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Current± Disruptors: Origami Energy’s David Middleton on the future of flexibility

Image: SmartestEnergy.

Origami Energy’s technology platform has become the focal point of several trials looking at flexibility and peer-to-peer energy trading. Having partnered with SSE for Project LEO and TRANSITION, two trials exploring smart grids, and SPEN for FUSION, a project looking at flexibility, Origami has set itself up to lead the way when it comes to flexibility platforms.

The UK energy system is becoming more decentralised and more decarbonised, with the country’s DNOs having to step up and transition to DSOs. Origami’s involvement in these new projects will hopefully support and facilitate this transition.

David Middleton, head of commercial delivery at Origami Energy, spoke to Current± about how these projects will inform the future of the UK’s energy market and how flexibility could resolve the need for greater investment.

Why is peer-to-peer energy trading and flexibility so important to the future of the UK energy system?

I think going forward there are something like up to £90 billion pounds being spent on distribution networks in order to cope with what we perceive to be the future and that’s not sustainable, it’s not viable for customers. What we need to do is change the future, look at using the flexibility we’ve currently got, the flexibility that we could put in place, and use that to go help the DNOs/DSOs resolve some of those issues and constraints, but also to enable peer-to-peer trading so that people with flexibility and people who want to increase their output or their demand can work together to create an opportunity without actually involving either the DSO or the SO. If we can do that. . .we can underpin the investments in flexibility and reduce the carbon footprint for the UK plc and do that at a low cost to the energy supplier.

In order for the UK to avoid that £90 billion investment in infrastructure, we have to look at how can people with flexibility or are willing to provide flexibility interact with the market and provide them with optionality until their future’s more certain. So the DNOs today are uncertain where demand is going to be at times and the level of peak demand. . .If we can provide optionality to the DNO, that saves [further] investment- it might even end up avoiding it.

How does your platform work with these projects?

On FUSION we set out to try out a platform that can be used to enable flexibility and use flexibility to deliver it cost effectively for those people that need the flexibility, which in that instance will be the DNO Scottish Power Energy Networks. On LEO, there are a number of different platforms with fully different objectives but we can again enable the flexibility and allow other people to direct the use of that flexibility. So I think our platform can underpin the delivery of flexibility regardless of the market participant’s role, so whether it’s a supplier, an aggregator or an end provider or an end user of flexibility, our platform can fulfil that role.

We’re also providing some market expertise and knowledge and input from an aggregator perspective and from people who are used to operating in the marketplace.

There are a variety of different trials surrounding peer-to-peer trading and local energy marketplaces currently happening across the UK. What makes the three projects Origami is involved in, LEO, FUSION and TRANSITION, unique?

FUSION and TRANSITION are five year projects, LEO a three year project. So the first thing is the duration of them. The second is, they’re looking at various aspects of the future.

I think that’s the exciting bit of the project, how can these projects inform what the future looks like as potentially they will feed into the Open Networks Project. And the answer is, obviously, the [Energy Networks] Association and how to inform them about ideas, whether they work or they don’t work. The reality is, it’s an innovation project, not everything will work, but everything will inform the future.

We’ve seen the likes of KiWi Power and Limejump acquired in the past few months. Does this have an effect on your own agenda?

I think that’s great for the aggregator community, I think it allows the marketplace to realise that people who have the ability to aggregate and provide services have got a great role to play going forward. I think it’s good for the marketplace because they’re involved with larger organisations.

In terms of Origami, it’s uncertain whether it creates opportunities or not. The reason for that really is that our platform is able to interact with any market participant whether they be an asset owner, developer, an aggregator, a supplier, or a single end user of flexibility.

It’s uncertain whether it’s positive or negative because in some respects it’s a great opportunity, you know, you take Limejump and their interaction with Shell, Shell then need to look at developing more assets, more flexibility, they could look at stacking services which creates more opportunities for buyers and sellers of flexibility. Whilst we may or may not ever make a deal with Shell, the reality is that they will need to have somebody to transact with and all people that interact with flexibility need to have some form of market interactivity platform.


Alice Grundy Junior reporter, Current±


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