10 myths about Demand Side Response

Sainsbury's deliver demand side response from its stores UK wide

Demand Side Response  is a vital part of our transition to a zero carbon economy and has the potential to transform how we use and deliver energy. But there are some common misconceptions about how businesses can get involved and what it means for them. To help cut through these, Chris Kimmett, Commercial Director at Open Energi, tackles some of the most common myths about Demand Side Response (DSR).

Myth 1: It’s too disruptive

This myth is especially prevalent in the press where headlines such as “UK factories shut down to prevent winter blackouts” are not uncommon. But this is a very outdated perception and technology advances have changed the game completely. There are lots of processes that have a degree of flexibility, where technology can be used to temporarily increase or decrease consumption without impacting performance, for example heating, cooling and pumping.

Take the air conditioning in a typical office building. It will be designed to maintain the temperature between certain bands, for example 18-22 degrees centigrade. Turning the unit on or off for a short period won’t have any discernible impact on the temperature and technology can automate its response so as soon as it approaches its upper or lower limit it stops responding.

Some demand is genuinely inflexible, such as lighting. The good news is that as battery costs come down, businesses can use these to participate in different Demand Side Response schemes and switch to battery power during peak periods.

Myth 2: It’s all back-up diesel generators

It’s true that there is a lot of back up generation participating in certain DSR schemes. Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) is a good example; 93% of the response comes from generation and 22% (743MW) of this is from diesel. That’s because there are a lot of organisations with back up diesel generators which for much of the time are under-used, so it makes sense to earn revenue from these where possible. However, there is also a significant and growing portion of real demand participating across a range of markets, coming from all kinds of different equipment, including fridges, pumps, chillers, motors, and fans. To date, we have connected over 60MW of demand flexibility from these types of assets across the UK, of which around a third is usually available at any one time.

Myth 3: There isn’t enough value to make it worthwhile

There are lots of businesses out there participating in DSR who would disagree with this statement. In a recent Energyst Media survey, 81% of businesses said they participated in DSR to generate revenue and National Grid’s PowerResponsive website features a range of case studies. These businesses are seeing significant value from participating in DSR, not just in terms of revenue, but also because it is the right thing to do and it is supporting their organisation’s sustainability credentials. Accessing all a business’ flexibility means it should be possible to return around 5-10% of its energy bill in DSR revenue. National Grid has clearly stated its desire and need to grow demand side participation significantly, and its value is expected to increase over time.

Myth 4: It’s a winter peak problem

There is a winter peak problem and margins remain slim at around 6.6%, but National Grid increasingly faces challenges in the summer and with the year round second-by-second balancing of supply and demand. As more of our power comes from wind, solar and other sources of distributed generation over which National Grid has no control, it is having to cope with periods in the summer months where supply exceeds demand, often overnight or in the middle of a sunny day. Rather than pay wind farms to turn off, it has been using a new service called Demand Turn-up to encourage businesses to shift their demand to these periods to help absorb the excess energy.

A very different challenge is that of managing the real-time balancing of electricity supply and demand, which National Grid must do 24/7, 365 days a year. Whether a gust of wind means a surge in power or a gas plant tripping means a shortage, demand flexibility is cleaner, cheaper and faster than ramping power stations up and down in response. Fast acting real time flexibility is essential to keeping the lights on in the future.

Myth 5: Participating in Demand Side Response means handing over control of my processes

Absolutely not! It is not the place of DSR providers to tell you how to run your business and you should always retain ultimate control. This should be a fundamental part of how you approach DSR. We spend a lot of time working with our customers to understand their assets and processes and agree the parameters within which they want their assets to participate. Once a control strategy is in place, each individual asset is then able to decide if it can respond, and the technology will enable it to kick us out automatically if it reaches a point where it can’t.

The beauty of DSR is that because the response is aggregated from many thousands of assets, where one fridge can’t respond we know that a pump or a bitumen tank will. Added to this there is always an override switch which means the system can be disabled on site at any time.

