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Flexible Operation of Water Networks Enabling Response Services (FLOWERS)

Funding mechanismNetwork Innovation Allowance (NIA)
DurationJan 2022 - Mar 2023
Estimated expenditure£288k
Research areaFlexibility and Commercial Evolution
  • May 2022

    This month has focused on preparation and initial analysis of data for mapping the flexibility capacity across South West Water, development of the methodolo…


Assess the technical and legal feasibility of embedding flexibility on water networks within the latency of their internal pumping operational processes.
Quantify and map water latency flexibility capacity to understand the alignment between availability and network constraint zones.
Determine the commercial arrangements necessary to procure flexibility capacity within water network processes.
Understand the technical and operational requirements of the system that would trigger latency flexibility.


Water networks are one of the largest demands for electrical power supplied on distribution networks, estimated at 1TWh across WPD’s four licence areas. However, Water and Sewerage Supply licence holders only deliver limited flexibility capacity to distribution networks to manage their electrical demand.

Water network operational processes are dictated by water supply and demand needs and do not align with electricity network requirements. As such, there is unexplored potential to embed capacity within these processes to flexibly shift the electricity demand of water pumps to relieve constraints on distribution network for both demand and generation connections. However, neither the technical and operational requirements to deliver this kind of flexibility, nor the forecasting or commercial arrangements necessary for procuring it, are well understood.


This project will analyse the potential for water networks to deliver flexibility to distribution networks by embedding capacity within the operational processes which manage the inherent time difference (latency) between when water is pumped and stored for Drinking Water and Waste Water functions. It will assess the technical, operational and commercial requirements for extracting latency flexibility from water networks. This work will take place in partnership with South Wester Water (SWW), and consist of 6 work packages:
LFA1. Feasibility of latency flexibility
This work package will explore methods of delivering latency flexibility and analyse the feasibility of implementing it on SWW’s system. A series of workshops will be held with SWW data and process engineers to identify SWW flexible assets and processes to map against WPD constraint requirements.
LFA2. Regulatory feasibility and development of commercial and regulatory relationships 
This work package will define the regulatory compliance and commercial viability requirements for creation of a latency flexibility product which can be embedded within the 1st tier of flexibility to be accessed by electricity network control rooms. WPD and SWW legal teams will be engaged to assess the legal feasibility of creating the latency flexibility product.
LFA3. Mapping and case study selection
This work package will create and implement a methodology to quantify and map the capacity for latency flexibility from LFA1 onto SWW’s networks and WPD’s constraint map to identify areas of greatest potential benefit. From this a shortlist of potential case study areas will be produced, from which one will be selected.
LFA4. Technical and operational system specification
This work package will document the technical and/or operational solutions necessary to implement latency flexibility. It will assess the cost of implementing these solutions across SWW’s network. It will aim to specify the required revised standard operating procedures, process solutions, software solutions and (if necessary) hardware.
LFA5. Case study modelling, simulation and cost-benefit analysis 
This work package will take the outputs of work packages 2-4 and model the implementation and procurement of latency flexibility in the case study area. It will analyse the capacity procured over a set time period and perform a cost-benefit analysis to identify the potential benefits of the system.
LFA6. Recommendation for follow-on project and final report
This work package will produce a report analyse the outcomes of the preceding five work packages and, if deemed appropriate, produce recommendations for the follow-on project to FLOWERS.                                                    

FLOWERS aims to increase the capacity embedded within water networks to deliver flexibility for distribution networks. Water utilities are one of the largest consumers of electrical power, about 1TWh of demand across WPD’s four licence areas. South West Water contributes 300GWh of this demand. Developing new operational processes and removing commercial and regulatory barriers for water networks to deliver flexibility therefore presents a significant opportunity for unlocking of flexibility capacity which is value for money to customers.
The project builds on an NIA project delivered by National Grid ESO to investigate the potential flexibility capacity in storm drains and wastewater catchments, which quantified capacity but did not create a commercial model for accessing it. It will expand the search for capacity on water networks, quantifying the available capacity across both wastewater and drinking water systems within the inherent latency of their pumping operations. As such, it is expected to uncover a greater level of capacity and also develop a cost-saving commercial model for its delivery.
It is conservatively estimated that this project can deliver 0.25% of water network demand as flexibility. This amounts to 750MWh of capacity extracted from South West Water’s Network yearly. Replicated across the breadth of the four licence areas, this could unlock upwards of 2.5GWh of flexibility capacity on water networks. These capacities could, respectively, deliver £2.5m and £8.5m of value to customers.    

Success Criteria

A business case and cost-benefit analysis for using water network latency as a flexibility source will be created
The high-level specification of a latency flexibility system will be documented for implementation in an appropriate follow-on project
The capacity for latency flexibility on SWW’s network will be quantified, with a methodology that can be replicated by WPD or other DNOs for other water networks
A commercial proposal will be submitted to Ofgem and Ofwat for the implementation of the latency flexibility product.

Potential for New Learning

The assessment of the feasibility of latency flexibility will provide learning of the additional capacity for flexibility that exists within water networks beyond conventional flexibility procurement. This will be of financial value to customers. Furthermore, it will develop understanding of the commercial and regulatory barriers and solutions for collaboration between regulated industries on innovation projects. It will increase knowledge sharing between electricity and water networks and facilitate understanding of further opportunities to solve Whole System challenges in RIIO-2.