Good Energy recently visited one of our Selectricity customers, the Eden Project, to attend and speak at the Energy Island conference – a gathering of minds to discuss local energy systems and how to retain the benefits of Cornwall’s renewable energy resources within the county.
Set up in 2011, Energy Island is a business-led initiative that has partnered with local authorities to develop a sustainable development strategy that can boost the local economy.
There are four main driving principles behind this:
- Inspiring business to achieve their national and global potential
- Creating value out of knowledge
- Creating great careers in Cornwall
- Using the natural environment responsibly as a key economic asset
Our talk, delivered by Will Heinzelmann, expressed the importance of battery storage in the future of Energy Island and highlighted the use of peer-to-peer energy matching systems like Selectricity.
If you missed the talk and would like to find out more then you can watch the video below:
Here’s a quick transcript, for those who don’t wish to watch the whole talk.
Good Energy is a 100% renewable energy supplier based in Chippenham, founded in 1999 by our CEO and founder, Juliet Davenport. Our mission is really at the heart of everything we do and that mission is to keep the world a habitable place by avoiding climate change and to help the UK become more energy self-sufficient.
As I said, we’re 100% renewable energy supplier, we’re also 100% carbon neutral gas supplier – made up with 6% biomethane the rest is carbon offset.
We buy our electricity from 1400 independent renewable generators from up and down the country, we also have 8 of our own sites, 6 solar sites and 2 wind sites.
Why is Cornwall so important to us? Well, I mentioned our 1400 generators you can hopefully see from our map that a lot of those sites are located in Cornwall. We also have 3 of our own solar sites located in Cornwall and the UK’s first ever wind farm – Delabole. We purchased this site in 2001 and repowered it in 2011.
A focus on local energy supply
Local has always been a really important part of what we do here at Good Energy and local, in regards to energy, certainly makes sense. Local energy is a more efficient way of consuming energy, it helps to keep money in the local economy and it helps to engage communities in something that we believe is really important.
There are close to a million sites that are now generating electricity in the UK so local is something that I believe is becoming much more real. We really are consuming energy much more locally.
Our first foray into local energy was in 2013 when we launched the UK’s first local tariff, actually at Delabole. That local tariff provided a 20% discount to customers living within a certain radius of our wind site. In 2013 we actually went and spoke to those customers living near our turbines, obviously they’d been living with them for 20 years so they were generally pretty positive but one particular piece of feedback was that they could see these turbines spinning on the horizon but they felt disconnected from the success of the turbine.
Connecting people to renewable assets
So they could see them spinning. They knew they were generating energy, but they couldn’t share in this success.
Off the back of this feedback, we created our ‘wind fall payment’ which provides up to a £50 rebate to all of our customers on our local tariff at the end of the year depending on how windy it’s been that year. So, at the end of a windy year, they’ll all get £50 back.
With a local tariff or wind fall payment is really the very simplest form of a local energy supply. A local energy supply can mean different things to different people.
There are several archetypes that have been put forward to describe how local supply can be realised and in 2015 my team, the Innovation Team, explored one of these a bit further with our trial of Piclo.
Piclo is a peer-to-peer energy matching platform that enables customers and generators to buy and sell renewable electricity directly. We took this idea and have since rolled out Selectricity.
We launched Selectricity to our commercial customers in November 2016 and hopefully, you will have spotted the Eden Project in there. Eden Project is one of our customers who is benefiting from the Selectricity platform. In fact, the original Piclo pilot – what Selectricity was before – about 20% of the people who participated in that pilot came from Cornwall, that’s customers and generators.
We really see Selectricity as being an enabler for something like the Cornwall Energy Island. During that Piclo trial, 54% of the energy that was generated by Cornish generators was matched with Cornish businesses through this platform. Now that’s a great number, it’s really high, but we have ambitions to see that increase.
How do we do this? Through energy storage. If there’s been one development since the first workshop in 2015 that’s really shown that something like a Cornish Energy Island is possible, it’s surely energy storage.
