Artificial intelligence to drive flexibility opportunity in UK

Open Energi partners with Aggregate Industries to deliver AI-powered grid flexibility and energy savings
Published: Tue 03 Jul 2018

With the provision of grid flexibility a real-time need in an intermittent renewables-based generation system, artificial intelligence offers the way to predict and drive the requirements at the necessary timescale based on data from multiple sources.

UK building and construction material manufacturer Aggregate Industries is now to put this to the test, with bitumen tanks across its UK sites connected to demand response provider Open Energi’s Dynamic Demand 2.0 platform.

In addition to the flexibility for which Aggregate Industries will be remunerated, the company expects to realise 10% savings on its annual electricity bill through the initiative.

“As energy markets evolve it’s important we keep up with the pace of change,” comments Richard Eaton, Energy Manager at Aggregate Industries. “Dynamic Demand 2.0 means we can cut costs and respond to emerging market opportunities, whilst providing the clean, low-cost flexibility needed to power a sustainable energy future. That’s good news for our business, our customers and the environment.”

AI and flexibility

UK system operator National Grid has identified demand side response as a key solution for managing variable renewable integration and in 2016 committed to investing up to £400m a year to meet between 30 to 50% of grid balancing requirements from the demand side by 2020 through its Power Responsive campaign.

In a 2015 study with National Grid and Cardiff University, Open Energi analysed the potential of liquid bitumen to provide demand-side response and introduced an initiative with the national construction company, Tarmac.

Aggregate Industries is the first UK company to automatically optimise its electricity demand in real-time via the Dynamic Demand 2.0 platform, with 30 bitumen tanks across eight sites connected to date. The platform uses artificial intelligence to automatically optimise their daily electricity use in response to a variety of signals, including wholesale electricity prices, peak price charges, fluctuations in grid frequency and system imbalance prices.

Aggregate Industries is accessing the imbalance market via the Renewable Balancing Reserve (RBR) product offered by its renewable electricity supplier, Ørsted. The RBR enables Aggregate Industries to tap into the financial benefits of participating in the imbalance market by reducing its demand at certain times.

Open Energi has worked with Ørsted to automate this process, so that Aggregate Industries’ assets can respond at the click of a button. On average, those assets are responding to three 30-minute RBR calls a day.

“Prices can spike very rapidly when there is a shortfall in supply and this has created valuable arbitrage opportunities for businesses who are able to quickly reduce their demand for short periods,” comments David Hill, Commercial Director at Open Energi.

“By stacking value streams and automating participation, Dynamic Demand 2.0 ensures Aggregate Industries maximises the financial benefit of its demand flexibility.”

Over time Aggregate Industries plans to expand its use of Dynamic Demand 2.0 to 48 asphalt plants UK-wide – representing up to 4.5MW of demand flexibility. The company is also exploring its wider portfolio of assets and processes to identify where further benefits may lie.

For its part, Open Energi says it is working with a number of customers who are in the process of connecting assets to Dynamic Demand 2.0 to unlock the full benefit of their demand flexibility.

Flexibility for UK market

According to the 2017 Power Responsive report, activity in demand-side participation has increased steadily in the UK as awareness of the opportunities has grown and the markets have evolved. However, there is still a good deal of uncertainty, which is presenting challenges to developing buy-in and contracting.

Certain opportunities such as the provision of short-term operating reserve and triad avoidance are seen as more accessible than others, which is attributed to their established nature and the less challenging technical requirements.

However, new services also have been introduced. In 2016 National Grid awarded provision of 201MW of enhanced frequency response to eight projects, almost all battery storage. Of these, seven are now online, with the latest of these, EDF’s 49MW battery storage facility located at West Burton B power station, also the largest in this new frequency control system.

As the market continues to evolve, battery storage, domestic demand side response and electric vehicles are anticipated to have an increasingly significant role to play in enabling flexibility in the UK.