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UKPN to create EV VPP following UK's largest flexibility tender

Image: UKPN.

Image: UKPN.

Octopus Energy and Ohme are among companies to have been awarded a contract for a new virtual plant (VPP) set to largely utilise electric vehicles (EVs).

These contracts – worth £30 million and lauded as the UK’s largest flexibility tender – have been handed to 17 innovators in the energy, tech and car sectors by UK Power Networks (UKPN), with electric vehicle (EV) batteries and demand side response to form this new VPP, which is intended to help manage increased demand for electricity at peak times at lower cost.

Two thirds of this new capacity – 284MW – is to come from using EV batteries and smart charging when they are connected to the power networks, while 77% of the capacity is to come from low carbon sources. As such, 25,000 EV owners are now to be recruited by the flexibility providers who have won contracts.

A range of technologies such as digital apps and smart cable chargers will harness the distributed energy resources, with Ohme’s collection of EV chargers, mobile app and underlying platform enabling batteries to charge at peak times without compromising drivers’ desired charging schedules.

It brings together consumer data, energy data and transport data to gain what CEO David Watson described as “unparalleled insight” into actual EV behaviour, with its technology able to communicate directly with drivers as well as turn up and turn down electricity demand at the micro-level.

The company launched a new app in January 2021, utilising time of use tariffs to allow EV owners to choose the cheapest charging times.

Another firm to bring its technology to the table is Electric Miles, which secured a follow up to its initial contract with UKPN. Its app allows drivers to participate in flexibility markets, with this new contract allowing it to operate in more areas and with higher volumes of customers.

Octopus, meanwhile, is "building on its ability to help customers provide services to the local electricity network and demonstrating how a consumer-led energy system can fast-track us to net zero" according to James Eddison, CTO and co-founder of Octopus Energy, who added that its smart tariffs have proven that households will shift their energy usage out of peak times if incentivised.

These new contracts will help lay the groundwork for 2030, when UKPN estimates there will be up to 4.5 million new EVs on its network. An additional 1.3GW of capacity could be created if just 10% of those participated in the flexibility market, according to the distribution network operator.

It has awarded several contracts for seven-year terms to support pioneering new technologies, it said, therefore enabling smaller companies to secure funding. It will continue to seek out innovative technologies, with a further tendering process for flexibility solutions to begin later in 2021 across dozens more locations. Several tender rounds are also planned for 2022.

UKPN claims to be the largest company to sign agreements for using the power of EVs in the UK, and in June 2020 awarded a flexibility contract to ev.energy, the first time domestic EVs had won a commercial tender.

Earlier this week, it announced it is to deliver 76 rapid EV charging stations with its £38 million share of a £300 million investment announced by Ofgem and split across the DNOs.

Sul Alli, director of strategy and customer services at UKPN said: "Three years ago this market didn’t exist and now it’s offering as much capacity as a gas-fired power station. We’re working with some of the most exciting start-ups out there, and we’re proving it in the real world."

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