The falling cost of renewables and their subsequent mass deployment, combined with old power stations coming offline has really brought energy storage to the fore.
Cost of energy storage is coming down
It would be hard to stand here talking about energy storage without mentioning Tesla, who’ve managed to make electric vehicles sexy, who’ve produced gigafactories that manufacture lithium ion batteries on such a vast scale that we’re seeing costs come down in a similar rate to solar PV.
Closer to home, the National Grid last year had a frequency response tender which was won entirely by battery storage projects which came online at the price of about half of what was being anticipated.
On a more personal note, Good Energy was delighted to announce that we’ve raised £16.7 million pounds in a corporate bond offer to our customers. That money is going to be used to promote the wider use of electric vehicles and energy storage.
The frequency deploy market has really dictated the deployment of energy storage to date. That makes sense, it’s to be expected. The characteristics of lithium ion batteries mean that they are very good for fast, high powered response but if we’re going to meet future emissions reductions targets then storage is going to have to increasingly play a role in things like energy arbitrage.
That will happen, and as a company we’re really interested in finding out how we can accelerate the deployment of storage for those services. One area that we are particularly interested in is how we can deploy domestic battery storage more efficiently.
Getting smarter with battery storage
Why’s that important? During peak demand in the UK, domestic demand is around half of it. So if you can start to eat into that you can start to reduce peak demand in the UK. One idea that we’ve had in particular we’ve called ‘Community Energy Storage’.
For things like a Cornwall Energy Island as subsidy-free domestic PV increasingly becomes possible, which we’ll see in the next decade or so it’s going to be really important to reduce grid import at peak times. This is the real problem we currently have, the 5pm to 7pm peak import.
A domestic household can do that now, you’re perfectly free to go out and buy a domestic battery storage unit and that could charge up with solar in the day and discharge in the evening and that would really help. But that wouldn’t be a particularly efficient way of using that battery.
If you imagine that the inverter on that battery is sized to meet peak demand in the household which only occurs at 20-25 minutes of the day and the bit that we really care about – the 5 to 7 peak – there’s only about 1 or 1 ½ kilowatt hours used during that time in the average household.
With a Tesla Powerwall battery, you’ve got a 14kWh battery and 5kW inverter, you can quickly see that most of the time those assets aren’t being used. They’re pretty much sitting there doing nothing.
Peak demand occurs at different times in each household.
I’ve got three examples here of some household demand. Different lifestyles mean you eat dinner at different times, you go to bed at different times so you have some diversity in where that peak occurs.
If you put those three together you can see what I’m trying to say. There’s peak demand at different times. What that means is that when you aggregate together the demand of these three properties, well before each one was consuming 2kW peak on average if I add those together the aggregate demand is about 3kW.
The aggregate peak demand is actually much lower than the sum of the three peak demands. What does that mean? Imagine if we could bring that battery to the front of the household and have a single battery instead of three for three individual households and operate that battery to discharge and meet the demand of these three households. That would be a much more efficient way to use that battery.
The battery would be much smaller because we don’t need such a big inverter, it would be smaller because we’re not installing three separate batteries that aren’t going to be used, it would be easier to install as there’s one instead of three and it would, therefore, cost a lot less. But the impact on the network would be exactly the same as if each one of those households had their own storage unit you’ve just moved its location ever so slightly.
We’re looking to investigate something just like this. We think that it adds huge benefit. It could be a community owned battery. You could have all sorts of different models that would enable people to benefit from it. You could lease a portion of it every year, for those less able to pay you could have a pay per use system where every kilowatt hour transferred through the battery you pay a small fee. This adds great benefit to the grid as it’s achieving what we want which is reducing that peak demand but at a much lower cost and in a much more efficient way.
We believe it’s innovations like this: innovation in how storage is deployed, innovation in business models that are really, really going to help with projects like the Cornish Energy Island.