Student accommodation helps solve energy challenge

Thanks to an innovative partnership approach to demand side response (DSR), Oxford Brookes is unlocking vital flexibility from its student accommodation blocks. It’s all part of a wider sustainability strategy to leave a positive mark on the world. Gavin Hodgson, Energy and Carbon Reduction Specialist at Oxford Brookes explains.

Oxford Brookes is currently ranked as one of the best modern universities in the UK, topping The Sunday Times’ rankings of modern universities for 11 of the past 12 years. The university serves over 17,000 students from three main campuses in and around Oxford so it’s not surprising that we face a fairly hefty energy bill of around £2.4 million per year.

Of course we’d rather be spending this money on improving our campus and equipment, so we are always looking at ways we can reduce our energy use and become more sustainable.

Positive contribution

At Oxford Brookes, we believe sustainability is a defining issue of our generation. To ensure we respond appropriately we’ve adopted a Net Positive Impact approach. This is a holistic approach designed to help us go beyond reducing our negative impacts and identify ways in which we can make an explicit and verifiable overall positive contribution to society and the environment.

The pioneering DSR project we have worked on with Open Energi and Prefect Controls is a perfect example of this in action. Yes, we’re seeing direct benefits by way of revenue for participating in DSR, but equally it’s enabling us to have an impact beyond our estate and help drive positive change in the electricity system as a whole; supporting greater use of renewables, cutting our reliance on fossil fuelled power stations and creating a smarter, more efficient network.

We were the first university in the UK to take advantage of a new partnership between Open Energi and Prefect Controls to unlock real-time flexibility from student accommodation. It’s the first time Open Energi has implemented its technology via a third party and it will enable multiple smaller loads, like 4kW water heaters and 1.5kW panel heaters, to participate in Dynamic Frequency Response, which is very exciting.

We’re seeing direct benefits by way of revenue for participating in DSR, but equally it’s enabling us to have an impact beyond our estate and help drive positive change in the electricity system as a whole.

For us it was a relatively straightforward process as we already had Prefect Controls’ Prefectirus energy management system installed. We’ve been using it since 2014 to help us reduce energy use across our student accommodation blocks. For example, if the heating is left on in a student bedroom which is empty, the system will spot this and turn it down automatically.

Open Energi is able to connect with our equipment via Prefect Controls’ network and ask heaters and hot water tanks in our student accommodation blocks to automatically and invisibly shift their energy consumption to help National Grid balance electricity supply and demand across the country. By aggregating flexible demand from our student accommodation and making this available in real-time we are helping to build a smarter, more sustainable energy system for the UK.

Success leads to growth

We started late last year by trialling the technology across 5 water tanks providing hot water to 30 student rooms. We had no issues whatsoever and most importantly, neither did any of our students. Because equipment can only respond if it is within its normal operating parameters i.e. temperature bands, there’s no risk of water getting too hot or too cold.

Off the back of this success, we have signed a 10-year agreement with Open Energi. Our aim is to integrate DSR across a total of 71 tanks with a second phase planned to target 300 panel heaters, representing over 700kW in total.

We’re really proud of the role we’re playing in helping to transform our energy system and hope what we have done will encourage other universities to follow suit. Electrically heated student accommodation uses an estimated 378MW of power so imagine the impact if we could tap into it all.

Costain develops new demand response solutions

Engineering solutions provider Costain works on some of UK’s most demanding infrastructure projects, including the capital’s ambitious Crossrail programme. In 2014 it launched the COdemand venture to help customers tap into the potential of the demand side. As Sustainable Solutions Advisor Christopher Hills explains, it represents a growing opportunity.

Whether we are delivering a complex rail infrastructure project or managing assets for our customers in the water sector, energy security is a big issue.

With around 15% of the UK’s total electricity demand met through grid balancing at present there is a clear opportunity for demand response to provide a cheaper and cleaner solution. At the same time lots of businesses are unaware that they could harness their existing assets more effectively.

Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) represents a total of about 2GW of reserve (or backup energy) that can be called on at short notice if there is a sudden loss of power anywhere on the system.

It’s a relatively new area for Costain, but already we’re seeing a lot of interest and that’s why we established COdemand– a portfolio of solutions in this arena – as a way of helping customers get smarter about how they manage their energy loads.

Partnerships in place

To combine our own sector knowledge with wider demand side expertise we created two partnerships. The first is with Open Energi to offer their Dynamic Demand solution that fine tunes organisations’ power consumption and gives more flexibility to manage the electricity network. We have since expanded the portfolio through a second agreement with Flexitricity to offer Frontline (Frequency Control by Demand Management), STOR (Short Term Operating Reserve), Footroom (Negative Reserve) and the Capacity Market.

To date we are working with customers in two specific sectors – water and rail – although there are very clear applications for demand response technology in other areas of our work, including oil and gas, highways and the power sector.

Our teams are often working side-by-side with customers at their sites and so have first-hand knowledge of how assets might be used more efficiently. Applicable assets include heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; boilers, pumps, fans, UPSs and back-up generators. Some of our customers also operate combined heat and power (CHP) plants.

Scale isn’t everything

One of the myths about demand response is that it is only relevant to the very largest businesses with manufacturing plants spread across multiple sites. We’re saying to customers: “This is something that every company can play a part in.”

As an example we are employing Dynamic Demand technology at our own head office in Maidenhead. Dynamic Demand linked to the HVAC system at Costain House and is operating 365 days a year, allowing corrective action to be taken in response to changes in grid frequency.

One of the other benefits of the technology is that it provides a second-by-second analysis of electricity use so that energy efficiencies can be identified, potentially cutting energy costs and reducing CO2 output.

One of the myths about demand response is that it is only relevant to the very largest businesses.

Towards Smarter Cities

Taking a longer-term perspective, there is plenty of debate about creating Smart Cities and how technology can drive society towards improved sustainability. Certainly we believe that demand response has a part to play.

When we introduce customers to the idea we sometimes talk about the concept of constructing a virtual power station – one built to run ultra-efficiently and provide electricity exactly when needed. When set against the cost, environmental impact and time needed to build entirely new power stations, the benefits of demand response are clear.

So, where next? While industry accounts for a significant slice of UK energy consumption, (about 16% in 2013), domestic consumption stands at around 29%, so to realise the full potential of demand response the way we use energy at home is the next big opportunity. The advent of smart meters offers a glimpse of what is possible, but unlocking the full potential of the domestic market still has a long way to go.

From megawatts to negawatts

As interest continues to grow in Demand Side Response (DSR), more and more businesses are exploring the opportunities that exist in turning down their power demand at peak times. One business that is helping its clients take maximum advantage is Incentive Carbon Management. Board Director Bill Pollard explains.

At Incentive Carbon Management (ICM) we provide energy and carbon reduction solutions to both SMEs and larger businesses. We’re part of one of the UK’s leading independent facilities management groups, Incentive FM Group.

The services we provide help our customers save a minimum of 20 per cent from their carbon and energy costs, while ensuring they meet current legislation and their corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives.

Understanding our markets

We operate in an extremely complex market and it’s important to us that we become an integral part of our customers’ energy management teams. It’s our responsibility to bring innovation and new ideas to the table. We’ve found that most of our customers have some level of knowledge and awareness of DSR, but they’re uncertain how best to implement it.

Interestingly, when discussing it with customers, more and more of them want to know about turn-down services, where they receive payment for reducing their power demand temporarily at peak times. I also sense that businesses are becoming greener. They have an appetite to further reduce their carbon footprints, while maximising the financial incentives available to them from the balancing services offered by National Grid.

They want to do more than just switch on their generation assets. But, at the same time, they want to be sure that there’s no risk involved in taking the turn-down route.

How we support them

We’ve recognised the importance of DSR for some time now, both at a national level and for our customers. So we’ve been working with aggregator Pearlstone Energy to educate ourselves and our customers on all the opportunities available.

