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Smart charging could have saved £133m in grid balancing costs during lockdown

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Up to £133 million could have been saved in grid balancing costs during the UK’s lockdown if smart electric vehicle (EV) charging and smart tech adoption had been more wide scale.

This is according to a group of cleantech companies forming the Flexibility First Forum, including the likes of Kaluza, Octopus Energy, Centrica, E.On, Moixa and the Solar Trade Association among others.

A letter has been sent to energy regulator Ofgem detailing the findings, with the group forecasting that in a system where flexible storage capacity from six million EVs could provide 3.6TWh of energy, up to £133 million could have been saved.

However, the letter sent to Ofgem states that the savings calculated are "not possible today, because of a lack of large numbers of electric vehicles on the roads combined with limited opportunities for residential flexibility in national and local ancillary service markets".

"There’s also a lack of market wide half-hourly settlements to incentivize stakeholders to better utilize flexibility as a balancing resource," the letter continues.

Costs of balancing the grid have skyrocketed, with National Grid ESO forecasting an additional £500 million between May and August will be spent due to COVID-19.

SSE has therefore put in a request to National Grid ESO to defer the additional Balancing Services Use of System (BSUoS) costs caused by COVID-19, calling for an amendment to the BSUoS charging code that would spread the cost of additional balancing during the COVID-19 period equally across all the settlement periods during 2021/22.

Challenges to balancing the grid have come about due to the low demand caused by the pandemic, alongside high levels of renewable energy. This has led to National Grid ESO employing several new methods of balancing, including changes to the Grid Code and a new service for reducing embedded generation.

However, Jorge Pikunic, managing director of Centrica Business Solutions, said that the solution to balancing the system of the future "does not lie in curtailing renewables or indeed spending billions building out more central power generation as back up".

"Instead, we should treat renewable energy like a precious resource and encourage the use of flexible technologies such as Demand Side Response and storage, as this will allow us to optimally use this green energy, at the lowest cost to consumers."

The Flexibility First Forum says that electric vehicles could support the grid through smart charging, taking electricity from the grid during periods of low demand and carbon intensity and helping to therefore create a “more resilient, lower cost system”.

The companies also pointed to other flexible technologies, such as domestic batteries and smart electric heaters.

Last week, Kaluza published its white paper detailing how vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies supported the grid during lockdown. V2G chargers exported almost 50% more in the first week of lockdown than the previous week, a rate which continued throughout April.

Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy, said: “The bank holiday weekends have been a wake up call. With a flexible, digital grid, cheap renewable power would have saved households money. Without it, they will be forced to pay billions in infrastructure upgrades and compensation payments. We need to fix this, fast.”

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