Myth 6:  Demand Side Response is easy

It is getting easier, but it is certainly not easy just yet. As described above, much of the effort and resource is required pre-implementation, in understanding the assets and processes and developing a strategy to ensure there is no impact on operational performance. There is a lot of great learning happening in the UK and globally, connectivity is increasing, technology is improving, and we are starting to see equipment being manufactured “DSR” ready. These changes are making it easier for businesses to participate by the day.

Myth 7:  Energy storage = batteries

Batteries are very interesting and the cost curve has been plummeting – especially for Lithium-ion batteries. But energy storage comes in many forms; there is thermal storage in a fridge, in a building’s air conditioning or in a bitumen tank for example.

Working with Aggregate Industries, we have found that a modern, well-maintained and insulated bitumen tank – which stores the liquid bitumen used to make asphalt for roads at between 150-180 degrees centigrade – can be switched off for over an hour with only a one-degree change in temperature.

Similarly, the water pumped to a reservoir represents a form stored energy. If we can find these small amounts of stored energy in everyday processes and unlock this flexibility for National Grid, then we can start to deliver a transformation in how our energy system operates without the need to build new batteries.

Myth 8: There isn’t enough demand flexibility to make a difference

A number of recent studies have looked at this, including the Association of Decentralised Energy and the National Infrastructure Commission. Our analysis suggests there is around 6GW of demand that can be shifted during peak periods, and that’s real demand only, not including back-up generators. 6GW is more than the UK’s two biggest coal fired power stations combined, and almost double the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant. Unlocking this flexibility means we can build fewer peaking plants, integrate more renewable generation and mitigate the effects of intermittency. It offers major advantages in terms of cost, network reliability and sustainability which is good news for the environment and bill payers!

Myth 9: It’s unreliable

In setting the Capacity Market Auction Guidelines, National Grid prescribed the reliability for each balancing technology class available. Demand Side Response was ranked as more reliable than Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT), coal, hydro, oil or nuclear power. For example, for a 100MW nuclear generator, National Grid estimate it can rely on 81.4MW being available, while for DSR they would expect 89.7MW to be available. Large centralised power stations do not necessarily confer reliability. By their very nature they represent large single points of failure with the potential to cause massive disruption should a problem arise. The aggregated nature of DSR which relies on many thousands of smaller assets working together has proved its reliability over many years.

Myth 10: I have no flexibility!

You probably have more than you realise. If you’re thinking about demand flexibility but not sure how or if it could work for your business, we recommend you:
1) engage the right people internally who know what equipment you have and understand how it is managed
2) find someone who understands the market
3) find someone who understands your industry and what you do

By overlaying the above in a meaningful you can identify how much flexibility you have and where you can use it in a way that doesn’t disrupt your business and delivers the value you need.



Energy Storage: unlocking consumer value

Storage London Skyline of Gherkin

David Hill, Director, Open Energi, discusses how a sharing economy approach to battery deployment can unlock value for consumers.

Energy markets are in the midst of a revolution and the arrival of commercially viable energy storage systems is accelerating this change.

When looking at how the market will adapt to this change, there are two broad options for the deployment of energy storage. The first is the introduction of massive grid-scale batteries in front of the meter, backed by utilities and other large industry partners. Such an approach would support the traditional, centralised model of energy supply where value is returned to industry incumbents.

The second option is a behind the meter approach where energy storage helps to fuel the growth of a decentralised system.  One which sees batteries distributed in every business and home and transfers value to consumers, putting them in control of how, when and from where they consume their energy.

Yesterday, at the BNEF’s Future of Energy Summit, I discussed why this is not only the most exciting vision, but also the smartest.

A sharing economy approach

By co-locating batteries on business sites, you are taking the same sharing economy principles revolutionised by Airbnb and Uber, and applying them to industrial equipment and infrastructure to unlock new income streams from existing assets.

