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Elisa to begin selling its energy-management software to other telcos

The Finnish operator Elisa has been using batteries at its RAN sites with an in-house AI software to sell power back to the grid, and it now seeks to commercialize the solution.

Tereza Krásová

November 30, 2023

3 Min Read
Elisa premises in Finland
(Source: Elisa)

Elisa plans to start selling the AI-based software it has developed for a battery management system to other telcos, allowing them to store energy bought when prices are low and even sell it back to the grid when demand is high.

The Finnish operator has today published a white paper describing its creation of a virtual power plant from the batteries providing power back-up at its radio access network (RAN) sites. It has increased battery capacity and uses AI software developed in-house to help the electricity grid balance supply and demand.

The project started with a testing and technology evaluation phase in 2020 and accelerated in 2022 when Elisa obtained market certification from the power transmission system operator (TSO) Fingrid. Last year, it trialed the technology at 200 sites with a combined capacity of 1 MW.

Elisa is now working to expand it to the rest of its sites. Priority is given to sites where demand is heaviest, such as those in urban areas, said Ville Väre, Elisa's business development director for smart energy solutions.

To ensure electricity supply matches demand, TSOs trade many different products on both an intra-day and day-ahead basis. Elisa has used its in-house AI expertise to create an automated battery management system in this market.

While operators have conventionally relied on lead-acid batteries, Elisa has upgraded to the more advanced lithium-ion chemistry. It has also increased storage capacity to last up to six hours so that it can maximize revenues.

An upfront investment was needed for that upgrade to lithium-ion, said Elisa in its white paper, but Väre still thinks the operator will be able to realize a return on investment within two to five years. Other costs are lower compared with greenfield battery projects because RAN sites already have a lot of the necessary infrastructure in place, he said, including power equipment and an electricity connection. 

Elisa plans a ten-year investment, which is also the batteries' expected lifespan. Most income is currently generated through the reserve market, according to Väre.

The sales opportunity looks especially attractive to Elisa because it can theoretically charge batteries when power is cheap and discharge them when prices go up.

Commercializing the software

Elisa is also in talks about offering its battery management system to other operators. This would allow them to increase their power back-up capacity and monetize it.

The company proposes to operate the system in partnership, with Elisa contributing the technology and its customer providing controllable assets and infrastructure. Varë says its technology can be integrated into an operator's own network control system, giving any customer full control.

One smaller telco is already using the solution and Elisa is in discussions with other, larger operators, he adds. Details of some partnerships may be revealed this year or early next year.  

Asked about the opportunity in other countries, Väre said the structure of the electricity market is an important factor. The Nordic region, Benelux countries, Germany and the UK are among the most attractive power markets because they have similar features, he said. And with EU harmonization, the rules are starting to converge across the block. Current high prices make some eastern European markets look interesting, said Väre.

At the same time, he acknowledges that the requirement for back-up power – a reason Elisa started to investigate a solution – varies from one country to another. Operators in Western countries usually have back-up capacity for risk-management purposes regardless, he said, although it can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.

Elisa's current focus is mainly on finding customers among telcos, but it is carrying out some tests with home batteries in Finland, said Väre.

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Europe

About the Author(s)

Tereza Krásová

Associate Editor, Light Reading

Associate Editor, Light Reading

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