VPK monetizes energy flexibility thanks to Demand Response services

Through a transparent partnership with Flexcity, VPK Paper can further improve the economic efficiency of the investment in its gas turbine


 Packaging group

VKP Paper mill in Belgium

VKP Paper mill in Belgium

890,000 tons

Paper production

Customer Challenge

Reduce the energy bill for heavy industry processes

VPK Packaging Group is a pioneering Western European packaging company. Since 1935, it has been producing protective cardboard packaging for logistics. Its two paper mills in Belgium and France produce 900,000 tons of paper each year, exclusively made from 100% recycled paper.


Since 2015, Flexcity and VPK Paper, the Belgian packaging paper mill, have partnered to add flexibility to the energy management strategy of VPK. Paper production is an energy-intensive industry. Indeed, producing paper involves heavy electrical machinery and large amounts of steam and heat… which result in substantial electricity bills!

As a heavy industrial in Europe, VPK Group has to comply with stringent energy management constraints on Demand Response services. In-depth process optimization, use of efficient, state-of-the-art technologies, renewable energy and cogeneration of power and heat are key elements of this strategy. Using Flexcity’s Demand Response (DR) services, VPK Paper has been valorizing its power on reserve markets for two years now and is now looking for new processes to monetize.


Implementing Demand Response in the cogeneration process


Leveraging its expertise in industrial process monetization on Demand Response services, Flexcity studied VPK Paper’s machinery as well as the Belgian mill’s technical constraints to secure the paper production. It became clear that cogeneration of power and heat using a combined heat and power plant (CHP) was the best process to monetize. 

‘Elementary’… As Mr. Holmes would have said! The CHPs on-site act as the beating heart of the site, running continuously at full load day and night, while providing both electricity and heat for the various processes on the production site.  

In addition to producing energy, the gas turbine CHP can be used to support the electrical grid by reacting to frequency deviations within a few seconds, major power plant outages or unexpected consumption peaks.  Furthermore, some paper machines can be stopped to reduce the stress on the electricity grid when planned in advance.


Together with VPK Paper, we identified two revenue streams, with frequency containment reserves (Primary Reserve or R1) as an ideal method to generate additional revenues with the CHP and Capacity management reserves for the less reactive paper machines.

comments Arnout Aertgeerts, CTO at Flexcity.


The Belgian utility Elia requires the R1 DR service to control and contain the frequency of the European electricity grid. Using Flexcity’s advanced DR services, the CHP is equipped with a smart control device, the Flexcity box.

Flexcity worked closely with VPK Paper as well as the supplier of the CHP to securely connect the generator to the box. Based on frequency measurement, this device modulates the CHP’s power output only when necessary, severely limiting the impact on the CHP as well as on the paper production. This Flexcity box runs a local algorithm to deliver the R1 service in a continuous, automatic and decentralized way since the service requires an immediate response to frequency deviations.



Leveraging the flexibility of a CHP on primary reserve

Thanks to our partnership with Flexcity and our CHP supplier, we deliver the R1 service fully automated without any need for intervention from our site operators

Johan Dhaese, Group Energy & Environment Manager VPK Packaging Group


The benefits of implementing this new DR service with Flexcity are:

  • Easy, secured and seamless set-up of the Flexcity box on-site….And no upfront investment needed! The box automatically builds a secure VPN access towards Flexcity with two majors benefits for VPK’s IT teams: no need for their intervention and no unnecessary network risk due to Ethernet points opening.
  • Generate revenues on some of the most gainful DR services in Europe
  • Contribute to electricity grid balancing security supply and security of the electricity grid, which results in a cut in Co2 emissions.

VPK Paper has been able to deliver R1 perfectly, providing a top-notch service to Flexcity and Elia.

Johan Dhaese, Group Energy & Environment Manager VPK Packaging Group.