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.

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.

A Welcome Hotel Reception for DSR

After successful trials, Marriott International Europe has embraced Demand Side Response (DSR). John Conlon, Head of Engineering and Facilities, tells us why the chain has rolled out the red carpet for DSR.

At Marriott International the first thing we needed in order to understand the benefits of DSR for our business was a positive mindset as. Initially, it seemed to make little sense – it’s 6pm, it’s been a hot day, the hotel is full of people getting ready for the evening and we are being asked to reduce our demand for electricity. Really?

Once we came to understand the concept however, we wanted to be involved. From a small beginning with a pilot in just four of our hotels, we have expanded our participation in DSR to 29 hotels in the UK with more hotels potentially being added this year in France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

The concept is that small reductions in demand from our hotels, and the other businesses that we are aggregated with by KiWi Power, add up to a significant overall reduction. This allows National Grid to keep the system in balance during times of high demand or when additional flexibility is called for. The key for us is to reduce demand without affecting our operations.

It underlines our credibility as a business committed to sustainable energy use and it has resulted in some very positive media coverage.

NO COMPLAINTS

For us the initial focus was on large pieces of electrical equipment such as the chillers that we use for air conditioning and refrigeration. Shutting these down for short periods of time within agreed parameters can be done with little or no effect on our operations, certainly as far as our guests are concerned.

As an illustration, if you turn off a domestic freezer for an hour it will still hold its temperature for a period of time without any problems. The same concept holds good on a larger scale. Over the period we’ve been providing a demand response service we’ve never had any adverse reaction from our guests.

A GOOD FIT

The idea wasn’t entirely new to us. We knew our hotels in the USA have been active in DSR for some time. Once we became aware there was a market opportunity in the UK we started to look at how we could unlock it.

KiWi Power was recommended to us as a forward-thinking, innovative partner. Initially we were wary as KiWi Power is a relatively small company with a flat hierarchy where decisions are made very quickly, whereas with a large corporation like ours we sometimes need longer to ensure the concept is fully tested. However, it’s turned out to be a very good fit and we’re now in our fourth year of working with them.

ALMOST EFFORTLESS

In the first year of working with KiWi Power it was a case of understanding the concept and how it would affect our operations. In the second year we ran the pilot at four hotels in the UK to make sure they were comfortable with the concept and to give them time to get used to it. Then the following year we extended it into 29 hotels.

Typically a hotel is contacted by KiWi Power and given a couple of hours’ notice of a turn-off lasting for around an hour. The relevant equipment has controls fitted which allow KiWi Power to turn it off and on remotely. All our hotels have separate contracts with KiWi Power so they agree at a local level how much capacity they are committing to provide. Once the system is up and running it’s almost effortless on our part.

PROUD TO BE INVOLVED

We receive a payment for making ourselves available for DSR and again whenever we are asked to turn down our equipment. There’s a net benefit for each hotel and we’ve set a target of £0.5m for the group over the next five years.

However, the major benefit for us is that it underlines our credibility as a business committed to sustainable energy use and it has resulted in some very positive media coverage. Marriott is very proud to participate in a scheme that is helping to ensure security of supply for the UK.

As well as extending DSR to more of our hotels in Europe in the coming year, we’re also working with KiWi Power to bring more pieces of equipment within the scheme, right down to things like ice machines, so we can maximise the potential of our assets.

FIND OUT MORE

For more information on how your business could benefit from demand side response participation, email the Power Responsive team: [email protected]

Be the first to receive important updates on Power Responsive activity by signing up to the mailing list on our website. Click on the ‘get involved’ button in the top right hand corner of the homepage: www.powerresponsive.com

Keeping their cool

Demand side solutions can help balance the electricity network. By knowing when to increase, decrease or shift their electricity usage, businesses can earn revenue, save on total energy costs and reduce their carbon footprints. Stuart Lloyd, Chief Engineer of Norish, a cold storage and logistics company, explains how it works for them.