The services we provide help our customers save a minimum of 20 per cent from their carbon and energy costs, while ensuring they meet current legislation and their corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives.

As a leading provider of demand management, Pearlstone Energy can design and put in place a range of DSR services for our customers. This allows us to add value to our existing customer relationships, deliver fresh ideas, cost savings and exciting new revenue streams. The solutions we’re able to offer through Pearlstone Energy also enable our clients to participate in DSR in a carbon neutral way – and to view their energy use in real-time across their facilities.

This is thanks to Pearlstone’s partnership with technology experts Honeywell, which means we’re able to use the company’s pioneering Automated Demand Response (ADR) technology. This allows electricity consumers to switch off or turn down non-essential electricity in a reliable, fast, cost-effective and automated way.

It means our customers are helping National Grid balance the network by providing ‘negawatts’ rather than megawatts. By reducing demand, rather than switching on diesel or gas generators, they deliver flexibility in a greener, zero-carbon way.

And the benefits to our clients don’t end there. It requires zero investment from them, reduces their energy consumption and brings in up to £50k/MW a year in payment for providing these services.

New revenue stream

For many of our clients, this creates a new revenue stream. It enables them to sell the energy they don’t need at certain times, for short periods, which they wouldn’t otherwise be able to sell on their own.

Over a five-year contract period, on current estimates, the three clients that we’re working with on this will reduce their energy costs by more than £1,000,000. Our aggregator’s ADR technology will manage their electricity demand, significantly reducing their energy bills and potentially reducing their network demand charges.

Expanding our service

We see DSR as a valuable and positive development for our customers – and also for us as a business. As well as being an important stakeholder for future sustainable development and helping National Grid by providing flexibility, it enables us to tailor the services we offer and secure long-term profitable relationships with our customers.

Encirc blazes demand side trail with flexible approach

By agreeing to turn down some of its assets for 30 minutes at times when demand for electricity is greater than supply, glass manufacturer Encirc is supporting National Grid’s Firm Frequency Response (FFR) service – and helping create a greener grid. Energy Manager David Burns explains.

Our business is at the forefront of manufacturing and filling glass containers, offering a 360 degree supply chain solution to some of the world’s most recognised brands.

We operate from two sites, one in Derrylin, Northern Ireland, and the other in Elton, Cheshire. It’s our vision to build an even stronger business by investing in our people and technology, and continuing to embrace a culture of continuous improvement.

Our industry is energy intensive, and the production of glass relies on furnaces being heated to a high temperature, which means we’re on a constant search to reduce our impact by finding new ways to recycle, minimise and reduce our energy consumption.

With energy management a major consideration, we started to explore the market for providing demand side response (DSR).

Managing energy more efficiently

We’re always on the lookout for new suppliers that can add value to our supply chain and help reduce our environmental impact. We identified UK aggregator KiWi Power as a business that was well placed to support us.

After initial meetings, the aggregator visited our Elton site and carried out a detailed feasibility study to see how our production facility could deliver DSR without impacting on our business processes.

Our main concern was that there would be no disruption to our glass production process – whatsoever. By collaborating closely with KiWi Power, we were able to make sure we selected a programme that suited our assets and production processes.

We’re on a constant search to reduce our impact by finding new ways to recycle, minimise and reduce our energy consumption.

The programme we chose was Firm Frequency Response (FFR). It’s a service that helps National Grid control system frequency around Great Britain in real time by balancing electricity demand with generation. The business calls on us to respond at times when there’s a shortfall in generation or a sudden increase in demand.

When that happens, we are required to turn down the power demand on our assets within 10 seconds – and sustain that for 30 minutes. At the end of the process, the assets are restarted automatically.

A greener, more cost-effective grid

By reducing our load in this way, we play our small part in reducing the need for back-up power stations to fire up. So we’re able to contribute to creating a greener, more cost-effective grid.

Getting our business ready to deliver DSR was really straightforward. The aggregator came to site to install a control panel that would allow them to monitor our data remotely. This was easy to integrate and works alongside our existing systems.

