A new frontier in demand side response

Dr Jens Madrian, Chief Commercial Officer for Reactive Technologies, explains the latest development in energy communications that’s leading the way to a smart energy revolution – the Grid Data and Measurement System (GDMS).

The speed of change we’re seeing in the energy industry is breakneck thanks to an international drive to de-carbonise, digitalise and future-proof the energy sector. Technology is at the heart of the transition from a traditional energy system dependant on fossil fuels to a new, smarter energy system dependant on zero carbon energy sources.

Traditionally, the UK energy system has relied on large fossil fuel power stations for flexibility, that is to say the ability to respond to short term changes in demand by increasing or decreasing generation output. This flexibility is needed to maintain system balance. With the planned closure of UK coal power stations by 2025, a large proportion of flexibility will need to be provided instead by the demand side – so businesses, small-scale generators and eventually households.

Technology is at the heart of the transition from a traditional energy system dependant on fossil fuels to a new, smarter energy system dependant on zero carbon energy sources.

Many demand customers and small-scale generators haven’t yet realised the value of their flexibility. The idea of getting paid for modifying energy behaviour for short periods, without impacting day-to-day operations or lifestyle, sound too good to be true for some. This however is the greener, more dynamic energy system we’re moving towards.

This offers up an exciting opportunity as well as a daunting challenge. On the one hand, consumers and small-scale generators will be empowered to become engaged system participants who interact intelligently with their energy and receive compensation for their involvement in demand side response (DSR). The challenge however is enabling the real-time communication between millions of electrical devices, ranging from washing machines to industrial chillers, and the grid. That is where Reactive Technologies’ Grid Data Management System (GDMS) delivers a technological step change by offering a whole new way of connecting power supply and demand 24/7.

Many demand customers and small-scale generators haven’t yet realised the value of their flexibility. The idea of getting paid for modifying energy behaviour for short periods, without impacting day-to-day operations or lifestyle, sound too good to be true for some. This however is the greener, more dynamic energy system we’re moving towards.

What’s the deployment challenge?

What is so revolutionary about GDMS is that it uses existing electrical infrastructure, the wires in the ground and the overhead lines, as a vehicle to send signals to electrical devices across the country instructing them to alter their behaviour in relation to changing grid conditions.

Without GDMS and its use of existing infrastructure to enable participation in DSR, the costs of a national rollout would be prohibitive. An internet or cellular connection would be required alongside an advanced interface to enable businesses, small-scale generators and households to get involved in DSR services.

How the GDMS technology works

GDMS is a cutting-edge communications solution that applies technology previously used exclusively in telecoms to the energy system. Operational instructions are sent via the grid to electrical devices who receive these in the form of unique codes, which are like text messages that only the recipient devices can read. These codes issue specific operational commands to devices, such as to turn up or turn down, and can be configured to suit customer preferences.

We’ve demonstrated the potential for GDMS via SAMUEL, a pioneering project undertaken alongside National Grid and SSE, which ended successfully in March 2016. We are now ready to take this ground-breaking technology to market – doing our bit to foster the transition towards a cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy system.