It means there’s no need to buy up acres of land or invest in expensive new grid connections. Batteries are installed on industrial and commercial customer sites and tap into the grid via existing connections.

This also means they can interact with other business assets and processes, opening up new revenue streams and energy saving opportunities for end users. In this way, batteries can help businesses to maximise the value of their total flexibility by:

  • Cutting costs during peak price periods
  • Earning revenue from frequency response
  • Unlocking value from assets with zero flexibility
  • Trading capacity in wholesale electricity markets

Unlocking total flexibility

Take a supermarket for example. Without a battery, it could use flexibility inherent in some of its equipment and processes, such as refrigeration, air conditioning and cold storage, to participate in real-time frequency response. For example, automatically turning air con units down for a short period of time (90% of switches are for less than 5 minutes) when demand exceeds supply, or turning them up when there’s an unexpected surplus on the system.  Because there is stored energy in these processes, i.e. the thermal inertia associated with heating or cooling, it could do this without impacting the quality of its products or the comfort of its customers.

This still leaves a significant portion of its energy consumption “untouchable.” Turning lighting, tills or baking ovens off to avoid peak pricing periods wouldn’t go down well with customers. Batteries change the game completely; enabling a supermarket to charge its battery when costs are low, and power as much of its consumption as possible from the battery during peak periods, including non-flexible consumption such as lighting, tills and baking ovens. As peak price periods only account for about 10% of a day, the rest of the time the battery can earn revenues from frequency response.

Combining energy storage and demand side response in this way is the key to unlocking the total value of flexibility to consumers – and the potential of this flexibility to transform how our electricity system operates. It’s a combination which means we’re already seeing business models on industrial and commercial sites with an ROI of 3-5 years. Not bad compared to 15-20 years for a grid-scale generation project.

Smart technology platforms

Similar to the other sharing economy models that have been catalysts for change in their respective industries, underpinning this flexibility in the energy industry is technology. Decrypting patterns of flexible demand and making intelligent decisions on a second-by-second basis about how an asset should behave and from where it should consume its energy requires cutting-edge technology.

Open Energi is using the same mathematical techniques that have let machines defeat chess and Go masters to build a technology platform that can aggregate massive amounts of flexible demand – from industrial equipment, co-generation and battery storage systems – and take us closer to the reality of a smarter grid; one that is cleaner, cheaper, more secure and more efficient.



A smarter approach to energy is supporting sustainability at Tarmac

Tarmac Harper Lane image

Tarmac is the UK’s leading building materials construction solutions company, committed to delivering a sustainable environment for the future. Steffan Eldred, Senior Energy Optimisation Manager at Tarmac talks about the company’s approach to sustainability and how demand response fits in.

As a company with almost 7,000 employees serving over 15,000 customers we are always looking for solutions that can help us operate more effectively and sustainably. We employ a whole life approach to sustainability, which means that we are not just considering the impact on our extractive or production processes, we’re also concerned about how they perform in life and how they perform when they come to the end of their life as well, in terms of recycling or re-use.

We have identified four priority areas to guide our strategy; people, planet, performance and solutions. Energy use, carbon emissions and climate change fit firmly in the planet category, so that’s where demand response comes in, helping us be smarter about how and when we use energy and support our carbon reduction targets.

Intelligent demand response

Demand response itself is not a new concept. What I think is new is the number of schemes that are available for businesses to participate in and the wider understanding of how this can support our transition to a more sustainable energy future.

We first heard about Open Energi’s approach – which involves making very quick but short changes in consumption – a couple of years ago now and we soon realised that this could unlock a lot of new opportunities for us to participate in demand response using smaller pieces of kit. Individually they don’t have much impact, but with today’s technology we can aggregate these across multiple sites, and suddenly it becomes something very meaningful which provides a big opportunity for us, National Grid and the system.

