We were in Bridgwater recently with Western Power Distribution (WPD), delivering our fourth joint event, Local Energy, a Flexible Future. We’ve been around the Midlands and the South West to areas where WPD are looking to buy flexibility this year, to help communities understand these new local flexibility markets and encourage community energy groups to participate in them.

Innovative ideas in Somerset

It was refreshing to see the 22 attendees in Bridgwater so enthused about becoming more actively involved in the energy system and buzzing with innovative project ideas. We saw lots of people from local authorities who were keen to see, in light of Somerset County Council declaring a climate emergency, how they could work with WPD to connect more low-carbon generation and use flexibility to help renewable energy projects in the county. WPD are looking for flexibility in the summer months in the Bridgwater Constraint Managed Zone (CMZ), and you can see where else you could provide flexibility on the Flexible Power website.

Energy managers and climate change officers from local authorities pitched their innovation ideas to one of WPD’s innovation and low carbon networks engineers, Ricky Duke, during the innovation station session. These included using electric vehicle chargepoints to provide flexibility services, such as a ‘Demand Side Response Park & Ride’, which could make use of Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology by using the car battery as a flexible asset, and saving drivers money on charging. Communities and local authorities in Somerset can now work with WPD to try and develop these ideas into full innovation projects that benefit the network, low-carbon generation and transport and local people.

Learning from your neighbours

There were also lots of Somerset based community energy groups at the event, including Avalon Community Energy and South Somerset Community Energy. These communities are keen to follow the example of groups in Devon with their Devon Energy Collective and Network, by creating their own Pan-Somerset community energy organisation to build new projects at scale.

It’s clear that in a tough post-subsidy world for the community and local energy sectors, this type of networking and knowledge sharing will help communities to make the most of new opportunities, such as WPD’s flexibility tenders. In order to capture more of the value of flexibility markets, community groups may in some areas need to upskill themselves and increase their technical capacity. Working collaboratively and creating networks of local groups, working with their local authorities, and attending events like this with Regen and WPD to access expertise and develop their knowledge of the electricity system, can help communities to do this.

We’d encourage communities across the country to follow the example of groups in the South West and work together as much as possible to develop projects at scale. Engaging early with your Distribution Network Operators (DNO) helps projects get off the ground, especially as they transition to become Distribution System Operators (DSOs). WPD’s exemplary work in engaging communities across its licence areas is one of the key reasons communities in this region have been able to network so effectively.

We were inspired to find communities and local authorities in Somerset so engaged in the changes to our energy system and the opportunities decarbonisation brings. If you’re in WPD’s area (South West, South Wales, East and West Midlands) and you have an idea for a network innovation project, then you can contact one of their innovation engineers, take a look at WPD’s innovation pages, or read our Electricity Network Innovation Guide for Communities. The invitation to tender for WPD’s flexibility services opens on 12 August until  20 September, visit their Flexible Power website to find out more.

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