Two new providers join UK Power Networks’ flexibility portfolio

A water company and a virtual power station backed by solar-powered batteries in people’s homes are the latest to sign up to provide vital flexible energy services to UK Power Networks

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A water company and a virtual power station backed by solar-powered batteries in people’s homes are the latest to sign up to provide vital flexible energy services to UK Power Networks.

Aggregator Kiwi Power and energy supplier Social Energy will provide a total of 2.1MW of capacity up to 2023/24.

Kiwi Power is providing flexible capacity from a wastewater treatment plant and a local NHS hospital. Social Energy is providing its flexibility services by discharging a fleet of domestic batteries, which are twinned with rooftop solar panels, at the same time to reduce demand on the local network.

The amount of ‘flexibility’ procured by UK Power Networks was 45MW in 2019. So far six different providers have signed contacts with a total value of more than half a million pounds.

UK Power Networks has led in the flexibility field since 2018, when it became the first network operator in the country to commit to a radical ‘Flexibility First’ approach to planning and maintaining the network. Flexibility is an important tool to help the network respond quickly to enable the uptake of electric vehicles and increase low carbon energy generation.

In November 2019 the company launched a new round of tenders for March 2020. It is making £27 million worth of flexible services available before 2023, across 115 sites, with a total capacity of 170 MW – enough to power more than 100,000 homes. The 115 include 55 high voltage sites, and the UK’s first 60 low voltage sites.

The ‘heatmap’ of all sites, available now on the online platform Piclo, is more than four times larger than the 28 sites announced last year. The map invites participants to register for UK Power Networks’ Spring 2020 tender by early March 2020, with results set to be announced in Spring 2020.

Head of smart grid development Sotiris Georgiopoulos said: “We are open for business in Flexibility so it’s an important step to see two new providers come on board. We are pushing the boundaries, transforming our business and creating new opportunities for flexible energy providers and lowering costs for our customers.”

Stephan Marty, chief commercial officer at Kiwi Power added: “Local flexibility markets represent a new and growing opportunity for businesses to earn revenue from their demand flexibility and support the UK’s low carbon transition. We’re pleased to be working with UK Power Networks to offer our customers more opportunities to turn their flexible capacity into income and maximise the value of their distributed energy resources.”

Stephen Day, chief technology officer at Social Energy said: “Social Energy is excited to be working with UK Power Networks to help our residential customers unlock the full potential of their solar-battery systems. This service is a valuable addition to the portfolio of flexibility services already delivered by Social Energy’s cutting edge AI-driven flexibility platform that empowers householders to support the transition to a more flexible grid, and further drive down their energy costs.”

By buying additional energy from ‘distributed energy resources’, instead of building new substations and laying more cables in the traditional way, UK Power Networks can reduce costs for consumers. Flexibility could save customers nationwide up to £40 billion by 2050, according to a study by Imperial College London.

Flexibility also creates new markets for flexible facilities such as wind and solar farms, and electricity storage operators, across London, the South East and East of England, to offer their energy to network operators.

Bids in the tender will have to meet robust economic criteria to ensure they will benefit customers, by offering lower costs in comparison to the traditional approach of building new assets.