The service Open Energi provides via its Dynamic Demand platform is known as dynamic frequency response. The service needs you to respond within two seconds for up to 30 minutes, but typically the duration is only 4-5 minutes at a time. It’s the most valuable demand response scheme you can participate in but it’s effectively invisible from an operational perspective and once installed, it runs itself.

It wasn’t until we’d undertaken a trial on three of our sites in the South East and seen the technology in action that we were convinced, and that’s the approach I’d recommend to anyone thinking of installing this type of intelligent demand response. We ran the trial for a few months and this meant we could see that it worked, we could see the benefits it would bring, but most importantly for us, we knew it could be installed and operated safely without any impact on our sites.

The results of the trial enabled my team to go to the business and get buy-in from all of our internal stakeholders, from the Operations Director through to the teams on site operating our plant. After agreeing on the strategy, the actual installation was quite straightforward.

Tarmac approached it like any other engineering project, and had a project manager from Open Energi coordinating directly with someone on our side to manage the roll out. We appointed regional champions who stayed actively involved in the project, and provided all of our site staff with detailed comms packs.

We started at the beginning of 2015 and by April 2016 Dynamic Demand had been installed on over 200 bitumen tanks at 70 asphalt plans across the UK. What this means is the heating elements in each of those tanks, which keep the bitumen warm, can switch on or off in seconds to help National Grid balance electricity supply and demand. Collectively our tanks are providing the grid with capacity that we’re able to shift in real-time, so they’re able to use more when there is a surplus – for example when it’s particularly windy – and less when there’s a shortfall. It means we’re helping to build a smarter, more responsive energy system which is paving the way for more renewable power and reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuelled power stations.

Greater visibility and control

Another benefit we have seen from the technology is greater visibility and control of our tanks. We’re now able to see remotely if a tank is on when it shouldn’t be or if there’s a maintenance issue. For example, one heating element may be broken causing us to super heat others.  Responding to these kind of issues promptly can help us operate more efficiently and the learnings we are gathering from across all of our sites is helping us to identify and share best practice. Lastly, but most significantly, it has had no impact on site operations or safety and this is the ultimate measure of success for us – that we don’t even know it is happening.

Based on the success of this first phase of work with Open Energi, we’re now working together to identify other equipment such as pumps and HVAC controls that will also be suitable. We’re also keen to share what we have learned and encourage more businesses to follow suit.

Large businesses have an important role to play helping the UK meet its carbon commitments, and it’s very empowering to think that by working together, businesses can help drive a positive transformation in how the UK’s energy system operates, for the benefit of everyone.

Water pumps get in on the balancing act

Welsh Water Court Farm

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water is a not-for-profit water company committed to serving its customers. Thanks to demand side response (DSR), it has found that managing its energy demand more flexibly means it can do the right thing for its customers and the country. Mike Pedley, Head of Energy for Welsh Water, explains more.

At Welsh Water we have a very wide strategy to invest in energy efficiency, energy generation and indeed  DSR and other forms of tariff optimisation. Our not-for-profit model helps the company take a long term view when it comes to investing in low carbon and sustainable technologies which will run for many years and provide long term benefit for our customers.

Currently, we have some 56 sites generating renewable energy, which includes about 6MW of solar and 14MW of hydro. In addition, we’ve got around 11 anaerobic digestion sites. We plan to continue rolling out renewable generation as long as it delivers acceptable returns for the company and our customers.

A flexible approach

DSR is also something we’re doing more of. We’re aware that it is increasingly important to National Grid, and therefore the UK, to help balance the system cost-effectively, but from our perspective it’s a potential way of getting financial benefit from using our assets flexibly. Thanks to our not-for-profit model, if we benefit from it, then so do our customers.

We’ve contracted with National Grid directly for a couple of their  DSR schemes (last winter’s Demand Side Balancing Reserve and this summer’s Demand Turn-up) but following an open tender and successful trial, we’ve also started working with Open Energi on dynamic frequency response.