Norish is a major energy user because of the nature of our business, especially where it includes temperature controls. We do everything possible to manage our energy use, both for cost reasons as well as environmental ones.

We operate eight storage and distribution centres across England and Wales providing over 75,000 racked pallet spaces of which 60,000 are temperature controlled. Our annual electricity consumption is 21GWh so anything we can do to reduce that is welcome.

Flexitricity manages the demand-response relationship with National Grid on our behalf and provides National Grid with Short-Term Operating Reserve (STOR), an important source of reserve electricity.

Four out of our eight sites are connected to Flexitricity’s smart grid. When there is sudden high demand for electricity, or if a major power station fails, we can help National Grid by reducing plant loading for certain periods.

Hardware installed by Flexitricity automatically turns down our cooling plant for short periods to reduce the stress on the network, and because this automated load management is carried out for short periods and within pre-agreed parameters, it does not affect our product temperatures or freezing cycles at all.

 

When there is sudden high demand for electricity, or if a major power station fails, we can help National Grid by reducing plant loading for certain periods.

 

By companies like ours making this extra capacity available, it reduces the need for power stations to be kept on ‘hot standby’ or running inefficiently at part-load as emergency back-up. Indeed, Flextricity’s figures show that their STOR can reduce emissions by between 300 to 750 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt per annum.

Working with National Grid and Flexitricity to help provide extra capacity when it’s needed has been a great success for Norish. It’s led to us lowering our energy consumption and our carbon footprint and allowed us to earn extra revenue, all without disrupting our normal business operations.

On track to support demand side response

Some of the UK’s biggest energy consumers are supporting plans to boost the use of demand side measures. Russell Fleetwood, Generation Manager at London Underground, explains how and why his company is getting on board.

The Tube is the biggest power consumer in London, and has the largest private power network in the country. So we’re well-placed to reduce our demand, which is why we signed up for one of the new innovative demand response services: Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR) run by National Grid.

Through DSBR London Underground is able to offer 55MW of demand reduction.

DSBR makes use of our own stand-alone emergency back-up supply at the Greenwich Power Station. The power station, which dates back to 1902 and was originally built to provide power for London’s Tram network, is currently used exclusively as a back-up for the Tube network. Should normal supplies be interrupted, it would be called upon to help with the safe evacuation of passengers and staff, so it needs to be 100 per cent available at all times.

Similarly, we can use Greenwich to reduce our reliance on National Grid’s power. Through DSBR we are able to offer a significant demand reduction of 55MW, and can quickly respond by switching to Greenwich’s five gas turbines for the length of time required.

Being more efficient

Being on call for means we are able to utilise one of our older assets – though we have to also be aware that we have to look after it, and not run it into the ground! Currently, the Greenwich power station is used between 200 and 300 hours a year, but that’s about to change as it undergoes a major revamp which will see new more efficient and cleaner gas engines installed.

Taking advantage of demand side response has been a positive experience for London Underground.

Reducing carbon emissions is part of TfL’s overall strategy and the new engines will provide a steady source of cheap, low-carbon power for London’s Tube network.Work is also being done to explore how the scheme could generate cheaper energy for people in London too. The waste heat produced could be used for heating water, and this would be pumped to homes connected up to the system.

The benefits to business

Taking advantage of demand side response has been a positive experience for London Underground. It’s enabled us to make use of an existing asset, as well as creating additional revenue – and that can only be good for stakeholders and Tube users alike. It’s a very, very, positive project for London.

I’m sure demand side response is something that will have to grow in the future to help smooth out customer demand and to help reduce carbon emissions. We’re fully supportive of that at London Underground.

Sainsbury’s targets 130MW of demand response

Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s is aiming to unlock the demand side potential in a network of 400 stand-by generators located around the UK.