Any signal to power down is received through this control panel, which automatically sets the assets to a pre-determined response level. For peace of mind, and to fully protect our processes, if we need to manually override the signal we can.

Effortless to integrate and manage

The control mechanisms behind the DSR systems – and how our assets react to response events – have proven easy to integrate and manage. There is also total transparency in the metering and monitoring that the aggregator does. This allows us to analyse performance and ensure that participating in the programme is consistently the right choice for our business and its production processes.

Since the contract began, we’ve seen a number of benefits and we’ve confidence that our infrastructure is operationally sound.

But for us, the best benefit is being able to assist in the operation of a decentralised energy grid. It’s exciting to play an active part in supporting the changing electricity system and become part of a more diverse, robust and decarbonised system.

High street retailer M&S tailor-made for DSR

High street retailer Marks & Spencer is seizing the opportunities on offer through demand side response (DSR). Maria Spyrou, the company’s energy efficiency programme manager, explains why getting involved in the Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) scheme and the Capacity Market, on top of Triad avoidance, is the right fit for the business.

Our business requires a large amount of energy to operate – covering our distribution centres and offices as well as hundreds of stores across the UK. We need that energy to keep our stores lit, food lines refrigerated and our customers and employees comfortable with adequate heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

As a responsible business, it is important we use energy efficiently. We have a strategy – Plan A – to reduce our environmental and social footprint. A key commitment is reducing energy consumption. Since 2007 we have been working with internal and external stakeholders to put solutions in place that have improved our energy efficiency by 39 per cent.

Our move into DSR was a natural evolution for us. Having worked with E.ON for the past eight years on energy efficiency enhancements in our stores, E.ON now also manages our participation in two DSR market products − STOR and the Capacity Market – plus Triad avoidance.

The potential benefits of DSR are really attractive. As well as contributing to security of supply and generating additional revenue we are also supporting our corporate social responsibility goals. In a recent report by National Grid it was stated that by running the STOR scheme through a range of non-synchronised units in 2014/15 it provided an estimated carbon offset of 79% over the synchronised equivalent (CCGT).

In terms of the products, STOR is National Grid’s most important source of back-up energy. The minimum requirements for STOR are that you are able to provide at least 3MW of either generation or demand reduction and can deliver that for at least two hours.

Meanwhile, through our Capacity Market obligation, we have made a long-term commitment to supply an agreed level of capacity to the system.

The potential benefits of DSR are really attractive. As well as contributing to security of supply and generating additional revenue, we are also supporting our corporate social responsibility goals.

So how are we delivering this capacity and helping to balance the system?
First of all, we are switching off our non-critical loads, specifically HVAC, when the grid requires additional capacity during peak demand periods. And secondly, we are using the generator assets we already have in our stores – usually only used to power our business in a power cut – to generate additional electricity during periods of peak demand.

Making connections

Getting the business ready to participate in this scheme required extra work and investment. We use a central energy management platform to help control energy use across our sites. At the beginning of this project, all of our lighting and many HVAC assets were already connected and controlled, but our generators were not.

With the help of E.ON, we connected all our additional assets to this central platform so they could be remotely controlled to deliver the services when needed.

Another key part of getting up and running was liaising with the relevant Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) to ensure that our generators could run in parallel with the grid safely, and in some cases that power we generated could be exported to the network. With all the work complete we have HVAC assets in 25 stores available and online, so we can control and shift loads as required. In addition, 13 of our sites – with many more planned – have had their generators upgraded to supply power to the grid when called upon.

All participating sites successfully went through Capacity Market testing in August and STOR delivery kicked off in September.

One unexpected benefit is that, by keeping our generators online for providing flexibility to National Grid, we are more confident they will run successfully if a power cut did occur. This added reliability has been well received by the company’s decision makers.

What’s next?

We are really happy with progress so far and are putting together a business case for phase two. This would see more sites, including larger ones such as our distribution centres, coming online as well.

