National Grid tests household role in grid balancing

  • February 23, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Electricity supply operator National Grid and Octopus Energy have started a real-time project to determine if flexibility in household electricity can help better match supply and demand on the UK electricity grid this winter.

The domestic flexibility trial will assess the role households can play during periods of high demand. It will run for almost two months until the end of March 2022.

The trial will be available to Octopus Energy’s 1.4 million smart meter users. Those who take part will receive a financial incentive if they reduce their power consumption below their usual levels for pre-defined two-hour windows across several key periods during this winter, allowing them to save money on their electricity bills by using smart energy technologies in a flexible manner.

The real-time trial will help find out if moving home energy demand out of peak times can support balancing the power grid and reduce costs, particularly at a time of the year when heating and lighting causes overall power demand to be higher.

The pilot scheme will help inform the electricity supply operator’s plans to run a zero-carbon grid for certain periods by 2025 and a fully decarbonised grid by 2035, and build understanding of how households can support this goal. It will also provide insight into how domestic users could play a role in reducing the costs of balancing supply and demand and ultimately save consumers money on their electricity bills.

The trial builds on learnings from the previous Crowdflex study and will provide insights for future projects aiming to use domestic flexibility. It will also help provide data that can feed into energy forecasting processes and help ensure the National Grid control room can continue to keep the UK’s electricity supply reliable, affordable and safe.

“Encouraging households to engage in exciting climate-friendly energy opportunities like this trial will be crucial in our transition to net zero,” said Isabelle Haigh, head of national control at National Grid ESO. “System flexibility is vital to help manage and reduce peak electricity demand and keep Britain’s electricity flowing securely. This trial will provide valuable insight into how suppliers may be able to utilise domestic flexibility to help reduce stress on the system during high demand, lower balancing costs and deliver consumer benefits.”

James Eddison, CTO of Octopus Energy, added: “Octopus is a strong supporter of decentralising the energy grid and putting energy flexibility in the hands of consumers. The findings of our previous home energy trials and the demand for our smart tariffs show that homes can play a key role in improving grid stability and making sure that we’re making the most of home-grown green energy when it’s abundant. By joining forces with National Grid ESO, we’re now taking this research to the next level, inviting 1.4 million customers to take part in a trial that will allow them to potentially benefit from cheaper, greener power and help build the energy system of the future. It’s a tremendous opportunity to unlock flexibility at an unprecedented scale.”