Renewables pave the way for a low carbon future, but increasing clean energy generation is only part of the puzzle as we work to decarbonize the grid.
Among the challenges of adding more clean energy to the grid is the unpredictable nature of renewable energy sources and the fact that they might also not always be located near where they are needed most. These factors make the grid increasingly difficult to manage.
This is where local flexibility comes in – using software to connect smart devices in people’s homes and aggregate them in Virtual Power Plants (VPPs). VPPs are key to unlocking residential flexibility as they can aggregate a large number of small assets and coordinate a change in behavior to respond to grid signals.
Leveraging domestic flexibility will help us to keep the grid stable, reduce congestion and maximize the benefits for consumers.
Distribution network operators (or DNOs), companies licensed to distribute electricity in the UK, are increasingly focusing on energy flexibility.
We are proud that Gridshare software has been delivering local grid services to DNO UK Power Networks. These contracts were amongst the first in the UK to provide energy capacity to a local electricity network from home energy storage.
Through our Gridshare software, we have enabled customers with distributed small-scale energy storage assets in their homes to participate in local flexibility markets. The batteries would respond to demand across UK Power Networks’s constraint zones to export power to help meet consumption during peak energy usage periods.
In the last couple of years, Gridshare software supported UK Power Networks in providing flexibility services at a local level in a few different constraint areas across their network, such as in Lewes, East Sussex, and the Worthing and Littlehampton area.
The flexibility contract that covered South England’s Sussex and Lewes constrained areas lasted from September 2020 to May 2021. Twenty-seven homes were equipped with intelligent batteries to create a VPP through our Gridshare technology.
With UK Power Networks being the flexibility procurer, Gridshare was the technology that enabled participation in this flexibility program, connecting distributed devices so they could form a cloud-based, decentralized network of power generation systems.
The process included recruiting customers to participate in the project, integrating with the UK Power Networks’ cloud-based automated dispatch system, and conducting intensive testing to determine the readiness of the technology.
After successfully delivering this contract, we were contracted for the service in Worthing and Littlehampton, where we had to go through a similar set-up process. This is a six-year rolling contract — which started in December 2021 — to deliver flexibility during the winter months, when the grid is most constrained.
Gridshare was the first software to have integrated with UK Power Networks’ cloud-based automated dispatch system. This allowed its instructions to be sent through the cloud to automatically decide which batteries Gridshare should control to export energy back to the grid. We are proud to have delivered against the contracted requirements and proved residential assets are a viable solution to local constraints.
In Lewes, the batteries that formed the VPP successfully supported the energy demand in the area and exported power in response to pressure on the grid. This provided each customer with affordable and uninterrupted energy while increasing the amount of renewable energy on the grid and alleviating its pressure. The VPP managed to deliver 50kW, meeting the targets set for this contract.
In Worthing, Gridshare replicated this success and delivered the contract’s requirements. The dispatches were completed with an average overall delivery of over 96%.
A critical factor in the effective delivery of residential VPPs is the amount the installed capacity is over specified to account for system dropouts, typically called “headroom”. Thanks to its sophistication and the team’s experience and expertise in getting fleets of devices VPP-ready, Gridshare delivered the contract in Worthing with very limited headroom.
UK Power Networks is the UK’s biggest electricity distributor — a company licensed to distribute electricity in the UK — making sure the lights stay on for more than eight million homes and businesses across London, the South East, and the East of England.
UK Power Networks is committed to focusing on energy flexibility as an integral part of their transition to a DSO, allowing them to manage the network, build a more resilient grid and gain financial benefits for their customers. UK Power Networks’s Flexibility Roadmap can be found here.
The company continues to be listed in the Top 25 Best Big Companies to Work For in the UK and made industry history by becoming the first company to win Utility of the Year two years running.
“Britain is leading the world at harnessing the power of all these batteries that are going to be connected and using them for the public good. Three years ago, this market didn’t exist, and now it’s offering as much capacity as a gas-fired power station.
We’re working with some of the most exciting start-ups out there, and we’re proving it in the real world. There’s a long way to go and no silver bullet, but the way we’re using technology and data is going to be a big part of the answer to meeting the challenge of reaching Net Zero.” –
Sul Alli, Director of Strategy and Customer Services,
UK Power Networks.