With news that Centrica has now extended its £19m Local Energy Market (LEM) trial in Cornwall to include 100 domestic properties, the UK is taking another step forward in empowering prosumers in the energy market.
Prosumers (a user of energy who may also produce energy to sell to the grid) are not new in a global context, with micro-generation where small solar power plants are installed on rooftops to enable the generation of electricity for use within that individual premises are ever prevalent, especially across South Asia. Increasingly in countries such as Sri Lanka these installations are sophisticated enough for surplus energy generated in this way to be sold back to the national grid or saved for later use - creating prosumers.
In the UK the trend for prosumers has relied on Feed-in-Tariffs (FiT) for both domestic customers and within businesses where the investment can reduce the cost of manufacturing, but regulatory and taxation considerations make this a complex area to deliver as a mass market solution.
What is different about the Centrica LEM trial is that these homes will be provided with the ability to store power, as well as generate it. This means that homes can use, store or provide generated energy back to the grid allowing the management of household energy costs and supporting the grid at times of peak demand. Such solutions do already exist, but many are DIY and require manual management and there isn’t sufficient density to provide insight from a collective sample in a geographic area. While this is still a small-scale trial, 100 homes should include a mix of demographics and lifestyles, delivering meaningful insights on how prosumers will fit into demand response management in the future.
The question to be answered however, is how do you balance the rights of the prosumer, providing full transparency over whether they are saving the maximum amount of money possible, against fulfilling demand on the grid at peak times? This is surely a question that can only be answered at scale and in an environment that reflects future usage patterns, including the charging of electric vehicles (EVs). A further complication within the mix is the constraints and demands of the local network, where operational limitations may impose constraints on the economic optimisation of such schemes. Whilst this issue plays into the commercial and economic models for future smart networks and prosumer contracts, it also needs detailed analytics, technical modelling and predictive technology to facilitate the safe and reliable operation of such schemes.
Wheatley have recently being looking at the dynamics involved in adding the charging needs and storage capacities of EVs to its Powerfull microgeneration optimiser demonstration tool and it certainly raises interesting challenges and questions. For many people their mobility needs are less predictable than their energy usage patterns, meaning using an EV as a source of home energy storage requires much more sophisticated management than a static battery.
The concept of using EVs as battery storage is well publicised in the market and is making significant progress through organisations such as Cenex, where Vehicle to Grid (V2G) trials are just part of a mix of research studies gathering data and modelling solutions for the future. As with the emergence of prosumers there is strong indication that V2G technologies will initially be adopted by commercial fleets, where scale, predictability and economic benefits can easily be obtained.
As the take up of EVs increases it is likely that new models for the supply and storage of energy will emerge, including third-party automated switching services enabled by Ofgem’s Faster Switching programme and the potential for rental packages of prosumer hardware as technology costs come down. There will be an increasing need for new commercial arrangements between the customer and industry players. Key to these new arrangements will be the availability of accurate data, both real-time and historic, to manage billing amongst all parties and to optimise supply and usage in a fair and transparent way.
Smart meter data is a key element to this, at both an individual and aggregated level, but the question of how you balance the rights of the individual prosumer against managing demand within the grid for the majority can only be answered if this data is available to all parties with a stake in the energy transaction.
Applications such as Wheatley’s Anise platform have been developed to enable the use of the granular consumption data, alongside a wide range of other data sources, such as local network demand, available time-of-use tariff pricing, weather patterns or EV driving patterns etc. The application can be configured to operate in an analysis or forecast mode and can help a range of users, from individual customers, to network operators and aggregators to enable them to use complex data to make critical decisions. To take a look at some of the ways that Wheatley’s Anise could assist the energy market as it transitions towards future models of operation visit our Substation Optimisation tool or our Consumption-Tariff Comparison tool and look out on www.wheatleyinsights.co.uk as we launch more ideas and concepts that utilise our Anise data platform.
To learn more about Wheatley’s Anise or Powerfull concepts, drop us a message using the button at the bottom of this page (or the Contact Us page) or call 01449 781001.
Author: Jane Bromley, Marketing Manager, Wheatley