Energy consortium launches UK’s largest domestic flexibility study

National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) have teamed up with entech pioneers Octopus Energy and Ohme for the UK’s largest ever home energy flexibility study, CrowdFlex.

It will analyse customer energy use patterns to demonstrate how they might change their behaviour and charge electric vehicles, heat pumps and home batteries at different times to access cheaper, greener power.

The analysis will look at how those usage patterns change in response to price signals from Octopus Energy’s smart tariffs and direct instructions from Ohme’s smart electric vehicle chargers and mobile app.

The findings will show how changes in energy price and demand affect consumers and what impact that has on a flexible smart grid powered increasingly by renewables.

Electric vehicles and heat pumps both represent a huge opportunity for the UK’s electricity system. According to National Grid ESO’s Future Energy Scenarios, there will be 11 million EVs on British roads by 2030, and there is a government target to install 600,000 pumps a year by 2028.

Effective use of the flexibility of both electric vehicles and heat pumps will be key to the future power grid. It will encourage consumers to use even more renewable energy by shifting electricity demand into off-peak hours.

The consortium will gain unparalleled insight into EV driver behaviour using consumer, energy and transport data from Ohme and Octopus Energy.

National Grid ESO and SSEN will use the results to better understand how customers respond to these opportunities and the potential of domestic flexibility in national and local grid balancing. This will pave the way for households to provide more flexibility to grids.

Carolina Tortora, head of innovation strategy and digital transformation at National Grid ESO, said: “Technologies like electric cars and heat pumps have a key role in helping Britain to reach net zero. But there’s a lot for us to learn about how consumer behaviour can shape that journey.

“This project will give us some really exciting insight into how smart tariffs and technologies can influence the way people consume electricity and help us balance the grid. As greater volumes of less controllable renewable power join the system, electricity consumers are only going to become more important in that balancing act.”

James Eddison, CTO and co-founder of Octopus Energy Group, said: “Our customers are some of the most engaged and climate-conscious in the country. Many of them are already using smart energy technologies to move their energy usage when energy is cheaper and greener and the grid is less stressed.

“By scaling up our previous demand-side-response trials and joining forces with other key players in energy, we will for the first time be able to find out how big the role is that our homes can play in providing grid flexibility. This research project will help us demonstrate how we can use energy storage in our homes and flexible energy demand to exploit renewable energy and bring about the clean, green grid of the future, globally.”

David Watson, CEO and founder of Ohme, said: “The journey to electrification is well underway in the UK but there’s a pressing need for more sophisticated collection and analysis of real-world data in order to maximise grid capacity to cope with increasing demand.

“Ohme’s intelligent charging technology can harness consumer data, energy data and transport data to gain unparalleled insight into actual EV driver behaviour, which has the potential to unlock a new universe of mass-market flexibility.

“We believe that by working in partnership across the entire mobility-energy value chain and sharing these valuable insights, we can transform energy use in the UK.”

Stewart Reid, head of future networks at SSEN, said: “CrowdFlex is an exciting project which will support the unlocking of domestic flexibility. As we move to a smarter energy system utilising flexibility can help delay and avoid network reinforcement, and creates opportunities for households and businesses to play an active role in the energy system that serves them. This will be key in delivering a cost-effective, secure and inclusive transition to net zero.

CrowdFlex will start in June and involve over 25,000 households.

Image: Shutterstock

“We are excited to be working in this cross-industry project to better understand how households react to changing energy prices and how domestic flexibility can be best used for local and national grid balancing. This project will play a key role in building our knowledge base and highlighting the exciting opportunities that the transition to net zero will create.”

The project will be funded by National Grid ESO and SSEN’s Network Innovation Allowance (NIA), which provides an annual allowance to fund innovation projects that create value for National Grid ESO’s customers, reduce costs for electricity consumers and accelerate progress towards net zero.

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