Flexible power balancing on the Elia grid



The past decade we have seen important trends that impact the power system, as explained nicely in the graph below:

Source:  Elia Presentation from 2017

Elia, the Belgian Power TSO, has embraced these changes and is gradually implementing measures that allow market participants to contribute to the flexible power markets. Here’s a short introduction video from Elia that clearly explains the evolution of the power market & the concepts of the Reserve/flexibility markets mentioned below:

The Power Balancing Market in Belgium

Every Balance Responsible Party (BRP) is responsible for balancing offtake and injection within its customer portfolio on a quarter-hourly basis. However, when BRPs are unable to do so, Elia may take the necessary steps to reduce the residual imbalance between electricity generation and consumption.

Historically, only large power suppliers/producers and industrials were considered as ‘reserve market participants’, involved in the balancing market. Recently the Balancing/reserve market is gradually becoming more accessible for market parties with smaller flexible power demand or supply volumes.

As of October 2019, market participants with +25 MW flexible production units (CIPU*) can inject their residual power and help balance the market, while getting rewarded for this.
*CIPU = Coordination of the Injection of Power Units. Indicating generation units with an installed capacity of 25 MW or more that are connected to the Elia grid, are subject to the CIPU contract.

The most interesting is the balancing market for R3 (Tertiary Reserves). The R3 market allows Free Bids, R3 Standard, R3 Flex and Inter-TSO emergency contracts. The difference between R3 Standard and R3 Flex reserves is that R3 Flex reserves can only be activated a limited number of times per contract period. Any market player with excess volume (however small) can participate in the bidding and auctions to optimize profitability of their ‘sleeping capacity’.

How to ‘play’ on the balancing market

Elia offers market players several ways to participate. They have created a new market role, the Balancing Service Provider (BSP). A BSP is an entity that offers the flexibility of a unit or load in the reserve market to parties that request flexibility services, the TSOs or DSO. Often the flexibility of several distributed units is aggregated by one BSP, which is then called an aggregator.

So how do BSPs participate in balancing the market?:

The STAR Auction Platform

Through the STAR (Short-Term Auctioning of Reserves) application, BSPs can participate in the short-term reserve market for the different flexiblity products.

BSPs use this platform to submit their individual bids for every short-term auction period. These bids are submitted via B2C (graphical user interface) or B2B (XML) interfaces.


BMAP (Bidding MArket Platform) is a web-based bidding platform where BSPs (Balancing Service Providers) nominate their available R1/FCR capacities and submit R3/mFRR energy bids. 

BSPs submit to this platform their nominations and/or energy bids via B2C (graphical user interface) or B2B (XML) interfaces for every quarter-hour of the delivery period. 

How can EGSSIS help?

To enable our customers to participate on the flexible balancing market, we are adding the needed features to our Power Operations solution, egssPort Power. We are building API connections to Elia’s PROBID*, STAR & BMAP platforms, in order to receive & respond to Elia activation requests in egssPort.

*Probid is Elia’s system for exchanging generation information in real time. It allows a direct connection to be established between power producers’ servers and Elia’s Probid servers.

Furthermore our 24/7 operations desk can help you with optimizing your power portfolio by making the best bids for your ‘sleeping capacity’. This gives you peace of mind and increases the overall profitability for your energy portfolio.

In addition to developing extra services for the Belgian Power grid, EGSSIS currently supports operations on RTE-France and Elexon-UK. Early Q3 we will go live with Creos-Luxembourg and the German Power grids (Amprion, 50Hertz, TransnetBW, and TenneT Germany).

We allow clients using our software to nominate & schedule power, receive anomaly and confirmation documents, and all relevant market communications with the TSOs and counterparts. We’re also developing a Status Request feature, allowing our users a real-time view on the status of their nominations.

Additional information on balancing & reserves:

Next Kraftwerke clearly explains the gradual opening up of access to different reserves in more detail on this page, definitely worth a read!:

They have this concise overview explaining the different types of Reserves:

R1 (primary reserves) Frequency containment reserve (FCR) Kicks in automatically in a matter of seconds (fully activated within 30s) after the deviation from the reference frequency (50Hz in Europe). Its aim is to contain the deviation to avoid system collapse.
R2 (secondary reserves) Frequency restoration reserve (aFRR) These reserves are controlled centrally by Elia to restore the frequency back to its reference value. The reserves need to be fully activated within 7.5 min.
R3 (tertiary reserves) Replacement reserve (mFRR) The replacement reserves are meant to free up the R2 reserves after the frequency has been restored. They are controlled manually and activated locally. They are important to solve important imbalance and congestion problems, active in a time range from minutes to hours. R3 needs to be fully activated within 15 min.


For more information and details on these flexibility products , definitely take a look at the Elia website.

This PDF clearly explains the concepts of electricity balancing

What about the demand side?

In our blog we mainly talk from the perspective of the ‘supply side’ with shippers/suppliers, producers, and aggregators. However the demand-side is also important. The 2nd largest power consumer in Belgium (Vynova) explains this demand-response side clearly in this video:

On top of that Elia is partnering with innovative technology companies and has a lot of projects on a wide range of topics such as better forecasting, steering consumption at the household and retail level, etc. (see https://innovation.eliagroup.eu/) All of which will be needed to address the increasing supply-demand flexibility of the future due to increased adoption of Electric Vehicles, batteries, and renewable energy sources.

As you can see there are a lot of changes going on in the sector, and we will be keeping a close eye on how we can translate these into our solution. The end goal is to give our customers the right tools to optimize and manage their energy portfolio operations.