• Distribution Networks
  • Distribution Network Operators
  • Demand Response
  • Virtual Power Plant

Flexibility Services Gain Momentum in the UK

Roberto Rodriguez Labastida
Feb 17, 2020

Electric Substation 1

The rush of announcements in the first weeks of 2020 are quickly bringing to life the concept of flexibility services in the UK. Flexibility is important to distribution network operators due to the increased number of intermittent renewables on the system.

Western Power Distribution Launches Demand Response Tender

The first announcement was made by Western Power Distribution (WPD), the distribution network operator in southwest UK. WPD’s Flexible Power unit launched a new tender for 334 MW of demand response services across England and Wales, the largest ever in the UK. This tender beats the previous record of 170 MW set by UK Power Networks in November 2019. The services are required across one-fifth of the WPD network, covering 175 substations that need greater flexibility within 2020 and 2021. The company has also signposted ongoing needs to 2024-2025.

WPD Flexible Power procures flexibility through three services: 

  • Secure: Required to manage peak demand on the network, usually weekday evenings 
  • Dynamic: Required to support the network during fault conditions, often during maintenance work 
  • Restore: Utilization-only product, needed to support the network during network faults as a result of equipment failure 
Centrica and sonnen Residential VPP

WPD’s announcement was followed by Centrica plc and sonnen, Inc. announcing the creation of a residential virtual power plant (VPP) with an installation of 100 sonnen batteries. The network of sonnen batteries is connected using Centrica’s FlexPond, a cloud-based technology that aggregates the batteries into a VPP. The project was first announced in 2019 as part of a Local Energy Market trial in Cornwall. The VPP has been approved by National Grid to provide dynamic firm frequency response, a first in the UK.

Kaluza Residential Flexibility Program

Finally, OVO-owned technology provider Kaluza announced it has become the first residential flexibility platform to provide a paid service to a UK distribution network operator, WPD. During peak times in the evenings over several weeks, Kaluza has used its portfolio of domestic sonnen batteries in Lincolnshire to help meet demand. Kaluza used WPD’s Flexible Power signal to automatically discharge the batteries. Both sonnen and Kaluza are on the Navigant Research, a Guidehouse company, top 10 list of providers of residential as a service solution platforms.

Flexibility services are key for the development of a residential energy as a service market, as they provide a route to capture the value of distributed energy resources (DER) assets deployed at customer premises. The UK DER industry, especially the residential solar and storage segment, needs this trend to accelerate if it is to grow again after its dramatic fall in 2019.