Distribution operator Northern Powergrid has called on companies to provide flexibility services for the grid as it continues its shift towards low carbon energy.
Businesses that consume large amounts of energy, electricity generators and aggregator groups in 12 towns and cities in northern England have been invited to provide up to 19MW of flexibility services to millions across the region between 2023 and 2028 RIIO-ED2 period.
Northern Powergrid has put out an expression of interest, with a wide range flexibility providers capable of meeting a series of criteria, including certain days of the week and months of the year when support is most likely to be needed, welcomed. This includes customers that can adjust their energy consumption patterns according to the grid’s needs.
“There is no one size fits all solution,” said Jim Cardwell, Northern Powergrid’s head of policy development, adding this will dictate the types of providers who may apply.
“In Malton we are looking for flexibility at the weekends, and on Mondays and Tuesday afternoons in December. We might only need to call on our flexibility providers in this area a handful of times a year. Conversely in Scunthorpe we are seeking interest from customers for a much longer timeframe of the year – April to December and this may suit regular, repeat support from generators.”
Flexibility is increasingly import on the UK grid, as more variable low carbon generation such as wind comes online. This will continue to grow the government announced plans to expand the UK’s offshore wind power capacity to 40GW by 2030.
The UK’s electricity system has changed dramatically over the last decade, allowing it to decarbonise faster than any other major economy, according to a recent report by Drax Electric Insights. The researchers at Imperial College London said this has led to a greater need for flexibility in the way power is stored and distributed across the grid.
According to the company’s report, more than 37TWh of excess electricity could be generated annually by 2030, which means energy storage will need to be expanded to stabilise the system, while non-renewable energy may still be needed to make up a shortfall.
'Testing the market’ as the need for flexibility grows
Cardwell highlighted this growing need for flexibility as the UK moves towards an energy market that is more reliant on offshore wind power.
“Supporting our local area to reach net zero is a huge part of our current business planning activity and assessing the benefits of customer-driven network flexibility is at the very heart of that,” he said.
“We are testing the market and urge potential customers to come forward and see what role they can play in a zero-carbon future.”
Analysis from technology group Wärtsilä published last week found that the UK economy could save up to £660 million by 2030 if 7GW of flexibility from renewables and nuclear power is deployed.
A growing number of DNOs have launched flexibility tenders this year. Western Power Distribution, which operates in South Wales, the Midlands and the South West, completed its sixth round of flexibility procurement in October, and is due to open a further round early next year. Its total flexibility capacity currently stands at 439MW, which the operator claims is the highest among all UK-based DNOs. Electricity North West also launched its largest tender last month, seeking up to 122MW of flexibility.
UK Power Networks unveiled a £50 million funding package for flexibility covering more than 130 sites last month, following the launch of a £14 million funding package for low voltage electricity generators in April. Flexibility requirements for four operators, including Northern Powergrid, are due to be published on a standalone website to simplify the process for customers on the grid.