​​Flexibility services: towards a net zero energy system

By Mara Dec 16, 2021

The 2021 Climate Change Committee Report has stated that electricity will move from providing 15-20% of our energy to 65% by 2050. The report also shows that the uptake of electric vehicles increased by 28% over the past year.

This shift to electrification is placing the UK grid under increasing pressure. As we change the way we fuel our cars and heat our homes, electricity demand will increase from millions of new electric vehicles and heat pumps.

It is clear that the electricity sector must undergo massive changes to meet the challenge. We must develop new methods to allow for more renewable energy to power our economies, decreasing the use of fossil fuels and lowering carbon emissions.

National Grid, the system operator, has a statutory obligation to economically balance supply and demand second by second. The current expansion of new and smart technologies will be crucial to counteract the intermittent nature of renewable energy and find ways to produce flexibility on the grid, enabling the system to be kept in balance.

Flexibility services as a way to support the grid

Ofgem has defined flexibility as “modifying generation and/or consumption patterns in reaction to an external signal… to provide a service within the energy system”.

Flexibility services are a range of existing and developing solutions that electricity system users can provide to help balance demand and supply in the electricity network and support its efficient use. When the grid is under pressure, for example, when there is a particularly high or low demand for energy, it is vital to support the grid through flexibility services.

Providing flexibility with distributed energy storage assets

Energy storage has emerged as a critical technology to provide flexibility. Before energy storage like smart batteries, the only way for the grid to meet the high energy demands across the UK was to rely on a range of traditional energy sources, which would often have been done through a process that involved burning fossil fuels.

However, through new smart technologies, battery behaviour can now be modified to allow the grid to rely on batteries to store this surplus clean energy, storing it until it is needed rather than wasted.

Through AI and machine learning, these smart batteries can be aggregated into virtual power plants (VPPs) to take pressure off the grid by charging up when there is a surplus of renewable energy onto the grid and discharging when the demand for energy is high across the network.

Grid services through residential participation: is it already a reality?

Grid services with early stages of residential participation are already a reality in the UK, where smart batteries can support the grid through distribution level flexibility services to take pressure off the grid in constraint areas and other tools such as the Balancing Mechanism (BM).

Distribution level flexibility services allow those with distributed storage assets at their home or business to offer energy capacity to the local grid, unlocking additional power and replacing the need to make costly network reinforcements.

Moixa’s partnership with DNO UK Power Networks

Throughout 2021, Moixa has been actively working with Distribution Networks Operator UK Power Networks to provide flexibility services to the local grid in a few different constraint areas across the UK, such as in Lewes, East Sussex.

The virtual power plant (VPP) of 27 aggregated home batteries within the area of Lewes managed to successfully deliver 50kW, providing customers with cleaner and cheaper energy while alleviating grid constraints.

Following the positive results in Lewes, where we met the contract’s requirements, Moixa has started working alongside UK Power Networks to replicate this success in the Worthing and Littlehampton area.

A flexibility contract in the Worthing and Littlehampton area

The flexibility contract in Worthing and Littlehampton started in December 2021 and will last for six years, covering three months every year (from December to February).

Homeowners who participated in the contract were equipped with Moixa optimised batteries, which have been grouped to create a VPP through Moixa’s GridShare technology to support a cleaner local grid. GridShare managed to connect them to form a cloud-based, decentralised network of power generation systems.

The contract’s results have been successful so far, with the first six dispatches being completed with an average overall accuracy of over 99%. The VPP of Moixa optimised batteries has successfully supported the area’s energy demand and exported power to take pressure off the grid, shifting demand away from periods when it is scarce to when it is more abundant, cheaper and cleaner.

Moixa customers had the opportunity to play an active part in supporting the local energy market, joining the community enabling a net zero energy system in the UK.