Grid Edge Develops Low-Carbon Demand-Side Flexibility

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Grid Edge has demonstrated that flexible assets within commercial buildings, such as ventilation plant, air handling units or electric vehicle systems, can be accessed, predicted and controlled against a price signal.

The technology transparently shows the day-ahead impact of flexible load shifting on a building’s comfort, carbon and cost profile.

This system is now live and being operated at a demonstration site that showcases how monthly exposure and re-billing positions meaning businesses can use the flexible assets in their buildings to help balance market positions and get paid properly for that service.

Grid Edge has proven demand-side flexibility for building operators can be achieved.  As its latest R&D project is finalised, the Grid Edge Flex2X product has established it can overcome barriers that prevents commercial building operators from participating in existing and emerging markets for demand-side flexibility.  Supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, the project successfully took Grid Edge’s Intellectual Property to full commercial demonstration.

What’s the problem being solved?

Electricity markets currently involve electricity retailers and generators who work through the market to settle their supply and demand positions. Businesses who consume energy – sometimes referred to as ‘prosumers’ –  are not involved in these markets and are expected to only be volume and price receivers rather than active participants. This means businesses cannot use the flexible assets (such as ventilation plant, air handling units or electric vehicle systems) they have in their buildings to help balance market positions, nor get paid properly for that service. These demand-side assets are effectively locked out, whilst flexible generation assets such as gas power stations or power traders are able to capitalise on price and arbitrage opportunities created in the markets.

Unlike fossil fuel gas power stations, building assets are considered more difficult to schedule and reliably control as they cannot be turned up or down purely for power market reasons.  They must also consider the building conditions and occupants comfort and external weather conditions.  Therefore a prediction of comfort and power demand is key to be able to respond to dynamic price signals.

Much existing incumbent Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) technology is focussed on retrospective information and data that can be used for post-hoc visualisation, reporting, fault detection and maintenance scheduling.  Grid Edge is leading the way to change this for building owners by enhancing these legacy BEMS systems with innovative AI-driven capabilities.

The project’s unique approach

The Grid Edge technology crucially has the ability to transparently show the day-ahead impact of flexible load shifting on a building’s comfort, carbon and cost profile.  This cannot be delivered by the type of retrospective information currently processed by BEMS.  Specifically, Flex2X offers a competitive advantage over existing BEMS technology by augmenting these systems with new predictive foresight-based optimisation capabilities for releasing flexibility.

The project had a unique approach in two ways, firstly its use of predictive machine-learning to forecast when it would be possible to load shift a building owner’s asset without compromising their comfort, carbon and cost profile.  Secondly, publishing this availability in a common ontology via a private Application Programme Interface (API) to upstream market participants, which include power supplies, DSR market actors and DSO flexibility services, so that the customer gets transparency over why any changes are being made and for what benefit.

The largest area of work associated with this integration was in developing the communications protocol and sequencing between the customer and the upstream market participants. The lack of existing protocols to define and trade flexibility mean each of these services expects and consumes different data over different time periods and controls for different external signals.

Scientific and technological challenges that were overcome

To deliver flexibility to any of these upstream market participants, a control and data collection layer had to be developed. This required a data ingestion component gathering information from the BMS, occupancy metrics and specific sub-meters within the building.  A prediction component that can forecast over the appropriate time horizon what the likely building and consumption behaviour will be was developed.  Together with a control component to enact the re-optimised strategy and a component to collect post-event data as evidence of the demand side response.

The Grid Edge approach runs an override signal through the BMS logic, this has the major advantage of including all the existing safety and over-run behaviour that the BMS would normally have and being through a system the customer already uses and trusts.

This system is now live and running each day with the monthly exposure and re-billing position allowing a supplier to reconcile their position and settle trading activities out, this would allow them to ultimately pass savings back to a customer.

“The cheapest kilowatt hour is the one you don’t have to use” is a mantra often used by Grid Edge CEO and Co-Founder Tom Anderson.  If we take this phrase and apply it to the world of flexibility, Tom should start saying, “The cheapest kilowatt hour is the one where you can now get paid.”  Because responsible consumption isn’t just about using less energy; it’s also about when you use it.

Notes

  • Made available through the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, the EEF is a competitive funding scheme to support the development and demonstration of state of the art technologies, products and processes in the areas of energy efficiency, power generation, heat generation and energy storage.
  • The EEF seeks the best ideas, irrespective of source, across these energy technology areas from the public and private sector. The grant funding scheme particularly aims to assist small and medium-sized enterprises, including start-ups companies.