The Evolution of Ancillary Services:
Adaptation or Extinction?

With the global shift towards a sustainable energy future, the significance of renewable energy sources is steadily growing. However, the intermittent nature of renewables poses challenges for power grid operators who are tasked with ensuring grid stability and reliable electricity supply. To address these challenges, ancillary services are still instrumental in maintaining grid stability by mitigating grid frequency fluctuations.

Nevertheless, with the emergence of advanced grid integration technologies, questions have arisen about the future relevance and necessity of ancillary services. In response to a recent question, I try to explore the potential trajectory of ancillary services and consider whether they could become obsolete in the future.

The Purpose of Ancillary Services

Ancillary services encompass a range of mechanisms employed by power grid operators to regulate frequency deviations on the grid caused by fluctuations. These services include primary control, secondary control, and tertiary control, which allow for on-demand adjustments in power generation or consumption. By utilizing ancillary services, grid operators can effectively balance supply and demand, ensuring a reliable and stable electricity supply.

The Emergence of Grid Integration Technologies

Grid integration technologies, such as smart grids and energy storage systems, have emerged as indispensable tools in managing the impact of renewables on grid frequency. Smart grids enable real-time data monitoring and communication between various components of the electricity grid, facilitating efficient coordination of renewable energy sources, storage systems, and demand response mechanisms.

Energy storage systems, such as batteries, allow surplus energy generated by renewables to be stored and deployed when required, providing an additional means of balancing the grid frequency. These technologies have significantly enhanced the grid's ability to accommodate renewables, reducing the reliance on conventional ancillary services.

As Grid Integration Technologies Continue To Advance, The Need For Traditional Ancillary Services May Diminish (symbol Image, Credit Clou)
As Grid Integration Technologies Continue To Advance, The Need For Traditional Ancillary Services May Diminish
(symbol Image, Credit CLOU)

The Potential Obsolescence of Ancillary Services

Given the rapid advancements in grid integration technologies, it is reasonable to question the future relevance of ancillary services. While these services have been crucial in maintaining grid stability thus far, we can anticipate a shift towards more sophisticated and automated systems that rely less on manual intervention and more on real-time data analytics and predictive algorithms.

Smart grid technologies, for instance, have the potential to autonomously adjust power generation and consumption in response to frequency deviations, reducing the reliance on primary and secondary control mechanisms. Energy storage systems can provide localized frequency regulation, acting as a decentralized source of ancillary services.

Moreover, demand response mechanisms allow consumers to actively participate in grid balancing. With the ability to adjust their electricity consumption in real-time, consumers can contribute to frequency regulation, potentially further reducing the need for traditional ancillary services.

This evolving landscape raises the question, whether ancillary services will eventually become obsolete. While it is unlikely that they will disappear entirely, their role may shift towards supporting and enhancing the functioning of grid integration technologies rather than being the primary means of frequency regulation.


Ancillary services have long played a vital role in maintaining the stability and reliability of power grids in the face of fluctuating renewable energy generation. However, as grid integration technologies continue to advance, the need for traditional ancillary services may diminish.

Smart grids, energy storage systems, and demand response mechanisms offer new avenues for enhancing grid stability and frequency regulation. As a result, while ancillary services may not become entirely obsolete, their role is likely to evolve, focusing more on supporting and augmenting the capabilities of emerging grid integration technologies.
The future promises a more integrated and flexible electricity grid that can accommodate renewables with greater efficiency and reliability.

What are your thoughts on the potential trajectory of ancillary services and their future relevance? We encourage you to share your insights and perspectives with our readers in the comments section below.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in July 2023 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


All comments are moderated before being published. Inappropriate or off-topic comments may not be approved.