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UK's largest domestic flexibility study CrowdFlex announced

By unlocking domestic flexibility, a higher amount of renewables will be able to join the system with fewer network upgrades.

By unlocking domestic flexibility, a higher amount of renewables will be able to join the system with fewer network upgrades.

A consortium of energy companies have announced the ‘largest domestic flexibility study’ ever held in the UK, dubbed CrowdFlex.

Utility Octopus Energy and smart charging company Ohme will work with National Grid ESO as well as network operator Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) on the project, which is set to start this month.

It will involve analysing over 25,000 households’ energy use patterns, to show how they might change their behaviour to support net zero. This will include how they charge electric vehicles (EVs), heat pumps and home batteries, switching to times when the grid is cheaper and greener.

EVs and heat pumps have a “key role” in decarbonisation, but “there’s a lot for us to learn about how consumer behaviour can shape that journey” said Carolina Tortora, head of innovation strategy and digital transformation at National Grid ESO.

“This project will give us some really exciting insight into how smart tariffs and technologies can influence the way people consume electricity and help us balance the grid. As greater volumes of less controllable renewable power joins the system, electricity consumers are only going to become more important in that balancing act.”

The analysis will then be used to establish how usage patterns change in response to price signals from Octopus Energy’s smart tariffs, and direct instructions from Ohme’s smart electric vehicle chargers and mobile app.

With 11 million EVs expected to be on the road by 2030 according to National Grid ESO’s Future Energy Scenarios, and a target of 600,000 heat pump installs a year by 2028 as part of the government’s Ten Point Plan, the technologies represent a huge flexibility opportunity. Price signals could help increase renewable energy on the grid, by helping to shift demand to match generation.

“CrowdFlex is an exciting project which will support the unlocking of domestic flexibility,” added Stewart Reid, head of Future Networks at SSEN. “As we move to a smarter energy system utilising flexibility can help delay and avoid network reinforcement, and creates opportunities for households and businesses to play an active role in the energy system that serves them. This will be key in delivering a cost-effective, secure and inclusive transition to net zero.”

It is hoped the insight gained from CrowdFlex will help pave the way for households to provide more flexibility to the grid by providing clear insight into consumer behaviour, and their response to economic opportunities.

The project follows the FLATLINE trial that showed domestic demand side response can reduce bills by 25%, through time-shifting energy demand. The project also utilised heat pumps and EV charging, along with domestic batteries, self-generation from solar and smart home management at 20 new-build homes in Wales. CrowdFlex is being funded by National Grid ESO and SSEN’s Network Innovation Allowance.

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