize system operation and user comfort. The Linear system is a research platform designed and deployed by the Linear partners to investigate user behavior and acceptance. For 4 business cases, Linear also identifies the technical and economic challenges and opportunities to facilitate an increased share of renewable energy sources.

The 4 selected business cases are:

  • Portfolio Management: can we make customers shift their energy consumption in function of the day ahead market and nominations?
  • Wind Balancing: can we reduce unbalance costs for the retailer, caused by deviation between predicted and produced wind energy?
  • Transformer Ageing: can load spread in time avoid accelerated ageing of transformers?
  • Line Voltage Management: can we avoid issues with voltage deviations in local grids?

Many partners are involved in the project as shown below. The research project of Linear is a cooperation between the research institutes of EnergyVille (KU Leuven, VITO, imec) and iMinds and takes part in the Actieplan ‘Vlaanderen in Actie’. It is financed by the Flemish governement and receives considerable support of Belgacom, Eandis, EDF Luminus, EnergyVille, Fifthplay, Infrax, Laborelec, Miele, Siemens, Telenet and Viessman. Also Agoria, EWI, IWT, VOKA and VREG are involved.

Figure. Linear Partners

Case Description

Linear is a Flemish Smart Grid project focusing on solutions to match residential electricity consumption with the availability of wind- and solar energy. Research partners and industrial partners joined forces, in close collaboration with the government, to develop, deploy and evaluate demand response technology. This technology can be easily adopted by families and supports the operation of local distribution grids and energy markets. 240 families are participating in the demonstration project, evaluating 2 different consumer interaction models:

  1. Variable Time of Use (ToU) is tested with 55 families.They are supported with a Home Energy Monitoring System and a display that shows market priced tariffs, scaled-up to 2020 wind and solar prediction. This model supports the business case of day ahead portfolio management.
  2. The second model is defined in cooperation with the families and designed to operate intra-day, guarantee user comfort and generate flexibility for families, grid- and system operators. Where ToU appeals to financial reward, the flexibility system appeals to financial benefits, as well as ecologic and societal engagement. Here the families are equipped with a Home Energy Management System and smart appliances (s.a.: washing machines, dish washers, tumble dryers, electric heating applications and electrical vehicles).They are rewarded for the flexibility – time window for remote start/stop – they offer.The flexibility is used for the day ahead case portfolio management and the intra-day cases: wind balancing, transformer ageing and line voltage management.

For each of the business cases, Linear investigates to which extend residential Demand Response can offer a technical and economical solution to mitigate the effects of the increasing share of intermittent renewable energy production in relation to user behavior and comfort.

The Linear study is composed of nine different work packages, each of which forms a different phase of the study. Some packages involve fundamental research while others develop new technologies, and work package 8 consists of the preparation and implementation of the pilot project involving the households.

  • Work package 1: gathering data and administering surveys to get a better picture of the energy consumption of households. Based on the results of this sub-study, we examine what the best options are for creating flexibility in our test households.
  • Work package 2: we develop realistic user profiles based on the data gathered in work package 1. These profiles can then be used in other work packages to design models that will allow us to simulate the effects of certain interventions.

Figure. Work Packages

  • Work package 3: studies the potential for energy storage. Temporary storage is key to incorporating more renewable energy into our power grids. We are conducting research into the storage of electrical energy in batteries as well as the storage of heat in buffers. By decoupling a building’s demand for heat from a heat pump’s demand for electricity, flexibility can be created. Research has also been done on combining cogeneration with district heating in order to support the power grid at the local level.
  • Work package 4: studies the way in which electricity, gas and communication networks interact with each other when we implement our Linear solutions.
  • Work package 5: looks at the impact and potential of using the batteries in electric vehicles to store renewable energy as it is generated and to then return this energy to the grid during times of peak consumption.
  • Work package 6: combines the various technological insights and converts them into algorithms and simulations.
  • Work package 7: overlapped to a large extent with the other work packages and was therefore eliminated. These tasks were allocated to other work packages.
  • Work package 8:is the real-world test: we use the data that was gathered and the technologies that were developed in all the substudies to test out the theories on real households.
  • Work package 9: focuses on the economic aspects.This involves research into the way the market currently functions, the changes to market functioning that will be required for the future, and potential business cases for distribution system operators, suppliers and customers.


Project Outcomes

The level of innovation of the Linear project is very high. The partners represent the whole value chain which allows for a combination of the know-how of DSO’s, retailers, research institutions, manufacturers and telecom providers. This already resulted in highly innovative solutions to be developed and commercialized within the project, such as device controllers, new generation smart grid ready appliances, home energy management systems,… Linear not only developed unique solutions but also pushes the boundaries where real time interaction between user behavior and business case implementation is concerned.

One of the unique points in this project is the different ways in which the flexibility of the end consumer is exploited to solve the technical needs of the different underlying business cases. The whole concept of residential demand response would not be viable without active participation of the end consumer. Therefore one of the key aspects of this project is the co-creation of the flexibility interaction that appeals to comfort, societal, ecological and financial awareness of families and results in a stronger engagement than ToU. The flexibility interaction empowers families’ concerns for a sustainable and reliable energy supply for the future. The Linear project influences the day-to-day behavior of the end consumers, enabling them to participate in the electricity market without exposing them to its complexity.

The ambition of the LINEAR project is not only to develop innovative technologies, but to set the stage for an implementation of these mechanisms on a national and European level. For this reason, regulatory policies, consumer behavior and market models are all considered. The objectives of the project are fully in line with the ISGAN mission. Different business cases and new market models are extensively studied, taking into account financial incentives for all market actors. Regulatory barriers are mapped out as well, and a set of regulatory recommendations is delivered to the authorities, based on the outcome of the project. Linear demonstrates that demand response is technically possible and that there are actual benefits for consumers and involved parties. In the near future, the smart grid ready appliances could become standards and residential demand response could find its way into the everyday lives of millions of European consumers.


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