My advice to any business unsure about participating would be to talk to National Grid, Demand Aggregators or other third parties to explore the best way for them to profit. I was sceptical initially, but as long as you have all the right controls in place, I believe there is little risk to your sites or operations from taking part in DSR.

It’s already made our generation assets more reliable, brought in extra revenue and allowed us to contribute to security of supply − an important issue as we move towards a more sustainable future energy system.

Water pumps get in on the balancing act

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water is a not-for-profit water company committed to serving its customers. Thanks to demand side response (DSR), it has found that managing its energy demand more flexibly means it can do the right thing for its customers and the country. Mike Pedley, Head of Energy for Welsh Water, explains more.

At Welsh Water we have a very wide strategy to invest in energy efficiency, energy generation and indeed DSR and other forms of tariff optimisation. Our not-for-profit model helps the company take a long term view when it comes to investing in low carbon and sustainable technologies which will run for many years and provide long term benefit for our customers.

Currently, we have some 56 sites generating renewable energy, which includes about 6MW of solar and 14MW of hydro. In addition, we’ve got around 11 anaerobic digestion sites. We plan to continue rolling out renewable generation as long as it delivers acceptable returns for the company and our customers.

A flexible approach

DSR is also something we’re doing more of. We’re aware that it is increasingly important to National Grid, and therefore the UK, to help balance the system cost-effectively, but from our perspective it’s a potential way of getting financial benefit from using our assets flexibly. Thanks to our not-for-profit model, if we benefit from it, then so do our customers.

We’ve contracted with National Grid directly for a couple of their DSR schemes (last winter’s Demand Side Balancing Reserve and this summer’s Demand Turn-up) but following an open tender and successful trial, we’ve also started working with Open Energi on dynamic frequency response.

From our perspective it’s a potential way of getting financial benefit from using our assets flexibly.

The service helps National Grid with its second by second balancing of electricity supply and demand, and responds automatically to changes in frequency. So if there’s a sudden shortfall in supply, instead of National Grid asking a power station to ramp up, Open Energi can ask our pumps to slow down temporarily. Similarly, if there is excess power being supplied – say it was particularly windy or sunny – our pumps could increase their consumption to alleviate pressure on the grid and ensure no energy goes to waste. The key thing for us is our equipment is in control, and we set the parameters within which it can respond. We have found that if our pumps operate a little faster or a little slower for a few minutes at a time, that doesn’t impact our processes or customers.

What next?

Right now we’re targeting 25 sites and expect to have around 5MW of flexible demand. If that roll-out proves successful we’ll look at other assets to see whether we can expand its use. Not all of our assets are suitable but there are some that work well with this technology and I am sure that the same is true of a lot of businesses. I would expect more companies to adopt this type of technology for some of their assets. Increasingly in the UK now, companies can benefit from using their assets as flexibly as possible and that also helps the country.

Cast iron case for Firm Frequency Response

James Brand, Managing Director of United Cast Bar, a leading foundry based in Chesterfield, is a firm fan of Firm Frequency Response (FFR). Here he explains why.

United Cast Bar (UK) is a major player in the continuous cast iron bar market, producing up to 45,000 tonnes of continuous cast iron bar annually and with our own distribution network in Europe. We have the largest portfolio among our peers worldwide, offering a wide range of sizes and formats. Approximately 90% of the foundry’s output is exported, 80% to EU countries.

Our journey towards FFR began when I discovered a little about the scheme and decided to investigate further. We always need to be on the lookout for additional revenue streams to support our success in the marketplace, and it seemed like a good way for United Cast Bar to earn extra income in a manageable format.

What I found was that FFR is part of National Grid’s demand side response (DSR) portfolio and, in simple terms, is the generation or removal of load from the electricity grid to stabilise frequency.

National Grid is prepared to pay companies to participate in FFR as it has an obligation to ensure that sufficient generation and/or demand is held in automatic readiness to manage all eventualities that might result in frequency variations. National Grid offers those taking part the potential to earn extra income from their assets by automatically adjusting power consumption in real time.

