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Future Flex

Funding mechanismNetwork Innovation Allowance (NIA)
DurationNovember 2019 - December 2021
Estimated expenditure£693k
Research areaNew Technologies and Commercial Evolution

March 2020

The initial screening of the ideas from stakeholder workshops has been refined further into a recommendations paper that identifies the trials that we will potentially be taking forward. Next stage is to work on the finer detail of the trials and how they will be implemented.


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March 2020

The initial screening of the ideas from stakeholder workshops has been refined further into a recommendations paper that identifies the trials that we will p…

Objective(s)

The objective of the project is to understand current process limitations with regards to domestic flexibility providers with the aim to demonstrate and test solutions to those limitations.

 

Problem(s)

First generation DSO services are already being provided by large distribution-connected assets – as evidenced by Flexible Power, Piclo, Power Potential, and more. Western Power Distribution (WPD) alone procured 28 MW of flexibility in 2018 with volumes expected to increase as the service develops. Distribution System Operator (DSO) services are being standardised across DSOs under the Open Networks project, initially focused on constraint management, and are becoming Business as Usual (BaU) across GB.

Whilst there are some smaller providers emerging, these services tend to be provided by relatively large (>200kW) assets, for instance batteries and generators. Flexibility providers to date have tended to be commercial actors for whom energy is core business (or a fundamental cost component of business), rather than individual householders.

But second generation DSO services will need to facilitate widespread participation from homes too. The market is fast developing new domestic flexibility solutions – spanning vehicle-to-grid (V2G), smart and hybrid heating, stationary batteries and more. The units of flexibility offered at domestic scale are individually small, often at the level of single kilowatts. This drives different requirements when participating in local flexibility markets. If DSOs are to be a neutral market facilitator, they must ensure a level playing field for these new domestic solutions.

Facilitating domestic participation means identifying – and addressing – unconscious biases in DSO service design. Example issues have been raised in National Grid Electricity System Operator’s (ESO) live Residential Response project, which seeks to address some specific barriers to domestic flexibility providing Firm Frequency Response (FFR); this is not yet public domain but early findings have been shared with WPD. Barriers are also outlined in Everoze’s Swarm Governance report under the Core4Grid project. In addition, Everoze’s experience of acting as Independent Technical Expert (ITE) for frequency response testing is uncovering practical empirical lessons. Issues include:

  • Dynamic allocation of Demand Side Response (DSR) assets within domestic portfolios
  • Bid windows to accommodate rapidly changing asset availability
  • Automation in testing and delivery to accommodate very large numbers of assets
  • Metering and baselining
  • Commercial incentive design and risk allocation.
  • Possible standardisation of requirements between DSO and other services.

 

Method(s)

Future Flex is a participant-led trial of second generation DSO services, deploying step-change innovations for procurement, testing and delivery suitable for domestic scale assets. The project will focus on active power demand reduction services. The benefits will be increased market liquidity and competition – and resulting lower costs of flex service provision.


  • The Project is scoped in phases, as logged below.

    1. Participant engagement

    • This data-gathering phase is the bedrock of the whole project, using workshops to secure meaningful, deliberated participant input, with follow-on semi-structured interviews, social media engagement and peer-review.
    • At the heart of this phase is two intensive workshops, informed by best practice in workshop design – with upfront participant priming on key topics, and careful curation of agenda, invitee list and seating plan to ensure meaningful feedback. The workshop methodology is substantially more intensive and bespoke than is typically deployed in the energy sector; for instance, drawing upon ‘priming’ theory from social sciences to set the interpretative frame – using an upfront written briefing and individual verbal calls prior to workshop delivery.

    2A. Solution definition: Commercial

    • This phase turns participant feedback into a concrete commercial design for a rebooted customer journey – new testing methodology, bid options, contract definition, etc.
    • The focus is on step-change innovations – albeit ones that are achievable. Business as Usual tweaks are excluded from this phase, as they can already be implemented as incremental improvements to Flexible Power.

    2B. Solution definition: System build

    • This phase converts the commercial design into a trial platform for the second generation services. Where needed, the commercial design is amended to reflect the reality of technical
    • A third party is expected to be contracted for system build.

    3. Trial

    • This phase trials the new system with more than two participants – preferably physically or otherwise virtually. Participants with existing in-home assets are targeted to avoid lengthy and expensive participant recruitment processes.
    • It collates feedback on the new system, capturing empirical lessons learned.
    • Two intensive workshops, adopting workshop best practice methodology.
    • A clear list of participant-led recommendations for second generation DSO services, segmented into step-change innovations and BaU tweaks, and clearly prioritised via impact/effort chart.
    • Implementation of highest priority recommendations, via empirical trial, targeting at least two providers and 100 homes.
    • Finalised designs following trial.
  • The key learning for each phase is

    • Phase 1: What stakeholders want from second generation DSO services?
    • Phase 2: How stakeholder requests can be implemented in practice – what specifically need to change.
    • Phase 3: Which step-change innovations work in practice, and which do not.
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