How data can help unlock domestic demand side response

22 May 2019

What if we shifted the burden of proof away from upfront prequalification and testing, and towards scrutiny of operational data? Here’s a transcript of Felicity Jones’ recent speech at the Westminster Energy Forum – in a session on enablers for energy security.

If I had to pick just one enabler for energy security, it would be simple: operational data.

Let me explain, focusing on our power sector.

Part I: Our homes as defenders

When we envision energy security infrastructure, it’s tempting to think BIG: we think of purpose-built CCGTs, interconnectors, pumped hydro, large batteries, or multi-MW peaking plants.

But I believe that in future the frontlines of defence in our energy system will include our homes and cars too. We’ll unlock the flexibility inherent in our heating systems and EV batteries to provide system operators – at local and national level – the dependable services they need.

Take the Core4Grid project as an example, a project awarded funding under BEIS’s Domestic DSR competition. This is an ambitious demonstration of demand side response, and Everoze is proud to be a delivery partner. The consortium will be working with consumers to install onsite hardware spanning solar PV, batteries, smart heating controls and EV chargepoints, targeting 24 homes. We’ll work to understand consumer preferences and then dispatch assets to meet the requirements of flexibility markets.

We can imagine a future where this domestic demand response model is scaled up to portfolios of hundreds, then thousands, then millions of homes – together acting to meet system operator requirements. Together contributing to a secure power system.

Part II: The problem

The problem is, our regulatory architecture erects barriers to this innovation – seeing it as something to guard against rather than embrace. There are numerous hoops you have to jump through to be trusted to provide a service.

Take the Capacity Market as an example: if you want to participate, you have to read and comply with a whopping 264 pages of Rules first – and that’s not including the associated legislation and guidance.  Maybe that kind of overhead is ok if you’re a huge CCGT, but it’s not if you’re a 1MW portfolio of DSR assets.

Or take testing requirements to provide system services for National Grid.  Everoze has been proud to act as Independent Engineer for half of the Enhanced Frequency Response battery projects, witnessing their testing for National Grid. But whilst rigorous upfront testing can make sense for large 10MW+ projects, it’s fundamentally ill-suited to small portfolios of distributed assets – where we’re dealing with thousands of sites, which will change over time, and where performance varies with time of day, week and month.

So the question is: how do we get regulators and system operators comfortable that new domestic portfolios can be relied upon to deliver, without erecting huge barriers to entry?

Part III: The solution

The solution, I believe, lies in shifting the burden of proof away from upfront prequalification and testing, to scrutiny of operational data.

We can engender trust in domestic portfolios not through imposing requirements prior to delivery, but by rapidly reviewing hard data once portfolios are live and operational – and then responding as appropriate. This means redeploying resource away from upfront planning, and towards rapid feedback and response.

Under this model, system operators focus less on individual assets, and more on the statistical characteristics of portfolios, as demonstrated through their datastreams. Prequalification and contracts are streamlined to agree what kind of data is needed to demonstrate successful compliance.

This empowers innovators to get on and deploy in the field, to learn by doing. And it ensures that system operator decisions are grounded in real data, being truly evidence-based, rather than falling prey to unconscious bias.

Any risk to system security is mitigated by starting with small portfolios, and by investing in rapid monitoring and response.

Part IV: Looking ahead

The centrality of data forms part of a wider set of proposals that we at Everoze have been busily working on, together with Graham Oakes, as part of the Core4Grid project. We’ll be publishing on this within the coming weeks – and I’m personally particularly eager to engage with distribution & transmission system operators on how this might work in practice.

Why? Because the provision of energy security is not just some external challenge for big energy sector players – it’s something to be democratised, something that we can all contribute to through our own homes and EV infrastructure.

Security requires trust. And trust requires data.