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Current​± Chats: Mixergy's Martin Allman and David Pinder on using hot water tanks for DSR

Image: Mixergy

Mixergy has a unique offering of demand side response (DSR) services, using residential hot water tanks to provide the service.

It has been providing flexibility to the grid through a virtual power plant (VPP) run by Centrica since 2019, with the latter having established its relationship with Mixergy through an investment the same year.

Centrica then invested again in January 2020 during a funding round that raised a total of £3.6 million, with some of the money intended to go towards the rollout of Mixergy tanks to British Gas customers.

The company uses what it has dubbed the Internet of Tanks - a software platform capable of optimising household heating schedules across its network of smart connected hot water tanks - to provide the DSR.

Last month, Mixergy appointed two new hires, Martin Allman (MA) as chief commercial officer and David Pinder (DP) as chairman. Current± sat down with the two of them to discuss working with Centrica, scaling up the business and the benefits of using hot water tanks for frequency response.

It's been close to a year since Mixergy's last funding round. What have the outcomes of that been?

MA: A key part of the process that Mixergy is going through is that transition from a clean tech startup into a high growth commercial company, and that fundraising was a key part of that.

I suppose one of the outcomes is myself and David joining the team to really take that growth forward. It just really allows us to refocus on developing the products, and then reaching out to different markets.

From getting involved in early stage trials and pilot projects, we're proving and demonstrating what Mixergy technology can do. It's really taking that out to some key strategic partners to achieve some volume to increase our market share. A really good indicator of that is our relationship with British Gas. The fact that the Mixergy tank is becoming their key cylinder offer to their customers is an indication of the potential scale that we can deliver. That's where we've got to start growing the business in the UK, but internationally too.

What has the experience of providing flexibility to the grid from hot water tanks been like?

MA: So we are delivering a DSR service to National Grid ESO now to time shift demand and to help to balance the grid.

I have quite a lot of experience of this from my time at Sonnen, which is using lithium-ion batteries in people's homes and creating virtual power plants to provide flexibility to the grid and generate additional revenue streams, and actually, it's very similar.

The relevance of what Mixergy is doing with the Internet of tanks is absolutely the same. One big plus that we've got is that Mixergy tanks are a lot more accessible to more homes because lithium-ion is very expensive still and out of reach for a lot of homeowners. Hot water cylinder is a pretty low cost item and something that you have in your home that gives you lots of other benefits. Oh, and it can also provide flexibility for the grid.

What are the benefits to using hot water tanks over other technologies, both from a consumer perspective and for the grid?

MA: I think the bottom line is that the hot water tank solution that we have gives so many benefits to homeowners and it just so happens to have the additional benefit of being able to provide flexibility to the grid.

First and foremost, this is about providing a better hot water solution to homes that saves money, saves energy, cuts carbon emissions and allows you to use more renewables. Then there's this huge, huge potential there to use our assets in the same way that other providers are doing with batteries in homes, with electric vehicles, with the larger assets that are sitting on the grid to provide that support. We can be part of that mix, as well, which is which is great.

DP: One of the real benefits of combi boilers is you always have hot water, as with stored hot water you can be caught short. The beauty of a Mixergy tank is you can simply heat the amount that you need, and that's much more energy efficient. It's also much quicker. It's not instantaneous, but it's as close as you can get with stored water, so that's a real end user benefit.

How do you expect Mixergy's hot water tanks to fit into the wider decarbonisation journey, particularly as the company continues to scale?

DP: Clearly with tanks like Mixergy's that can help both in terms of the energy efficiency side of water storage, but also with grid balancing, I think there are real opportunities. Post-2025, when the Future Homes Standard is due to come in, you'll be able to heat a home very, very easily, because it'll be highly energy efficient, but the real issue will be how to store the hot water. And that's where we come in.

MA: Ultimately, we're moving in a direction here that's unstoppable and the government is very much committed to this decade being a time where we've got to make fundamental changes to the way that we we heat our homes, and so the timing is great for us.

Editorial

Alice Grundy Reporter, Current±

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