Finding creative ways to balance the electricity system

Jeff Whittingham, Managing Director at DONG Energy Sales UK believes that cross-industry collaboration is vital as the UK works towards a better energy future. Here he tells us how businesses can help reduce imbalance in the system.

Energy flexibility is a key topic across the industry at present, and quite rightly so. As a nation, we’re transitioning to a new, cleaner, sustainable energy mix and with that comes a set of new challenges. Balancing our electricity system, and keeping that system working as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, needs the collaboration of all parties – from generators through to suppliers and, importantly, consumers. As we strive for a better energy future, it is essential that we work together and are prepared to adapt the way we think about energy consumption – recognising the part that we play in the bigger picture.

Extending the Demand Side Response concept

For those businesses who make the decision to participate in Demand Side Response, a whole range of schemes exists, catering for a broad set of business sizes and needs. Companies are increasingly recognising the benefits of operating flexibly, and are reaping the rewards both in terms of peak cost avoidance and revenue generation. Typically, these schemes deal exclusively with balancing supply and demand on the grid. However, as the UK’s largest offshore wind generator, we felt there was room to take this concept one step further and use our own business customers’ flexibility to help balance the grid.

How Renewable Balancing Reserve works

Renewable Balancing Reserve (RBR) works by offsetting imbalance in the system against customer demand. It’s available to all of our customers and, from a user perspective, it operates much like a reserve scheme – but without any commitment to participate. Customers can decide whether or not to take part each time we issue a request. Businesses begin by submitting their desired price per MWh of flexibility via DONG Energy’s online portal. Then, when imbalance costs are high, customers are invited to reduce consumption or increase generation on-site to counteract those imbalance costs. All resulting imbalance savings are then shared with participating businesses, based on the actual volume delivered by each customer. The added bonus of RBR is that we’re reducing the need to call on conventional or more expensive generation sources to make up the balancing gap, which benefits both the affordability and sustainability of our energy system.

Innovating for the future

The ongoing evolution of our energy infrastructure demands and encourages innovation from across the industry. RBR is the result of extensive research and development within DONG Energy, and we believe it to be a creative new approach to help balance the energy system. It represents a different proposition for businesses, providing them with an alternative way to create revenue, without penalties or restrictive schedules, and as such can be a great first step for businesses.

With such a plethora of options available, it’s little wonder that some businesses are feeling uncertain about their first foray into flexibility. When we spoke to our customers, we realised that it’s not always clear which schemes are right for which businesses – so we created a Flexibility User’s Guide. It’s free to download and covers everything that’s available across the whole marketplace, including RBR.

For those businesses not yet ready to make strides forward into flexibility, we’ve also provided some options which might serve as a ‘safe’ start to their journey. Energy Vision, for instance, is a tool designed in-house by DONG Energy’s innovation team.  It gives users the opportunity to model different scenarios, based on market and non-commodity cost profiles. This helps businesses to unlock the value of their energy assets, without extra investment or obligation.

It’s all part of our commitment to helping businesses adopt a more flexible approach to their energy consumption. This positively impacts their bottom line – and helps secure a more sustainable energy future for us all.

For more information on RBR and Energy Vision, visit: