The trial was the result of a collaboration between British distribution and transmission network operator SP Energy Networks and British renewable energy provider Octopus Energy.
The Flexibility Demand Shift Trial, which took place in Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire, UK, aimed to demonstrate what is possible with flexibility.
The trial saw SP Energy Networks notifying Octopus Energy during time periods where high generation output was forecasted. Octopus Energy then informed participating customers directly the day before those specific requirements were needed on the network.
During the trial, customers were able to respond and shift when they used electricity to time slots when the supply of renewable energy was at its highest. This in turn enabled them to help balance the demand of the network in their local community.
Scott Mathieson, SP Energy Networks’ network planning and regulation director, stated: “This is the first time that flexibility demand shift has been trialled at this scale anywhere in the UK and it’s great to see it’s been such a success. The benefit of managing flexibility in this way is that it allows maximum renewable energy generation to be absorbed locally and the network to be effectively managed at a local level, helping tailor the service to areas and driving communities forward towards net zero emissions targets through increased renewable generation.
“The trial gave us the opportunity to understand customer behaviour and how they responded to near-time signals and serves as an indicator of future potential as we transition to green technologies like heat pumps and EVs, which will increase domestic energy loads.
“Flexibility removes the need in some areas for costly and often-time consuming traditional network reinforcement and allows customers to capitalise on the opportunities arising from a transition to a smarter grid and low carbon future. Our thanks to everyone who took part for their input to helping shape our network management of the future.”
With energy generation managed at a local level, the trial saw 20.2MWh total demand shift with 1.68MW average per demand shift event. The demand shift during these trial windows equated to roughly the output from an average commercial onshore wind farm.
Tweaking power consumption
The trial aimed to demonstrate the capability of customers to participate in flexibility markets, which, according to SP Energy Networks, are often seen as overly complex. The operator stated 98% of the trial participants found the experience beneficial and easy to do.
Almost half (46%) of customers said they would consider managing their energy use five days per week and one in five (22%) would do it three days per week. Every customer said they would be prepared to take action to control their energy at least once per week.
These findings were based on feedback from participants who responded to SP Energy Networks’ trial questionnaire.
Rebecca Dibb-Simkin, chief marketing and product officer at Octopus Energy Group, stated: “By tweaking how we consume power, we can make the most of every green electron generated in the UK and bring down costs for all.
“This trial was just the first step proving that people are happy to make small adjustments to help the grid and save cash. With a much larger campaign we would be able to really move the needle towards the flexible energy system we need for a greener future.”