- What are our Market Trials and why are they happening
As the trials being run jointly by the TRANSITION and LEO projects prepare for the launch of their next period of trials, we’re taking a look at what these energy flexibility Market Trials are aiming to achieve, why they’re happening and who they want to recruit to take part in this new phase starting in May this year.
Explaining the purpose and structure of the trials can be tricky, but in a nutshell, we are conducting tests on the local energy system in Oxfordshire to inform the move to a smarter network that will support the UK’s net-zero targets.
Why do we need trials?
This shift is vital to enable the UK in its commitment to decarbonise its energy system by 2035. We need to look at how local renewable energy generation can support the energy networks and ways to manage the supply of renewable energy to and from the grid.
The trials are being led by SSEN as a Distribution Network Operator, looking at how a transparent marketplace for energy flexibility services can be established, using Oxfordshire as a test area and looking at ways this can be rolled out to other UK networks. They will test new systems, platforms and commercial approaches to trading flexibility services.
In many of our communications about Project LEO trials, you will hear the term ‘flexibility’ used. Energy flexibility is the ability to increase or decrease the amount of energy we are generating or consuming temporarily in response to a request from the network operator. But why is this so important? It comes down to how the electricity grid copes with changes in demand and generation, especially as we move towards a zero-carbon network based on renewable generation, and how it ensures the system remains in balance.
As more households, businesses and communities become energy generators and engage with the energy system, it’s vital this is carefully managed. This is because renewable energy generation is intermittent (more sun or wind can mean an increase in available electricity and less will mean a decrease). So we are looking at different ways to manage this to ensure the grid is kept in balance.
On the flip side, the demand for energy from the grid also fluctuates, so finding ways that both energy generators and energy users can be flexible will play a significant role in decarbonising the energy system for all of us. These can include temporarily shifting their energy use or generation, and the development of a transparent marketplace to sell this flexibility to the network operator.
As the UK moves towards more electricity usage (e.g. in the transition to electric vehicles) we need to ensure our networks can cope and respond to increased demand and the fluctuations that we’ve come to expect. What we want to avoid is unnecessary reinforcement of the network (upgrading the cables, transformers and switches) as this can be expensive and disruptive and the move to flexibility services will help us to do this.
What’s being tested?
As the Market Trials continue and move through the different periods (there are three trial periods planned with the next one starting in May) the elements being tested are becoming ever more complex.
We’re going to be working with a range of energy generators and users to look at how they can increase or reduce their energy supply or usage when needed. We’ll monitor the results of these tests to see how this on-demand flexibility can support the networks for the future clean energy transition.
We’re also planning some innovative tests as part of the trials that will look at trading capacity between electricity generators and users. There are many barriers to making this trading capability a working reality, but the hope of the trials is that we can find ways to overcome these. We look forward to sharing the findings from these trials.
Can your organisation take part?
Our second Trial Period is welcoming businesses in most of Oxfordshire in May 2022. They are open to you if you can provide an energy Flexibility Service. There are two different types of Flexibility you could trade – either temporarily reducing or increasing the energy you are consuming or demanding in response to a request or buying or selling ‘spare’ import or export capacity to a network neighbour (peer to peer trading) for a temp.
We are looking for anyone within our trial areas who:
- owns or manages an electricity generation asset or storage (such as batteries); or who
- owns or manages a business that could take part in ‘demand response’, temporarily altering your electricity consumption (up or down) to support your local network; or who
- is a business interested in selling or buying spare import or export capacity to the network.
Providing a Flexibility Service has the potential of helping your network operator manage the growing demand for electricity as we move towards electric vehicles and heating. It can also help them ‘keep the lights on’ during planned maintenance or return power during a power cut. This could also help avoid or delay the need to carry out wholescale upgrades to the electricity infrastructure (the cables, transformers, substations) – the cost of this reinforcement work ultimately being passed onto customers. Flexibility services can also free-up space on the network for the connection of additional local renewable generation assets (like solar panels, batteries and turbines), which are so important in the transition to a green energy system.
The future of a zero-carbon energy system could be shaped by the outcomes of these trials, so we hope to see a good expression of interest from local businesses and organisations and are looking forward to reporting on the results and findings of the trials as they progress in the coming months.