British food company cooks up a net-zero milestone for National Grid ESO

National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) and ELEXON opened up the balancing mechanism (BM), the most important tool for balancing the energy system in real time, to a wider range of flexibility providers in December 2019.

A family-owned wholesale food business has partnered with Flexitricity to become the first company to trade with National Grid ESO using this new route to market.

Roisin Quinn, Head of National Control at National Grid ESO, said:

“This transformation is central to the way we balance the system today – particularly as we work to meet some of the challenges associated with balancing the system – and forms an important part of being able to operate carbon free by 2025.”

In an industry first, Flexitricity has aggregated two batteries owned by Philip Dennis Foodservice and dispatched them in response to a call for energy received from National Grid ESO using the newly-launched balancing mechanism wider access arrangements.

Philip Dennis Foodservice is a family-owned regional catering wholesaler based in Devon supplying customers with a range of frozen, ambient and chilled foods.

The company has a Tesla energy storage system at their site in Mullacott, and a BYD battery adjacent to another of their sites at Roundswell. Both batteries are connected to Flexitricity’s virtual power plant and are managed round the clock by Flexitricity’s 24/7 control room in Edinburgh.

Philip Dennis Foodservice became the first of a new wave of participants which will trade in the balancing mechanism after National Grid ESO removed barriers to entry to this market at the tail end of 2019.

The transaction marks an important milestone for the GB energy market and highlights National Grid ESO’s focus on boosting real-time flexibility in the system and improving equality of access. Balancing mechanism wider access presents a huge opportunity for a range of flexible energy users, including EV users, domestic heating and energy storage, district heating, renewables and community energy projects, and industrial and commercial flexibility such as refrigeration, HVAC and lighting.

Historically the balancing mechanism has been dominated by large energy suppliers, formerly known as the ‘Big Six’. Now, as the country moves towards its 2050 net zero carbon targets, National Grid ESO and ELEXON have made changes to encourage smaller, more agile energy assets to contribute.

This change will improve system flexibility, which will facilitate renewable energy deployment and bring better value to consumers. New entrants to the market – like Philip Dennis Foodservice – will be able to reduce their environmental impact whilst creating additional revenue streams without disrupting day-to-day operations.

Flexitricity monitors the balancing mechanism and remotely alters the charge and discharge profile of Philip Dennis Foodservice’s batteries on site, in response to National Grid ESO’s requirements to balance supply and demand in real time.

The balancing mechanism is one of the main tools National Grid ESO uses to balance supply and demand on the electricity system in real-time. Through the BM, providers can offer to increase or decrease their generation or demand to help balance the system.

Roisin Quinn, Head of National Control at National Grid ESO, said:

“We’re excited to see the first example of wider access to our balancing mechanism as a virtual lead party in action with Philip Dennis Foodservice and Flexitricity. Wider access opens up opportunities for new providers and technologies to become part of the electricity market, making it smarter and more flexible as we shift away from traditional large thermal power generation to cleaner, decentralised power.


Andy Lowe, Director at Flexitricity, said:

“We are delighted to be the first to complete a trade in the balancing mechanism utilising this new route to market and are fully committed to helping more businesses like Philip Dennis Foodservice to access this revenue source.

“We have been working with businesses for over 11 years to maximise the value of their energy assets and now we can provide this service to thousands more businesses.

“Our focus has always been to build a decentralised, greener and fairer energy system where all energy users benefit – not just the big suppliers. It’s hugely rewarding to see that that’s now becoming a reality. Philip Dennis Foodservice – a small, family-owned business – is traded as part of our virtual power plant in the same, lucrative market the ‘Big Six’ are trading in. It’s a perfect example of the progress we’ve made as an industry over the last few years.

“Now as at any other time, our energy system needs customer-side flexibility to be both secure and green which is why it was important to us to be able to reach this milestone.”


Peter Dennis, Director at Philip Dennis Foodservice, said:

“Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, and we’re delighted that working with Flexitricity is enabling us to ‘green up the grid’. We’re extremely proud that our batteries were the first ever assets traded in the balancing mechanism through this new route to market.

“Energy used to be purely a cost for us and something that we didn’t have much control over. Now, by slightly altering our generation and consumption profile, in response to National Grid ESO’s requirement, we’re able to earn additional revenue that can be invested back into the business and gives us a competitive advantage.”