High rewards

The financial and operational benefits for companies taking part can be significant, with the potential to earn high rewards for every megawatt (MW) of average onsite energy consumption saved. This is in return for around six (on average) ‘turn-down’ events per year, lasting for a maximum of 30 minutes each.

The opportunity to earn significant sums for a controlled risk meant I was prepared to take it to the next stage, and the Cast Metals Federation, of which we are members, put me in touch with GridBeyond. After an informative presentation from them, I discussed it with my management team and we set the process in motion.

Optimised returns

GridBeyond is an aggregator and a technology leader in smart grid optimisation. It helps businesses such as ours to make the right choices and optimise returns. In addition, it takes care of the necessary hardware and software installation, as well as the online monitoring and reaction systems, and the day-to-day running of the system. All of this is provided without any capex requirement, with the aggregator simply taking a share of the scheme pay-out.

We decided that our two main Inductotherm melting furnaces would be suitable assets to shut down during an FFR event. Furnaces are the most energy-intensive items at any foundry and it was estimated that this would provide an average available load of 1.972 MW for the FFR service. On receiving a control signal, the melt furnaces can be turned off within 10 seconds. After 30 minutes, the furnaces can be restarted automatically following the required sequence.

The financial and operational benefits for companies taking part can be significant, with the potential to earn high rewards for every megawatt (MW) of average onsite energy consumption saved.

For peace of mind, we contacted Inductotherm, who manufactured the furnaces, to come in and check that their equipment would be compatible. Inductotherm gave us the all-clear and we happily moved forwards.

If the power is turned down on our melt furnaces for 30 minutes we simply lose a few degrees of temperature which we make up on restart. In addition, we have a manual override option if for any reason there is a health and safety issue or other concern.

Generating revenue

We went live with FFR in February this year, and were generating full revenue from the scheme in the third month after paying down hardware and software costs, and revenue could conceivably rise further in line with increases in production volumes.

There are other benefits too. For instance, GridBeyond has created a personalised optimisation dashboard that presents data such as energy consumption, which is great for our own energy and asset management plans.

Another advantage of working with an aggregator such as GridBeyond is it gives us a futureproof platform so if response schemes change over time we will be technology-ready to access more financially attractive tariffs. GridBeyond’s advanced platform makes switching easy to facilitate.

Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland saves £165,000 with Triad avoidance

An awareness campaign on energy charges at one of the UK & Ireland’s largest manufacturing firms has reaped significant savings and also helped it play a part in ensuring the nation’s electricity network is able to meet demand. Michael Dickinson, Engineering Manager Glass Industry UK & Ireland for Saint-Gobain, explains more.

Until last winter, the workings of the Triad system – used to help smooth out demand on the electricity network – was probably something of a mystery to many of our site managers and energy champions.

The system encourages large energy users to reduce consumption at peak periods in winter by levying a charge based on their electricity use over the three half-hours of highest demand on the grid each winter. As these Triad periods are not known in advance, efforts by major energy users to try and avoid them has the effect of reducing demand across the system.

Triad charges can be a sizeable proportion of our energy bills at Saint-Gobain, a fact highlighted by some number-crunching I did recently for an energy presentation to our managing directors.

Dramatic savings

Ahead of last winter we looked to try and help site managers and energy champions better understand the Triad system and how we could minimise our costs by reducing demand around peak periods.

Following a suggestion by Mark Cox, Account Manager at our energy supplier SmartestEnergy, we staged a joint webinar for staff from our 20 or so sites around the country ahead of last winter.

The response was fantastic with a number of sites really taking the issue on board and developing detailed plans of action for when a Triad period looked likely. Although the timing of the Triad periods isn’t known in advance, we subscribe to SmartestEnergy’s Triad alerting service which assesses a range of factors including historic trends and temperature to determine when they are likely.

Triad charges can be a sizeable proportion of our energy bills at Saint-Gobain, a fact highlighted by some number-crunching I did recently for an energy presentation to our managing directors.