The service helps National Grid with its second by second balancing of electricity supply and demand, and responds automatically to changes in frequency. So if there’s a sudden shortfall in supply, instead of National Grid asking a power station to ramp up, Open Energi can ask our pumps to slow down temporarily.  Similarly, if there is excess power being supplied – say it was particularly windy or sunny – our pumps could increase their consumption to alleviate pressure on the grid and ensure no energy goes to waste. The key thing for us is our equipment is in control, and we set the parameters within which it can respond. We have found that if our pumps operate a little faster or a little slower for a few minutes at a time, that doesn’t impact our processes or customers.

What next?

Right now we’re targeting 25 sites and expect to have around 5MW of flexible demand. If that roll-out proves successful we’ll look at other assets to see whether we can expand its use. Not all of our assets are suitable but there are some that work well with this technology and I am sure that the same is true of a lot of businesses. I would expect more companies to adopt this type of technology for some of their assets. Increasingly in the UK now, companies  can benefit from using their assets as flexibly as possible and that also helps the country.

Transforming the UK’s energy future

Transforming the UK’s energy future

The UK is at a pivotal moment for investing in the future of its energy system. Two thirds of its power stations – mostly old coal, nuclear and gas-powered stations – are expected to close by 2030, increasing the risk of ‘brownouts’ and ‘blackouts’ in future.

A recent survey by the MEUC  found that nine out of 10 UK businesses are worried about the security of their energy supply. From businesses to households, our large and small energy consumers urgently need reassurance that our energy system is not only able to cater to growing demand, but is also ready for future challenges.

Our energy infrastructure was designed for a post-war world whose power sources were dominated by fossil fuel generators. It is linear, centralised and designed for passive, one-way distribution. Its static nature makes it unable to cater to overlapping demand: energy generation and pricing skyrocket during peaks in demand, stretching the system to its limit. Then as demand drops, or when renewable energy surges through the system, much of that electricity is wasted.

It’s clear we need to move beyond this wasteful, cumbersome system, and thanks to internet-enabled technologies, we can do so. Both the National Infrastructure Commission  and Ofgem  say that more flexible patterns of demand would reduce energy waste, make the system cheaper and more carbon efficient to run, and lowering consumers’ bills.

Harnessing the power of demand response

Businesses now have a unique opportunity to move away from polluting energy sources to help the UK achieve its carbon reduction targets, whilst being rewarded with new revenues at the same time.

The potential for demand response is huge: according to the National Infrastructure Commission’s Smart Power report, if just 5% of current peak electricity demand is met by demand-side response, our energy system would be £200m/year cheaper to run, and end-users could benefit by up to £790m.

This is the inspiration behind the Living Grid, a movement led by forward-thinking organisations and convened by Forum for the Future, to create a new approach to our energy system that is interactive, self-balancing and adaptive rather than linear and clumsy. This will not only help the grid cater better to peaks and troughs in demand and supply, but also enable it to make full use of renewable energy sources.

In the first phase, using smart technology provided by founding technology partner Open Energi, businesses’ appliances are upgraded to become part of an intelligent network that helps to balance supply and demand on the grid in real-time. Making tiny, second-by-second adjustments to their electricity use, they help to free up power at peak times or consume more when there’s energy surplus, benefitting the system as a whole.

By playing an active role in balancing supply and demand, pioneers of the Living Grid are rewarded by the National Grid’s Firm Frequency Response Market with additional revenue that they can reinvest in more energy efficiency measures.

Companies leading the change

To date, supermarket brand Sainsbury’s, building materials manufacturers Aggregate Industries and Tarmac, and water company United Utilities are part of the Living Grid’s network. Together, they are projected to free up 39MW of energy capacity by 2020, equating to almost 90,000 tonnes of carbon savings for the UK.

Sainsbury’s is the first supermarket to use Open Energi’s intelligent demand response technology on over 2,300 pieces of HVAC equipment at 200 stores. Sainsbury’s is now trialling refrigeration, and by 2020 it expects to free up 14MW of flexible power for National Grid, creating 31,865 tonnes of carbon savings per year.

