UK demand response-taking it to the next level

In recognition of demand response opportunities, UK businesses across various industries are creating innovative ideas through smart partnerships.
Published: Fri 19 Aug 2016

Demand response (DR) is being recognised worldwide by the electricity industry as a major role player in that it serves as a resource for balancing supply and demand. This has become increasingly challenging given the increase in modern appliances, population growth, renewable integration and various complex customer needs.  

DR is being highlighted as a cost effective solution when it comes to reducing energy wastage, using idle distributed generation capacity and connecting decentralised energy storage systems to the grid.   

DR making good business sense

Recognising both the financial and environmental opportunities in DR, many companies are thinking outside the box and forming some clever partnerships to take programmes further.

There are a growing number of companies in the UK which have been very clever about harnessing DR potential. Here are a few that deserve a mention:

Construction company Hanson UK, has partnered with DR firm Open Energi to reduce energy consumption at its 29 quarries. Technology is in place to reduce the energy consumption of tanks and pumps used to dewater the quarries, and provide sub-second metering data on equipment performance. The tech will have no impact on the company’s equipment performance and the best part of it is that Hanson will be paid by National Grid for the grid balancing. The project is set to free up 2MW of flexible capacity to the National Grid and it will also support the UK’s aim to increase renewable integration.

Saint-Gobain, a UK construction material supplier joined forces with electric utility Smartest Energy this year to reduce its energy consumption during peak consumption times. This involves the shutdown of factory machinery between 4pm and 6pm during weekdays. While this is great for energy suppliers, the construction company can save up to 500% in operational costs at each factory site. In fact, the manufacturer was rewarded with an 11% drop in energy demand across its 20 sites in the UK and Ireland, saving a staggering £165,000 – equivalent to an entire month’s energy costs. 

Saint-Gobain Glass’s engineering manager Michael Dickinson summed up their success well: “As well as reducing our costs and helping maintain our competitiveness, it also ties in well with our aims as a company to minimise our environmental impact and contribute to the economic and social development of the communities we operate in.” 

The Herald and Times Group, a UK newspaper publisher, has given National Grid access to its back-up generation assets during peak demand times. A five-year contract, as part of the UK Capacity Market and in partnership with Flexitricity, will see the running of the diesel generators handed over to Flexitricity’s control room in Edinburgh. The scheme ensures response during peaks in demand while also providing guarantees of backup capabilities to the publishers in the event of a blackout. The generation capacity will earn the Herald and Times Group up to £250,000 over five years, and this will not affect day to day business operations. Herald and Times Group print centre manager Stuart McLean said that they had “previously been unaware of demand response and hadn’t realised its merits in terms of generating new revenue for our business.”

Another leading publisher, Time Inc. UK, has partnered with demand response company KiWi Power to help reduce consumption in their London office and increase power available to National Grid. Equipment was brought in to reduce the demand of chillers and air handling units, while all heat pumps had their inverters adjusted from 50Hz to 30Hz. KiWi power also installed real-time smart meters which fed data back to its control room – allowing the configuration of three separate trials of demand response in order to find the optimum energy reduction strategy with the least disruption to staff. The whole installation period took three months. The publisher delivered over 200kW of power in less than four minutes of demand reduction, and also significantly reducing its energy bill. 

Water treatment company Vivaqua partnered with Restore in 2012 – the only DR aggregator that has contracts in the UK Capacity Market for the first wave of energy provision in 2018. By temporarily curtailing power demand from its upstream pumping stations, Vivaqua was able to reduce its energy use by up to 5MW during DR events, cutting its carbon footprint by 4,000 tonnes each year and producing almost £50,000 in revenue.  

Public facilities also tapping into DR opportunities

But it’s not only large corporations getting involved in DR. Educational institutions and public facilities like hospitals are also recognising the potential in DR.

Oxford Brookes is one of the first educational establishments in the UK to use DR to reduce wasteful consumption in student accommodation. A 10-year contract, signed with Open Energi and energy saving control systems designer Prefect Controls, aims to roll out demand-response systems to 71 water tanks within the University and 300 on-campus heaters. The smart devices will adjust energy use in real-time to help balance electricity supply and demand. In addition to this, National Grid can tap into 700kW of flexible demand from campus heaters alone, and more than 8MW in total during times of extra demand. That is energy equivalent to the output of one fully operational V164 turbine connected to the grid - the single largest serially produced wind turbine in the world. 

Four years ago, the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath decided to utilise its two 800kW standby diesel generators at the hospital to create demand response revenue. By providing the National Grid with reserve energy from otherwise-unused equipment, the hospital is generating revenue of £40,000/MW of energy supplied. The generators are switched on during periods agreed between the hospital and demand response company Flexitricity, through a fully-automated control and monitoring system. Flexitricity provides extra payments to RUH Bath for power delivery to the National Grid during demand response events such as emergency situations when a power station fails, or if demand is unexpectedly high. Flexitricty also manages the generator testing regime, and is responsible for ensuring the generators can still provide standby functionality to the hospital. This scheme creates 1.2MW in distributed energy generation – enough to power the average UK residence for nine months. 

Taking energy management to the next level

From the above examples, it is clear that demand response presents an opportunity to take energy management to the next level. Real cases are indicating that peak loads, energy consumption behaviour, intelligent building assets and onsite generation capabilities can be channelled into automated DR programmes.

In particular, industrial and  commercial consumers represent a significant opportunity for grid actors to balance peak demand, distributed energy generation and energy supply. But how can this be mutually beneficial for all actors whilst contributing towards a sustainable energy system?

Enter the 'Living Grid'.

Launched this year by three UK corporate giants, supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, water and telecoms company United Utilities, and construction company Aggregate Industries at the beginning of this year. The aim of the programme is to use demand response to make available 200MW of flexible power across the UK. The companies are aiming to bring 20 new organisations on board to meet this goal.

The three companies are able to provide up 39MW of power which can save the UK from burning 30,000 pounds of coal. United Utilities alone is set to generate approximately £5 million in income from demand response by 2020. Aggregate Industries expects to reduce its emissions count by almost 50,000 tonnes over the next five years which is equivalent to 390,000 individual journeys from London to Paris by plane. United Utilities will also be able to save 50MW of electricity – the same as the output of a conventional power station. 

These companies are working together, and calling for others to join them, to create an electricity network that takes inspiration from nature to deliver, store and use electricity in the most optimal way possible.

Engerati’s upcoming webinar, Case Study - Intelligent Demand Response in Action - Living Grid, on 24 August 2016, 10am UTC, will discuss how businesses and utilities can take demand response to the next level. This webinar is part of our 'Demand Response' In Focus track on engerati. Follow this link for more insights!

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