Anyone on Economy 7 is used to the idea of using electricity at night, when it’s cheaper. Doing this on a local scale to avoid costly upgrades on the local electricity network seems sensible because everyone who pays an electricity bill pays for a proportion of the cost of running the network. Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) are adapting to the growth of renewables and new challenges such as electric vehicles by offering to pay people who can be flexible when they use electricity or store it to be released when it is needed.
For community energy organisations who want to generate and supply energy locally, and interact with customers through a local energy tariff, flexibility could be another source of revenue to ‘stack’. Local supply and Peer to Peer (P2P) trading are the holy grail of community energy but to achieve this we have to have a better understanding of exactly how much energy is generated and used at a local level at different times of the day. Getting involved in flexibility markets could be a first step towards this and the platforms being developed to match and pay people could also be used for P2P trading in the future.
In Wales the Freedom project has demonstrated how hybrid heating systems (heat pumps with gas back up boilers) have significantly reduced energy bills for participants. The Smart Energy Isles project will remove some of the barriers to installing renewable generation on the Isles of Scilly and work with the overall Smart Energy Islands project to explore the benefits to fuel poor customers. . In Bristol Owen Square Community Energy (OCS) have installed a ground source heat pump, solar PV and a microgrid supplying two community building with a planned extension to 60 homes, they have been engaging the community working with local champions. They are one of the 7 community organisations taking part in Open LV which is enabling them to explore virtual peer to peer trading (P2P), physical private wires around the park, and other possibilities for their microgrid with the aim of taking this project forward as a replicable and scalable model. They are using the low voltage substation data and developing local supply offers including the ‘Value tariff’, ‘Choices tariff’ and ‘TWOs tariff.’ I have no doubt that this sort of collaboration with communities will lead to new solutions and awareness among DNOs that will help address fuel poverty.
Western Power Distribution (WPD) recently released their latest expression of interest, inviting customers to tender and provide them with flexible power in return for a payment. Flexibility is “the ability of a power system to maintain stability as demand and supply fluctuate”, and the market for large energy generators and businesses to balance supply and demand at a large scale has existed for a while. Modifying our energy use and generation at a small and local scale is new and a key part of the shift as DNOs become Distribution System Operators (DSOs).
DNOs are concentrating on areas where the grid is constrained first which means that not everyone will be able to participate in flexibility markets initially, but everyone who pays an energy bill benefits, and as DNOs scale up and more people get involved, there will be more opportunities. Have a look at the WPD website, animations and innovation projects for more inspiration or come along to an event. WPD and Regen run 8 community energy events a year, two in each licence area. They are also the only DNO to have invited communities to join them for site visits and dinner.