UK water utility to deliver ‘invisible demand response’

Demand response will help Welsh Water lower its energy costs and it will help National Grid manage peak demand.
Published: Fri 12 Aug 2016

Earlier this year, demand side response company Open Energi suggested that London could shift an eighth of its energy demand during peak hours by adopting demand-side technologies to ease pressure on the energy system. [Open Energi Helps UK's National Grid to Balance Supply and Demand.]The company now has the opportunity to put these words into action.

Displacing the peak

The company has just announced a partnership with Welsh Water, a not for profit company, to turn the utility’s water pumps into responsive energy assets able to bring much-needed flexibility to the UK grid. 

The announcement follows an open tender and successful trial of Open Energi’s Dynamic Demand technology. Welsh Water, serving 3 million consumers, now expects to aggregate approximately 5MW from 25 of its sites during the first phase of implementation. The water utility intends to expand the integration of the technology with more of its equipment and processes.

The technology acts like a distributed storage network, automatically adjusting the pumps’ power consumption within seconds to help manage fluctuations in electricity supply and demand. These adjustments have absolutely no impact on Welsh Water’s operations but help to build a smarter, more responsive system which supports the adoption of renewables and the wider UK transition to zero emissions.

Smart power revolution

According to Chris Kimmett, Commercial Manager at Open Energi, the water sector consumes a lot of energy, but much of it is not time-sensitive. As a result, there is a great opportunity for water companies to be flexible about when they consume energy and shift their demand intelligently. 

For example, if a power station goes offline unexpectedly, or if there is a sudden upturn in electricity consumption levels, instead of National Grid asking a power station to ramp up to meet this shortfall in supply, Open Energi can request that Welsh Water’s pumps (and equipment from hundreds of other sites across the country), be powered down temporarily.  Similarly, if it was particularly windy or sunny and there was excess power being supplied, Open Energi could bring demand forward to alleviate pressure on the grid and ensure no energy goes to waste.

The system is completely automated and autonomous which means that these processes occur in a highly efficient manner. Added to this is the fact that equipment will only respond if there is zero impact on its operational performance. 

It is this kind of innovation that tomorrow’s power industry is calling for. As Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) said: "Our existing power stations are closing down and their replacements will be radically different as we decarbonise supply to reduce emissions. This represents an enormous challenge, but it leaves the UK uniquely placed to benefit from exciting innovations set to transform the global electricity market.”

He adds: "The UK can lead the world in harnessing these innovations. We do not call for new subsidies or significant public spending, but rather a level playing field through fairer regulation and a better managed network to allow these exciting new technologies to compete.

"If we get this right, a Smart Power Revolution could save consumers £8 billion a year."

Professor Phil Taylor from Newcastle University pointed out that delivering savings through flexibility rather than more infrastructure is the “right way to go.”

Innovative energy generation

Installing Dynamic Demand supports Welsh Water’s wider strategy to protect the environment and reduce its carbon footprint by investing in innovative energy generation. The flexible capacity provided by its equipment is helping to transform our energy system, displacing peaking power stations and creating an electricity network which is cleaner, cheaper, more secure and more efficient.

In the longer term Open Energi and Welsh Water plan to expand the partnership to include additional equipment and processes across its network.

Kimmett added: “We’re delighted Welsh Water chose to partner with Open Energi and this is an important milestone as we continue to work closely with the water sector to deliver the scale of invisible demand response National Grid is looking for.”

DSR remains a key solution

National Grid has identified DSR as a key solution for managing fluctuations and future proofing the UK’s electricity grid, 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, via its Power Responsive campaign. Join Paul Lowbridge on Engerati on 6 September as he talks about Demand Response for industrial  and commercial energy consumers.

The campaign, launched in June last year, aims to help provide a practical platform to galvanise businesses, suppliers, policy makers and others to seize the opportunity to shape the growth of demand side response collaboratively, and deliver it at scale by 2020.

To highlight the vast potential of demand response, Open Energi, amongst other participants, are speaking on Wednesday 24 Aug 10:00 UTC on our webinar Case Study - Intelligent Demand Response in Action - Living Grid. This webinar is part of our 'Demand Response' In Focus track on engerati. Follow this link for more insights!

Further reading

Power Responsive National grid

Related Webinar