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The technical challenges of the standardized load profiles
А hasty and inconsiderate market opening may open a door that could not be closed after that
AUTHOR: Atanas Georgiev

The standardized load profiles are the hottest topic in the beginning of this spring in Bulgaria. Largely advertised as “the last step before full liberalization”, their appearance is expected by both traders and small consumers. However, there is still not enough clarity on what exactly they will change and we hear more and more worried voices regarding the unsolved technical issues.

Time is money

When liberalization reaches an end consumer (a household or an SME) with a smart meter, everything is quite simple, even if based on a complex technical solution. The consumption could be metered every hour (or even every 15 minutes), the data is safely stored and can be transmitted through diverse communication solutions. This allows a simultaneous process of consumption prediction, metering, and settlement. If the trader, who is responsible for the consumer, got the things wrong, there would be balancing market payments.

However, when there is no smart meter in place, the so called standardized load profiles (SLPs) are used. They provide ratios so that when we see the final consumption at the end of the metering period, it could be distributed hour by hour, allowing the final settlement for every consumer (and trader, and distribution company involved). Currently in Bulgaria we have a situation quite different from the one we just described. Metering periods for different small consumers may start on different dates within the month, while settlement and balancing is based on data encompassing the exact period from the 1st and the 31st of every month. In the current Market rules there is a provision that has to solve the potential problem with this time gap, but it is not proven in practice yet. Other problems may arise from wrong SLP - a consumer who actually used “X” kWh, may be subject to an SLP, which requires settlement for “2X” kWh. The worst part – it is not yet clear who has to pay the difference – the consumer, the trader, and/or the distribution company. A quite strong notion of “time is money”, actually.

Specific communication needed

The introduction of SLPs needs new technical solutions in terms of data management as well. Currently, distribution companies know that all small consumers (households and SMEs) are clients of one supplier – the incumbent one. Thus data management is relatively simple – lump data for all small consumers are provided by the distribution grid company to the end supplier.

Liberalization will make these relations quite more complex. The distribution company will have to know who is changing their supplier and who the new supplier is. At the end of the metering period, the proper consumer data have to be sent to the proper supplier. The same is valid for the comparison of SLPs with the balancing data. And last, but not least, the transmission system operator (TSO) has to be aware of these switches, as it manages the whole balancing market.

What is the European experience?

It should not be that complex, if many countries do implement end consumers liberalization without smart meters, although in these countries the period for meter reading is longer – once in 3 month, or 6 months, or even longer. Actually, there are many working models for SLPs application – both in Europe and in the rest of the world.

However, we have to be aware, that the adoption of SLPs is not the last step toward end consumers liberalization, but the first step of a process requiring new technical solutions. For instance – automated data export and exchange, metering periods clarification, a period for adaptation, etc.

Until all technical challenges are solved, end consumers should not be promised “forthcoming liberalization”. Moreover, if they think that everything is already solved and in place (which is not the fact), they may push for a hasty and inconsiderate market liberalization, which will open a door that could not be closed after that.

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