By switching some machinery off or otherwise reducing demand for a short period of time from around 4pm to 6pm – the peak time for Triads – some of our sites have been able to achieve dramatic savings. Our overall demand across the three Triad periods showed an 11% fall and led to a total saving of £165,000.

At one site alone – Holwell Works at Melton Mowbray where energy champions Allan Hird and Tom Zbaraski developed a really well thought out strategy – the saving achieved was the equivalent of more than a whole month’s energy costs there. The site’s success saw it recently presented with the first Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland Energy Management Award with SmartestEnergy also making a donation to charity to mark the achievement.

We’re now looking to build on progress by staging another joint webinar with SmartestEnergy ahead of the start of this coming winter.

Environmental and social benefits

As well as reducing our costs and helping maintain our competitiveness, it also ties in well with the wider aims of our company to minimise our environmental impact and contribute to the economic and social development of the communities we operate in. Reducing our peak demand plays a part in helping balance the grid, ensuring the UK’s energy supplies are maintained and reducing the need for more generation capacity to be built. A real win-win!

Demand side response adds up for Aggregate Industries

It started with bitumen tanks and who knows where it might end? Donna Hunt, Head of Sustainability at Aggregate Industries, relates how her company is broadening its thinking to take full advantage of the possibilities of demand side response (DSR).

Aggregate Industries knows a lot about building roads so it’s appropriate we’re blazing a trail when it comes to making the most of DSR opportunities.

We’re well known in the industry for being pioneers in the use of new technology and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption and costs, and at the same time reduce our emissions. When we found out that DSR can help us do all these things – and generate revenue – we became very interested.

We teamed up with energy specialists Open Energi to identify those activities of ours that fit the dynamic frequency response management profile. In other words, activities where we can safely automate the switching on or off of power – without affecting quality – in order to help balance the grid.

The first plant we included in the scheme was our bitumen tanks which heat bitumen for the making of asphalt for road surfaces. We found that turning off our bitumen tank heaters to respond to short-term fluctuations in supply and demand doesn’t affect the quality of our product at all; bitumen is stored at between 150-180 degrees centigrade and the heaters on modern, well-maintained and insulated bitumen tanks can be switched off for over an hour with only a one-degree change in temperature.  The tanks’ temperature bands act as control parameters; if the temperature is within those bands switching can take place automatically, or if not, nothing happens.

The clever part is that the equipment uses frequency signals as a cue, which are instantaneous indicators of the balance between electricity supply and demand. National Grid has to maintain frequency at 50hz to balance supply and demand, so if it falls below 50hz our plant is automatically switched off if conditions are right; if it rises above 50hz, it is switched on.

The average duration of a switch is less than five minutes. Essentially the intervention is invisible and has no impact on our operations, yet we are providing a valuable service to National Grid 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We are paid for being available, regardless of how often we are required to respond.

We’re well known in the industry for being pioneers in the use of new technology and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption and costs, and at the same time reduce our emissions. When we found out that DSR can help us do all these things – and generate revenue – we became very interested.

Equipment was initially fitted to 244 of our bitumen tanks at 40 asphalt plants around the country. So successful has it proved that we’ve extended it to 11 quarry pumps at two quarries, and we are also reviewing all our sites, operations and equipment to identify further activities to bring into the scheme.

Embracing this innovative technology has helped us achieve 3.6MW per year of flexible demand for the grid.  In terms of emissions that is almost 50,000 tonnes of CO2 avoided over five years – equivalent to saving 390,000 flights between Paris and London!

And thanks to Open Energi’s metering and monitoring equipment, we have new data which can help us identify where the bitumen tanks may be inefficient or not running correctly, which in turn we can use to make adjustments to achieve even more energy savings.

We’re really pleased to be part of the DSR scheme with National Grid and Open Energi and we want to help get the message out how well it works. Through our partnership with the Living Grid network, we’re happy to share our experience of this emerging technology and encourage others to take up the opportunity too. Together we can create a positive change in the energy system that extends beyond our own organisation.

