Open Energi Helps UK’s National Grid To Balance Supply and Demand

Demand side response is playing an important role in building a smarter, more sustainable electricity network.
Published: Thu 14 Jan 2016

The UK’s power grid is coming under greater pressure as it is forced to respond efficiently to spikes in a growing power demand. The integration of renewables on to the network adds to the level of fluctuation in generation. Responding to these spikes rapidly is critical if Britain wants to maintain a reliable source of power to customers.

We wrote recently about how National Grid has identified demand side response (DSR) as a key solution for managing these fluctuations and future proofing the UK’s electricity grid, and announcing plans earlier this year to invest up to £400 million a year to meet between 30 to 50% of grid balancing requirements from the demand side by 2020 through its Power Responsive campaign. [Internet of Things Is Faster Than Power Stations.]

Unlocking new capacity

Seeing the potential in unlocking new flexible capacity on the National Grid, DSR company Open Energi has partnered with Tarmac, a UK building materials and sustainable construction solutions company. Open Energi plans to harness flexible energy demand from the grid using Tarmac’s equipment. Open Energi is working with Tarmac to install its Dynamic Demand technology on over 200 bitumen tanks at its 70 asphalt plants across the UK. The aim is to build a smarter, more responsive system which supports renewables and the wider UK transition to a zero carbon economy. 

Open Energi’s Dynamic Demand technology aggregates energy consumption from across their customers' sites to provide a fast, flexible solution which is equivalent to a power station, only instead of adjusting supply up or down to meet demand, it adjusts demand up or down to meet supply. Solutions such as this, coupled with on-site generation and energy storage technologies means that the energy market is no longer a linear value chain driven by fossil fuel production but is becoming bi-directional; creating a new energy economy where energy consumers can both take and provide service back to the grid and generate revenue.

Better energy management

The software-based technology operates with a range of equipment including bitumen tanks, heaters, pumps, chillers, refrigerators and air conditioning units and basically transform these into smart devices which can react instantaneously to changes in electricity supply and demand across the UK network.

The technology is installed within the equipment’s controls, where it constantly measures electricity consumption and monitors grid frequency. If it detects that the frequency is imbalanced, i.e. deviating from 50Hz, it will temporarily adjust the equipment’s power consumption up or down to help balance the grid.

Critically, the technology will never override the equipment’s own control parameters, so its performance will be unaffected. Typically loads are only switched for 1 to 2 minutes at a time, and 80% of switches are for less than four minutes.

Because the service is completely automatic and autonomous, it is invisible to the end-user. No interaction or behavioural change from the business is required.

Dynamic Demand provides National Grid with a fast demand response - it reacts within seconds and as a result, it generates the highest revenue per MWh. It also offers both high response (increasing demand when there is too much supply) and low response (decreasing demand when there is too little supply) to National Grid, and as such, it offers great revenue generating potential.

The technology enables consumers to better manage their consumption and in so doing, frees up capacity for the whole grid. It does this by freeing up electricity that can be used to balance spikes in demand, avoiding the need to rely on additional power stations that would normally swing into action during peak times. 

The rollout commenced at the start of 2015 and, to date, Open Energi’s Dynamic Demand technology has been installed at more than 50 of Tarmac’s sites, with the remaining 20 expected to be live in early 2016.

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