BidLadder: Opening the market for new technologies


Kai Schmied

Market Facilitation & Blockchain

Elia maintains grid balance via three types of control reserves: 

  • Primary reserve for frequency control (R1 or FCR): participating actors react automatically and instantaneously within 0 to 30 seconds to frequency deviations.
  • Secondary reserve for automatic frequency restoration (R2 or aFRR): participating market actors react within 30 seconds to 15 minutes on the basis of an automatic signal sent by Elia.
  • Tertiary reserve for manual frequency restoration (R3 or mFRR): this reserve enables Elia to cope with a significant or systematic imbalance in the control area.


Tertiary reserves consist of reserved & non-reserved volumes. In the past, non-reserved tertiary reserves (so called “free balancing bids”) were exclusively flexible volumes mainly coming from large (spinning) power generation units (>25MW). The Bidladder project opened up this market of non-reserved R3 towards smaller units and demand response, in order to create a level playing field for all technologies to compete, both for TSO and DSO-connected assets.


In essence, the BidLadder is a platform operated by Elia gathering different (kinds of) bids for balancing energy. In its ultimate form it will provide control engineers with an overall ranking for balancing energy, in particular all R3-related products, whether reserved or non-reserved. Opening market access to balancing service providers will give Elia greater liquidity in the balancing energy market, which is also positive for the community and in terms of integrating RES into the Belgian grid.

The BidLadder, combined with a transfer of energy (ToE) solution, enables BSPs like independent aggregators or grid users to offer Elia flexibility for balancing purposes, whereas today this option is only open to large generating facilities (such as CIPUs).A transfer of energy for the market of tertiary non-reserved control power is foreseen in April 2018.

This transfer of energy solution will ensure that market parties (i.e. BSPs), that are not necessarily suppliers or balancing responsible parties, can participate in the balancing mechanism by offering their flexibility to Elia.


Better for society

Opening up the balancing market to new sources of flexibility and bringing in new types of market actors to offer this flexibility to Elia, can only improve the liquidity of the balancing market. This will give Elia higher balancing volumes at lower prices, which will have a positive knock-on ‘welfare’ effect for society in general.

Widening access

The platform is open to consumers and holders of decentralised generation units (<25MW) who are able to react to a signal within 15 minutes for a period of at least 15 minutes. Volume offered: At least a volume of 1 MW with 0,1MW increments (can be spread over multiple sites and offered with a partner).