Octopus customers help balance grid with electric cars

Octopus Energy has announced that its customers’ electric cars are playing a part in balancing the grid for the first time through a trial with National Grid ESO.   

Through participation in a new industry-wide ESO-led trial, via the Power Responsive programme, the smart tariff ‘Intelligent Octopus’ will use batteries in electric vehicles (EVs) to balance our grid while they’re charging.

This trial will explore the role that smaller-scale assets, in particular EVs, could have in providing flexibility in our future energy system via the Balancing Mechanism – a continuous market in which power is traded to balance the grid in real time. 

This initiative will develop a better understanding of how these new types of energy resources can be integrated into the grid in the future.  

The Balancing Mechanism is transitioning away from historical reliance on expensive and dirty gas power stations. This initiative explores the potential for batteries in cars on driveways to keep the grid balanced, a crucial milestone in enabling a net zero power system.

The technology automatically adjusts the charging schedule of the car in response to the ESO requests for more or less power. Kraken, Octopus’s tech platform, will connect to Octopus customer EVs and continually manage their response depending on changing grid needs. Importantly, any updates to charging schedules ensure that customer charging targets will still be met.

The ‘Intelligent Octopus’ tariff is the UK’s first 100% smart flexible car charging tariff – providing cheap, clean electricity for 7.5p per kWh (just 2p per mile) when it is best for the grid. It offers the lowest smart charging rate on the market and is the most popular EV tariff in the country.

Customers on the tariff have saved more than £11 million so far this year on charging costs compared to a standard variable tariff (SVT) – and the technology will lead to savings for all by making our energy system more efficient and driving down costs.

The charging and discharging is seamless for customers, who simply request the time they’d like their car to be charged and amount of energy required through the Octopus app. 

The number of EVs using ‘Intelligent Octopus’ has grown by a quarter every month in 2023 and Octopus now has more than 100,000 drivers across its EV specific tariffs. 

Alex Schoch, Head of Flexibility at Octopus Energy Group, said: “EV drivers on our ‘Intelligent Octopus’ tariff now form the UK’s biggest virtual battery – and for the first time ever EVs have entered the Balancing Mechanism. Whilst we sleep, EV drivers are driving down grid balancing costs that are passed on to all customers – saving us all money. This is the ‘smart energy grid’ today – complete radicalisation of the way the system is balanced is here now.”

Claire Dykta, National Grid ESO Head of Markets, said: “Opening up access to the Balancing Mechanism for electric vehicles and other technologies is an important step for extending consumer flexibility in a net-zero world. This industry-wide trial will provide valuable information to our control room, to help enable the full time availability of electric vehicles in the Balancing Mechanism in future.”

The ESO enabled the trial through its Power Responsive programme, which has opened a new route into the balancing mechanism to demonstrate the potential of this technology. Octopus and other firms had worked together to identify and solve operational barriers via a Power Responsive led working group. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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