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Working paper / Energy

The Role of Thermal Storage and Natural Gas in a Smart Energy System

Author(s): VANDEWALLE Jeroen, KEYAERTS Nico, D'HAESELEER William

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Smart grids are considered important building blocks of a future energy system that facilitates integration of massive distributed energy resources like gas-fired cogeneration (CHP). The latter produces thermal and electric power together and as such reinforces the interaction between the gas and electricity-distribution systems. Thermal storage makes up the key-source of flexibility that allows decoupling the electricity production from the heat demand. However, smart grids focus on electricity, often disregarding the role of gas and thermal storage in overall smart energy systems. We find that the technical impact of a massive introduction of CHP on the gas-distribution network is limited in most cases, even providing opportunities to free up capacity. Taking the consumer's viewpoint, we highlight the economic importance of the thermal storage tank, which requires a thermal capacity of two to three times the hourly thermal power output of the CHP to optimize electric power production and limit thermal losses. Further increasing the storage tank size can increase the gas-distribution capacity that can be marketed by the distribution system operator, but practical constraints in terms of dedicated land area have to be considered as well.