Jeff Renaud is Head of Asia and Oceania at Enel X

Enel X's Head of Asia and Oceania Jeff Renaud sat down for a Q&A with DCD's Kisandka Moses to discuss their award-winning VPP project with Digital Realty, as showcased in the recent case study episode of DCD>Grid Scale.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge / opportunity facing the energy industry today in Asia Pacific?

A: There are two key megatrends that are facing the energy industry in the region, which I believe are creating new opportunities for businesses.

Firstly, the renewable energy transition is accelerating across the region, with 1.4TW of new wind and solar capacity to be built in APAC during the next decade. Actually, four of the top 7 markets for renewable energy development are in APAC, including China, India, Japan and Australia.

Secondly, APAC’s energy markets are rapidly deregulating. In general, APAC has been slower to liberalize its power markets than Europe. But deregulation has now happened, or it is proceeding across most of the region.

Japan is a great example. Having completed the implementation of its utility reforms in 2020, it is now world’s largest liberalized power market under a single regulator, with a system capacity in excess of 160GW. And the market is becoming more dynamic and complex as a result. For instance, in 2020, more than 40% of Japan’s power traded on the Japanese Power Exchange, up from only 3% in 2017.

Q: How does Enel X work with data centers?

A: We work with data centers in a few different ways, helping them to decarbonize their energy supply while taking advantage of new opportunities presented by the renewable energy transition.

One of the key things we do is to enrol data centers in our Virtual Power Plant (VPP). Today, we have 70MW of data centers signed up for our programs in Australia, and hundreds of MWs under contract globally.

Some industries participate by turning equipment off or down, and others like data centers proactively switch over to backup systems like UPS and generators. Both methods result in a reduction of power consumption, which helps relieve pressure on the grid at critical times.

For the <1% of the time the grid doesn’t have enough volume of electricity or capacity in the network, a VPP is a cheaper and greener alternative to building more power plants or network capacity.

Looking ahead, VPPs will be an important source of ‘flexible capacity’ that can help balance the increasingly large amounts of variable renewable energy on the world’s power grids.

Our VPP platform makes it relatively simple for data centers to add a new element to their sustainability and energy strategies, opening up a significant new revenue stream while managing critical customer and operational considerations.

Q: You led an episode of our DCD>Grid Scale series recently, which is now available to stream on-demand. Could you give us a little overview of what you shared during your episode?

A: We were invited to speak off the back of our successful DCD Awards win with our client Digital Realty, for mission critical tech innovation with VPP participation.

Digital Realty’s two Australian data centers are available to switch over to its UPS and backup generation to provide capacity as part of our VPP to support the grid, bringing a number of benefits – we share the benefits in our [episode].

First, we look at what is happening with energy systems and the energy transition, how VPPs work, and why data centers are perfectly suited VPP partners.

Then we go into how it works, and the numerous benefits data centers can experience with VPP participation. Some include enabling more renewables on the grid, helping to prevent power outages, reducing the cost of electricity and conducting more realistic testing of backup infrastructure.

There are growing opportunities for data centers to participate in our programs around the world, and we share the importance of a consistent global approach to VPP participation, and how to get started.

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