NHS Trust benefits from demand side response

Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust was one of the first NHS Trusts to see the potential of demand side response (DSR) for generating revenue while helping balance supply and demand across the grid. Dr Vall Rasaratnam, formerly Energy and Sustainability Manager at Colchester, explains.

Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, where I wasEnergy and Sustainability Manager until 2015, has two main sites, Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital. The Trust employs more than 4,000 staff providing healthcare services to around 370,000 people from Colchester and the surrounding area of north east Essex.

Having access to a constant power supply is literally a matter of life and death for the UK’s NHS hospitals, which is why they all have emergency back-up electricity generators.

With NHS finances under constant pressure, the more forward-thinking NHS hospitals are working with demand response aggregators and National Grid to use these generators to create a new revenue stream – and help National Grid balance supply and demand. This was something I was very keen to become involved in, as I had been aware of a similar scheme working very successfully in the US.

Seamless switchover

Following an overhaul of the Trust’s mechanical and electrical infrastructure in 2012, we were approached by demand response aggregator KiWi Power. It proposed a scheme to install hardware and software that would help us realise the full potential of our generators and provide demand response for National Grid to call upon.

Before DSR we routinely ran our generators to test them for a set 10 hours a month. Our base load was 1.6MW and we had the potential to generate 3.6MW, giving us an export capacity of 2MW. Under DSR, we now switch to our own generators at times when the system requires it – a request that’s made by National Grid via KiWi Power. This proves the resilience of our generators, and we also receive a payment for being available and for the electricity that we export to the grid.

For this system to work you do need to have well-maintained generators as they have to be able to react immediately. You also need to have the right hardware and software to ensure a seamless switchover when a generator is called on because the hospital cannot afford to have any downtime. This is where KiWi Power’s expertise came in.

A convincing business case

KiWi Power provided a detailed project management plan with installation and risk assessments. I was able to make a convincing business case to persuade the Trust’s board to support the equipment upgrades required to participate in demand response. The payback for the cost of the equipment was only two to three months.

We benefit from a new and recurring revenue stream through National Grid’s STOR (Short-Term Operating Reserve) programme and it allows us to realise a key objective: to upgrade and improve the resilience of the hospitals’ generators.

The solution designed by KiWi Power allows the generators to be remotely controlled when National Grid activates a demand response event. The diesel generators synchronise to the mains and export spare capacity back to the Grid, using the fully automated internet protocol solution provided by KiWi Power.

Relevant members of staff at the hospital are automatically notified. I would get a text message and a call giving me notice of the demand response event so I could check quickly whether the generators were undergoing maintenance or had broken down, and override the automatic system if necessary.

Before DSR we routinely ran our generators to test them for a set 10 hours a month. Under DSR, we now switch to our own generators at times when the system requires it – a request that’s made by National Grid via KiWi Power. This proves the resilience of our generators, and we also receive a payment for being available and for the electricity that we export to the grid.

The bottom line

The Trust benefitted with over £100,000 of annual revenue, with all set-up costs paid by KiWi Power. There was no disruption to our site operations and we gained access to real time energy management information which helped us improve our energy monitoring. We were also able to reduce our CO2 emissions as onsite generated power has a lower emission factor than that supplied through the grid.

A further benefit was provided by KiWi Power in remotely managing our peak tariff avoidance, better known as ‘triad’, something we used to have to do manually. To explain, National Grid nominates three peak tariff periods during a winter period when domestic demand is especially high and the cost per KWh for major energy users rises enormously. This encourages us to either reduce demand or switch to other sources during peak periods. The three peak tariff periods vary so we are given around 20 days prediction of when they will occur.

Switching to our generators at those peak times gave us around a £50,000 rebate. When I was at Colchester, having automated triad management meant we were able to switch to our own generators on all our triad days and avoid peak charges.

Having had the experience of providing demand response for National Grid, I am convinced that more NHS hospitals should become involved as everybody benefits.