Over the past 3 years, Aggregate Industries has connected its bitumen tanks and pumps at over forty asphalt plants and quarry sites UK-wide. Likewise, Tarmac is rolling out the technology to 70 Asphalt plants and over 200 bitumen tanks at sites across the UK.

United Utilities was the first water company in the country to implement Open Energi’s intelligent demand response technology. It has now connected equipment at over 10 of its larger wastewater treatment plants, and aims to activate more sludge plants and evaluate new processes that would work well with the technology. By 2020 it expects to earn up to £5m from Demand Response.

Not only will participating organisations become more resilient to future energy challenges, they will also demonstrate climate change leadership by unlocking massive carbon savings for the UK. With assets upgraded to automatically and invisibly manage energy consumption, they are at the forefront of opportunities to earn revenue and save energy through the use of new technologies.

Joining the movement

The Living Grid needs more pioneering organisations and technology partners to grow and scale up the transformation of the energy system. It aims to recruit 20 organisations by 2020 to free up 200MW of energy capacity. Through businesses acting together, it will show how demand-side management can make our system ready for the large-scale use of renewable energy.

It’s the first time a working partnership has been created by leading businesses to help modernise and relieve the pressure on the UK’s electricity system. Businesses have never aspired to transform our energy system so profoundly before. By working together to change how they use electricity, by making this visible to the world and by encouraging others to do the same, they can showcase the potential of demand-side management to reshape our energy system and catalyse change.

By Gemma Adams, Head of Innovation, Forum for the Future

1. October 2013. Powercut Britain: Are the lights about to go out for UK business? http://www.meuc.co.uk/userFiles/meuc_report.pdf
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/505218/IC_Energy_Report_web.pdf
3. https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/gas/retail-market/market-review-and-reform/smarter-markets-programme


Aggregate Industries help to keep the UK’s lights on

Asphalt Mixing Plant, Aggregate Industries

Donna Hunt, Head of Sustainability at Aggregate Industries, explains how her company is helping to keep the UK’s lights on, and why it is taking full advantage of the possibilities of demand side response (DSR).

Aggregate Industries is well known in the industry for being pioneers in the use of new technology and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption and costs, and at the same time reduce our emissions. When we found out that DSR can help us do all these things – and generate revenue – we became very interested.

For the last few years we have been working with Open Energi to identify those activities of ours that fit the dynamic frequency response management profile. In other words, activities where we can safely automate the switching on or off of power – without affecting quality – in order to help balance the grid.

We started with bitumen tanks which heat bitumen for the making of asphalt for road surfaces. We have found that turning off the heaters in these tanks to respond to short-term fluctuations in electricity supply and demand doesn’t affect the quality of our product at all.

Bitumen is stored at between 150-180 degrees centigrade and the heaters on modern, well-maintained and insulated bitumen tanks can be switched off for over an hour with only a one-degree change in temperature. The tanks’ temperature bands act as control parameters; if the temperature is within those bands switching can take place automatically, or if not, nothing happens.

The equipment uses frequency signals as a cue, which are an instantaneous indicator of the balance between electricity supply and demand. National Grid has to maintain frequency at 50hz to balance supply and demand, so if it falls below 50hz our plant is automatically switched off if conditions are right; if it rises above 50hz, it is switched on.

The average duration of a switch is less than five minutes. Essentially the intervention is invisible and has no impact on our operations, yet we are providing a valuable service to National Grid 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We are paid for being available, regardless of how often our tanks are required to respond.

Open Energi’s Dynamic Demand technology was initially fitted to bitumen tanks at 40 asphalt plants around the country. It’s proved so successful that we have since extended it to quarry pumps at two quarries, and we are actively reviewing other sites, operations and equipment to identify further activities to bring into the scheme.