Keeping the energy bill for Sainsbury’s in check is a major undertaking. It’s a challenge that we’re taking seriously and in recent years we’ve invested in more than 100 biomass boilers, 40MW of solar PV, introduced LED lighting, 27 Ground Source Heat Pumps and Green Gas CHP. As a result our absolute energy consumption today is lower than it was in 2005-06, despite opening 52% more space in that period.

So, we’ve made a good start, but we have only really scratched the surface in terms of what we could do through demand side response. The opportunity is huge because our business accounts for something like 0.6% of all electricity consumption in the UK.

Investigating the role of on-site generation

In the event of a power cut each of our sites has a back-up generator set in place, which starts up if the site comes off the grid for any reason. These generators produce enough power to enable each facility to function for a period of time and to get people out of the building safely. What we do know is that we have approximately 130MW of generation capability that could be put to use providing demand response. However, the hurdle we need to overcome is the complexity of getting those generators connected to the grid.

Sainsbury’s has approximately 130MW of generation capability that could be put to use providing demand response.

Negotiating connection

The process of connecting new on-site generation is complex and time-consuming. It’s also not set up to deal effectively with a situation like ours with 400 individual sites, each needing to be assessed as a separate entity.

At present we need to apply for each potential connection to one of the 14 Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) and the time between submitting an application and receiving a ‘yes or no’ decision is between 45 and 90 days.

In addition, because our generator sets are used as back-up currently, they are not connected directly to the grid. This necessitates a significant amount of investigative work to provide the necessary technical specifications and data to the DNO. We estimate that the cost of completing the application process for 350 sites would run to millions of pounds.

There is no easy answer because the DNO needs to be sure that any connection does not cause a problem on the local grid. It would certainly encourage businesses like ours if there was a process to validate potential connections en masse. We would also welcome a centralised fee with each DNO to provide clarity on costs.

It’s unlikely that all 400 of our sites will be suitable for connection, but certainly we think 250-300 is a realistic figure.

We have only really scratched the surface in terms of what we could do through demand side response.

Going live

We’ve reached an exciting point in the development of our demand response capability with the first 150kW generator set in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire going live this month. This will be followed by a 1.2MW generator at our Tamworth depot in Staffordshire, so we will be able to assess the success of both small and large scale options.

At the same time we’re looking at other technologies. For example, later this year we will launch a trial of battery storage at our Melton Mowbray store, which aims to store up off peak electricity to be released on demand. We want to prove the principle before assessing a wider roll-out.

In addition, we’re working with Open Energi, using their expertise in frequency response to examine what else we can do across Sainsbury’s to reduce our energy consumption.

I think the message is that, as part of Sainsbury’s 20×20 Sustainability Plan, demand response technology has a part to play. We have 130MW of generation just waiting to be used. It’s now about working with the energy industry to make it happen!

Co-operation that counts

We have over 130 food stores, from small convenience shops to supermarkets, our own distribution centre at Ipswich and a head office just outside Ipswich, at Wherstead. Our operations stretch from King’s Lynn in Norfolk down to Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, including a major presence around Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich.

Going back quite a number of years I was aware of Dynamic Demand, the technology Open Energi had developed. I’m an engineer, so I was looking at what Open Energi  were doing from an engineering point of view and it made enormous sense. Responding to the National Grid frequency to turn electrical equipment on or off where spare capacity exists to achieve load shifting was a simple but effective idea.

Speedy response

When National Grid has a period of stress, we are required to respond within two seconds and deliver within 10, so we arevery fast. One of the base loads we have is a 600kw electric boiler at our head office, which can be turned off almost instantly.

National Grid knows that, at the end of Eastenders for example, thousands of kettles will be switched on and toilets will be flushed. To help cope with the additional electricity demand National Grid can call on hydro-electric (pumped storage) stations, but they also have to run up extra power stations, ready to meet that demand, which might only last for three to five minutes.

