Project duration: June 2018 to September 2019.
The UK’s energy system is undergoing seismic changes. The old structure of large, strategically placed power stations and an electricity network that simply delivers power to customers is gone. The landscape is one of shifting demand, greater decentralisation and commitments to reduce or eliminate the dirtiest forms of electricity generation.
Power to Participate was a year long project aimed at addressing the barriers faced by community energy organisations when exploring new markets such as the provision flexibility services. The project was funded by Friends Provident Foundation.
Communities have been playing a pivotal role in this transition to a new system, proving that ideas, innovation and investment can and perhaps should come from the customers that end up using the power.
But community energy as a movement risks being left behind. The rapid changes in technology that impact how the UK’s energy system operates and is balanced are forcing a rewrite of the policies and regulations that govern it. Unless communities can articulate the value of the role they can play in the new world, they may not be able to play at all.
Regen was awarded funding from the Friends Provident Foundation to work with community energy groups and distribution network operators to understand why engagement with new flexibility opportunities has been so low and how it could be improved.
Community energy organisations are widely expected to play a significant role in our future energy system.
Throughout the last decade, community groups have helped decarbonise and decentralise the electricity system, bringing investment and engagement from their local areas. But the system is experiencing rapid change.
Parts of the electricity network are now seeing constraints, preventing the connection of more low carbon generation and struggling to cope with shifting patterns of demand as numbers of heat pumps and electric vehicles grows. To combat these constraints, all the UK’s Distribution System Operators (DSOs) are buying ‘flexibility services’: i.e. the ability for generators or large demand customers to turn their asset up or down if needed. It was widely anticipated that community energy organisations, hungry for new opportunities after the reduction in Feed in Tariff, would eagerly participate in these competitions for flex and potentially go on to explore opportunities at the system balancing level.
However, few community energy organisations are in a position to participate in these flexibility markets, let alone national balancing markets such as those run by National Grid ESO.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, Regen has engaged with community energy organisations, Ofgem, government and the Distribution System Operators (DSOs) to understand why communities are not participating in the emergent flexibility markets.
We brought together these key stakeholders at a ‘Hackathon’ style event in November 2018 and established some key barriers to participation and how they should be addressed. This has resulted in a report or specification that outlines 13 steps that must be taken to ‘level the playing field’ and enable participation from a wider supply chain.
If you are interested in finding out more about our work and how we support community energy, please contact Jodie Giles firstname.lastname@example.org.