Embracing this innovative technology has helped us deliver around 3.6MW of flexible demand for the grid. In terms of emissions that is over 40,000 tonnes of CO2 saved over five years. By 2020, we expect to be able to free up 5MW of flexible capacity for National Grid; equating to 11,380 tonnes of carbon savings per year.

And thanks to Open Energi’s metering and monitoring equipment, we now benefit from increased visibility of equipment performance. For example, data which can help to identify where the bitumen tanks may be inefficient or not running correctly, which has in turn helped us to improve maintenance, identify best practice and achieve more energy savings.

We are proud of our role in pioneering intelligent demand response and we see it as an important part of our corporate and social responsibility to share the benefits of this emerging technology and encourage others to take up the opportunity.

As National Grid has signalled via its Power Responsive campaign, businesses are uniquely placed to pave the way for a more flexible, responsive energy system, but to realise the full potential of demand side response, smart technologies must become a normal part of energy management.

By acting together, large energy users can help transform our energy system into one that is more efficient and sustainable. To help spread this message we have joined the Living Grid network, a peer to peer movement which aims to demonstrate what is possible. In doing so, we aim to help create a positive change in the energy system that extends beyond the borders of our own organisation.

UK demand side flexibility mapped

United Kingdom Map - London's spare GW of power

Open Energi  has mapped the UK’s demand side flexibility to reveal 6GW of peak-shifting potential, and 750MW of dynamic flexibility available for real-time grid balancing.

Demand-side response is at its core an optimisation of electricity usage in order to increase the stability of an energy network. The additional flexibility provided by adequate adjustments of energy consumption has major advantages within the context of an energy infrastructure designed to meet occasional peak demands. It represents an already-existing, cheap, sustainable and efficient alternative to building additional generation capacity that is used infrequently.

Flexibility can be defined in different ways, and several of these definitions can also overlap. First we will investigate the peak-shifting flexibility, which we define as the potential for shifting electricity usage for one hour outside of the peak demand of a given winter day. Currently, this is typically a time period where extra generation capacity is needed to ensure Grid stability.

The estimation of the potential peak-shifting flexibility for the GB Grid was obtained by cross-referencing publicly available annual energy consumption datasets with flexibility profiles for domestic and non-domestic users. Open Energi successively manages assets for DSR in the I&C sector, and has developed a large insight knowledge of the associated loads’ flexibility. The installation costs in this sector are around £50,000/MW, which makes it a target of choice for an immediately available and cheap source of flexibility.

While tapping into domestic flexibility might reveal to be slightly more difficult and expensive than for large energy users, we accounted for this sector in order to give a complete sense of the potential size of the flexibility in the country[1].

The outcome of this analysis reveals that the GB Grid has a peak-shifting potential flexibility of 6 GW, split almost evenly between domestic (3.2 GW) and non-domestic users (2.8 GW). The flexibility results, normalised per area unit in order to identify geographical zones with high flexibility potential, were mapped at a Local Authority level. Unsurprisingly, peak-shifting flexibility correlates with areas of significant electricity usage, namely big cities such as London and areas where energy-intensive industries are present.

This highlights the fact that the development of demand response, along with the improvement of the global energy efficiency in large cities, is a key factor in improving the resilience of the local utility system to cope with peak demand. The ability to shift demand temporally also presents the advantage of being much easier and cost-effective for implementation in urban areas compared to additional generation techniques, such as embedded generation and fuel substitution.

There is a second form of flexibility that can be used to ensure the reliability of an energy network that we will refer to as dynamic flexibility. It consists in a real-time adjustment of power consumption in response to frequency deviation. This frequency regulation activity is a long-lasting opportunity to ensure Grid stability and reliability, and represents a needed enabler to the smooth integration of growing renewables generation sources such as wind and solar.

Our analysis shows that around 750 MW of dynamic flexibility in the non-domestic sector can be unlocked to participate in dynamic frequency regulation activities. This flexibility arises from assets whose power consumption can be shifted, without any consequence for the end user, in order to help balance the Grid at a dynamic scale.