If the East of England Co-op, and lots of businesses like us, are available to turn loads off, National Grid can avoid calling upon their reserve capacity power stations which can take up to four hours to run up (and a further four hours to run back down again). Likewise, if National Grid has an excess of electricity – for example, if a steelworks goes off-line unplanned – we can turn our heating on so we’re using up the spare capacity.

It all adds up

There are two solid benefits to Demand Side Response. Instead of paying power stations for spare availability to supply, National Grid can pay us to turn off equipment. We’re a virtual power station. Combine ourselves with others doing the same that adds up to a lot of energy and at a cheaper price than a power station. It also reduces UK carbon emissions by providing a clean and efficient alternative to peaking power stations.

From our point of view, it’s a useful financial income stream and we hope it’s going to generate more income as time goes on.

From our point of view, it’s a useful financial income stream and we hope it’s going to generate more income as time goes on. This is because stable power generation methods such as coal or gas are increasingly being supplemented and replaced by solar or wind power, which are subject to unpredictable peaks and troughs in power generation.

Dynamic Demand rapidly fills the power generation gap created by fluctuations in renewable energy production. That speed of response is able to provide a useful service to National Grid and an income to the East of England Co-op.

Where DSR is a matter of degree

The University of East Anglia has around 15,000 students and 4,000 staff, spread over a campus of 320 acres just outside Norwich. This centre of higher education has found that the benefits of Demand Side Response (DSR) are, well… elementary. Martyn Newton, Assistant Director of Estates and Buildings, explains why.

Our site has a power consumption rate of some 5.5MW during the day, dropping to 2.8MW at night. In winter, it’s about 6MW and 3.2MW respectively. Back in 1999, we put in a Combined Heat and Power system and we generate about 60% of our power on-site with gas engines.

We have three 1MW engines installed in 1999, plus a 1.7MW unit included in 2008 that provide us with 6MW of heat if all running. It’s much more economical for us to buy gas at 2p a kilowatt and generate electricity at 6 to 7 p/kWh rather than buy it in at 10 to 11p a kilowatt and off-set running gas boilers for heat. It is right both from an economical and environmental perspective, because it reduces our carbon signature considerably.

A question of usage

Open Energi came to us about DSR and although we can’t vary the load greatly – a few minutes would be fine but a long period of 30 minutes would be difficult – we gave serious consideration to what we could do across campus. For example, we have a permanent air extraction system ventilating student residence buildings taking air out of shower pods. It was a case of ‘Does it really matter if it goes off for a few minutes? No, not really.’ Similarly, we have an art gallery on site that has around 30 air handling units. Does it really matter if they stop ventilating for a few minutes? Again, the answer is no.

The question we kept asking ourselves is ‘Would the customer really be affected?’ There are many benefits from our point of view. We realised that we can earn an income from operating our equipment slightly differently, the system is still under our control and we don’t have any expenditure in putting in the new system. We’re now considering more projects, such as the Olympic swimming pool, chilling equipment and sports hall ventilation. We can make available around 400kW currently and we can perhaps get to 0.5MW or a bit more in the next phase.

 We realised that we can earn an income from operating our equipment slightly differently.

Income generator

It’s completely automatic. The Open Energi box measures the local frequency of the mains. It senses it’s going down and says ‘That’s a bit too low’, and will then shed some of our load within two seconds. If frequency goes too high, then it puts on a bit of load.

The system has an accurate electricity meter that’s measuring everything so it can prove to National Grid that the event is really happening. National Grid is happy to pay Open Energi, and Open Energi pays us. A few other universities have come to have a look at it and have done something similar.

I think there’s quite a potential for Demand Side Response out there but there hasn’t been the incentive. We also haven’t had the technology to take advantage of it previously – the internet and the building management controllers that can act on all these variable factors.

We are now actually generating an income, just for operating our utilities slightly differently. It’s helping the country, the environment in terms of carbon emissions, we’re getting some money for it, and can disable it if we have to. So, for UEA it has been a case of ‘Why not?’”