London, United Kingdom, October, 2015 – New research published today by Open Energi, National Grid and Cardiff University suggests the possibility of demand side response (DSR) technology meeting the UK’s crucial grid balancing requirements faster than a conventional power station.

The energy system is undergoing a huge transformation away from centralised generation to small-scale, distributed power. The Future Energy Scenarios (FES) report published earlier this year by National Grid, indicates that by 2020 small-scale, distributed generation will represent a third of total capacity in the UK. As a result, speed of response to changes in energy supply and demand will be more important than ever.

Nikola Gargov, Power Systems Engineer at National Grid said:

“Tomorrow’s electricity landscape will look very different to that of today and the traditional assumption of needing large scale fossil fuel power stations for base-load generation may change going forwards. Demand Side Response (DSR) will play an increasingly vital role in building a secure, sustainable and affordable electricity system for the future. If just 5% of peak demand is met by DSR solutions, the response would be equivalent to the generation of a new nuclear power station.”

The new paper published as a result of the ongoing collaborative research by Open Energi, National Grid and Cardiff University, titled Power System Frequency Response from the Control of Bitumen Tanks, looks at the feasibility of DSR to provide a significant share of frequency balancing services.

Bitumen tanks (containing the glue that binds our roads together) equipped with Dynamic Demand were used in combination with National Grid’s model of the GB transmission system to investigate the capability of industrial heating loads to provide frequency response to the power system.

The conclusion is that Dynamic Demand deployed at scale is able to contribute to the grid frequency control in a manner similar to, and, crucially, faster than that provided by traditional peaking power generation. Field tests showed that full response could be provided in less than two seconds, as compared to 5 – 10 seconds for a thermal generator. Large scale deployment of Dynamic Demand will reduce the reliance on frequency-sensitive generators and ensure that the grid stays balanced in a cost-effective, sustainable and secure manner.

Chris Kimmett, Commercial Manager at Open Energi said:

“While most people are focusing on the tight capacity margin between supply and demand, the real threat could come from generators being unable to respond within the required window to balance instantaneous shifts in supply and demand. With more renewables and decreased thermal generation, ‘inertia’ on the Grid will decrease, making frequency more unstable. To counteract this effect we need faster response, so by rolling out Dynamic Demand today we are future proofing the Grid.”

This is why the research findings are central to National Grid’s Power Responsive campaign, which aims to increase DSR participation in the balancing services market by 2020, making DSR one of the major means for delivering frequency response.

The research simulations help to shape National Grid’s understanding of DSR as a replacement for frequency-sensitive generation and will be used when they are planning their requirements for grid network operation in the future – with huge impacts on the future of our energy mix.

Open Energi is already working with some of Britain’s largest organisations including Aggregate Industries, United Utilities and Sainsbury’s to deliver this service to the grid, using its Dynamic Demand technology.