It is important to note that dynamic and peak-shifting flexibilities are not mutually exclusive: an eligible asset fitted with the appropriate equipment can shift its power consumption for either usage. In the following we assume that on a given winter weekday peak-shifting flexibility is used for displacing demand away from the two hours peak (typically 17h.00 to 19.00) into the two subsequent hours, while dynamic flexibility is used during the 20 other hours. We calculated that on a given winter day the potential CO2 savings represents 1560t CO2e per day for peak-shifting flexibility and 3900t CO2e per day for dynamic flexibility.

If we extrapolate the potential CO2 savings of the 750 MW dynamic flexibility operating annually 24h per day this increases to 4860t CO2e per day, and we obtain a figure of around 1.7 million tonnes of C02e saved per year.

Unlocking flexibility means we can build fewer peaking plants, integrate more renewable generation and mitigate the effects of intermittency. It therefore offers major advantages in terms of cost and network reliability and sustainability. Open Energi‘s technology is able to access this flexibility by dynamically and invisibly shifting energy consumption patterns.

[1] In order to extrapolate the total latent flexibility in the GB Grid, we assumed electricity users that have similar annual energy consumption have comparable flexibility; and contribution to peak demand is correlated to the annual consumption of electricity.

Advancing hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles across Europe

H2ME refuelling station for fuel cell electric vehicles

Hydrogen Mobility Europe (H2ME) is an ambitious multi-country, multi-partner project to demonstrate that hydrogen can support Europe’s future transport demands. The €170 million demonstration project is co-funded with €67 million from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), a public-private partnership supporting fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies in Europe.

H2ME is the largest-scale project of its kind, and aims to perform large-scale market tests of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure; deploy passenger and commercial fuel cell electric vehicles operated in real-world customer applications; and demonstrate the system benefits generated by using electrolytic hydrogen solutions in grid operations.

Open Energi is participating in the project to test the ability of electrolysers at Hydrogen Refuelling Stations to help balance electricity grids in real-time. The expectation is that the electrolysers could provide incredibly fast response and compete with the fastest forms of grid balancing available today.

In February this year, H2ME announced that it had deployed its first 100 fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on the road in Germany, France and the UK, to address the actions required to make the hydrogen mobility sector truly ready for market. Sixty of Symbio’s Renault Kangoo ZE-H2 range-extended fuel cell vans have been deployed in the UK and France, supporting the development of a network of hydrogen refuelling stations in those markets. Powered by a compact 5 kW fuel cell module, coupled with a hydrogen storage unit and medium-size automotive battery pack, Symbio’s range-extender kit doubles the range of Renault’s electric-only Kangoo ZE model to 320 Km.

In addition, Daimler has deployed 40 B-Class F-CELL vehicles under H2ME in Germany. Thanks to the 700-bar, high-pressure fuel-tank system, the car has a long operating range of around 400 kilometres and can be refuelled in less than three minutes. The vehicle’s electric motor develops an output of 100 kW and, with a torque of 290 Nm, the car combines local emission-free mobility with day-to-day suitability and good performance figures.

The new vehicles offer the potential of a new generation of fuel-efficient, zero-emission vehicles. In the coming years, the H2ME project will deploy partners’ next-generation FCEVs, including: Symbio’s next-generation FC RE-EV (Fuel Cell Range Extender Electric Vehicle) vans and Symbio Fuel Cell range-extended trucks; Honda’s second-generation FCEV; and Daimler’s next-generation Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL, which includes the additional energy source of a large lithium-ion battery and will feature external charging by plug-in technology for the first time.

In total, more than 1,400 FCEVs will be deployed as part of the H2ME project throughout the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. The aim is to increase the number of FCEVs operating on Europe’s roads to build on the strong networks of hydrogen refuelling stations created by H2ME and other initiatives across the EU.