UK Power Networks announces 25 ‘flexibility first’ zones

UK Power Networks has announced ambitious plans to procure more than 100MW of flexibility services from distributed energy resources (DER).

UK Power Networks announces 25 ‘flexibility first’ zones

The network operator plans to create 25 “Flexibility First” zones across its three license areas in London, the South East and East of England. This follows just a month after the network operator set out proposals to procure flexibility services as an alternative to traditional network reinforcement.

This will be the first time that a network operator has used the online platform Piclo (formerly known as Open Utility). Piclo is an online platform that matches energy providers’ resources with the network operator’s local need for flexible energy resources. Piclo enables providers to explore an interactive map and identify the areas where UK Power Networks is seeking flexibility to add capacity.

UK Power Networks will run parallel “Flexibility First” tenders at the same time: one for services in winter 2019-20 and a second for services in winter 2020-21. The tender process will take place in Q1 2019 and providers will be able to bid for longer-term contracts from one to four years.

Sotiris Georgiopoulos, head of smart grid development at UK Power Networks, explained the company is acting on feedback from distributed generation providers to help supercharge the market for flexible energy services.

He said: “Our plans are ambitious as we believe market-led flexibility will deliver value for our customers while creating a stronger, more resilient network.

“Stakeholders told us they wanted more certainty in the process and the opportunity to bid for longer-term contracts, so that’s what we are delivering. We’re developing an open and transparent new market for providers of distributed energy resources, and so it’s crucial that we listen and act on what they say.”

Flexibility services are when customers change when they use or generate electricity to manage peak demand on the network. For example, large-scale batteries can store renewable energy when demand on the network is low, and release it during the evening peak, or a major energy user like a factory can shift its operations to a time when there is lower demand on the network.

Flexibility has three key benefits to customers:

  • Lower electricity distribution costs: flexibility will allow UK Power Networks to defer capital expenditure to upgrade cabling and substations to help lower costs for consumers. A study by Imperial College London showed that deploying flexibility could save customers nationwide £17bn – £40bn by 2050.
  • New revenue opportunities for distributed energy resources: flexibility tenders will provide electricity generators, renewable energy, storage, major consumption users and aggregators a new way to offer their energy resource and create new income.
  • A stronger network: flexibility will contribute to an even more resilient electricity supply by helping to reduce electricity demand during peak times on our network.



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