Tuesday, July 02, 2013

New prize to stimulate dynamic demand innovation

Stewart Reid, Future Networks Project Manager for SSE’s NINES project, says dynamic demand response will make wind power more effective and efficient.
Stewart Reid, Future Networks Project Manager for SSE’s NINES project, says dynamic demand response will make wind power more effective and efficient.
A Dynamic Demand Challenge Prize has been launched to help meet the challenge of satisfying ever-increasing demands on the UK’s power grid, as highlighted by last week’s Ofgem report on tightening electricity margins.

The prize is the initiative of Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, and hopes to find new ways of managing demand to shift electricity consumption from peak to off-peak times, reducing carbon emissions and better responding to demands on UK energy supplies.

Solutions will depend upon the smart grid: new data-driven, demand side response-enabled products, technologies or services, that reduce carbon emissions by shifting energy use to off peak times or towards renewable generation.

Dynamic demand, or demand side response (DSR), is the exchange of information between electronic devices, responding to signals from the grid directly or indirectly.

It will be built into the capacity market, being created by the new Energy Bill, to can help shift electricity consumption away from peak hours where electricity consumption is high, or enable greater usage of excess electricity generation from renewables, as well as help maximise the use of the smart grid.

A number of trials are taking place at the moment through initiatives such as Low Carbon London, DECC/Ofgem’s Smart Grid Forum and the Low Carbon Network Fund.

Currently the UK’s biggest smart grid initiative is a £54 million scheme called the Customer-led network revolution in which 14,000 homes and businesses are finding ways to reduce both their energy spend and carbon emissions.

The project includes decentralised generation and demand reduction through efficient smart appliances and is trialling demand response through the combination of generation and flexibly operated appliances. It is supported by Low Carbon Network Fund, with partners UK Power Networks, Northern PowerGrid, British Gas, Durham University and EA Technology.

A new project called Smart Hooky is now trialling a range of new technologies to create a community–scale smart grid that will help Western Power Distribution understand how a rural community uses electricity at different times of the day in order to manage peak demands and let electricity networks accommodate more renewable energy.

The Dynamic Demand Challenge Prize will offer incentives, financial support and expert guidance for shortlisted projects, with a prize of £50,000 for the solution that demonstrates the most significant impact.

Constance Agyeman, development manager, Nesta’s Centre for Challenge Prizes, commented: “The Dynamic Demand Challenge Prize will support innovations that create a measurable shift in energy use. This is important because there is increasing demand on the UK’s electricity supplies and we therefore need to find new ways to manage this.”

Partners in the challenge include the Centre for Carbon Measurement, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and National Grid. Neil Hughes, NG's head of technology, explains, “Balancing the grid will become more complex as more renewable generation comes onto the system and our goal is to help new service providers understand those challenges and develop technologies to meet that growing need”.

Jane Burston, head of the Centre for Carbon Measurement at the National Physical Laboratory notes, “Climate change and a secure, clean energy supply are two of the biggest challenges of our time. Demand side response is a critical step in supporting the shift in supply towards renewable generation. This will only be successful with engaging tools and technologies we want to use in our homes and offices.”

The challenge is open to entries from anyone across the European Union, but the solution must be applied within a UK context.

Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES)

NINES is another important dynamic demand response solution that is being developed by SSE in Scotland. It aims to support Shetland’s sustainable energy future by developing and managing the electricity distribution network more effectively.

Measures used here include replacing old inefficient storage and water heaters with modern 'smart' storage heaters, and adding a new electric boiler to the existing district heating system, both of which help to balance the electricity network.

This is crucial, says Tim Rotheray of the Combined Heat and Power Association, because currently wind turbines generating electricity that is not needed at that point in time are paid constraint payments per megawatt not to feed their power into the grid.

To combat this waste, often seized upon by opponents of wind power as a reason to oppose wind farms, the power can instead be stored in the form of hot water using the systems being installed here, even diverting the power for a few seconds, as when there are spikes of generation during blustery weather.

NINES is also deploying new technology that will allow more small-scale renewable generators to connect to the network and introducing new commercial arrangements to encourage businesses to change the times at which they use most energy, similar to ones that will be in the new capacity market.

Finally, it is also installing a 1MW battery, part-funded by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, at Lerwick Power Station.

The project will help SSE plan for the replacement of its existing Lerwick Power Station, which is nearing the end of its useful life, with a smaller station than would otherwise be required.

This type of demand side response solution is already used in Denmark, for example in the Skagen District Heating system, which utilises electric as well as gas-fired CHP boilers.

Silver Springs

Silver Springs is a company which already has 10 years' experience in this area in north America and Asia Pacific. With a customer-focussed attitude to smart meters, it works directly with end users and communities and has recently established an office in the UK.

Their Oklahoma Smart Hours Programme is a demand response initiative to encourage customers to shift their energy use to off-peak hours that works by establishing local communications infrastructure and installing programmable communicating thermostats to control air conditioning units at times of peak demand.

The programme has helped 44,000 users save an average of $191 each, and delivered more than 67 megawatts of load reduction in 2012.

In the UK, another pioneer is The Ouse Valley Energy Services Company Ltd, formed by members of the Transition Town Lewes Energy Group, which includes decentralised generation and demand reduction and is currently investigating local electricity and heat distribution networks for villages and towns within the District.

The community-owned MOZES (Meadows Ozone Energy Services Company) is also delivering decentralised generation and demand reduction, with the aim of helping the community to become self-sufficient in energy use, and then to become an energy generating community.

All of these initiatives are exploring and developing models that fit with the new paradigm of using available low carbon energy in real time more efficiently, one of the chief challenges of moving to a low carbon future, that is being supported by the NESTA challenge.

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