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UK distribution network operator’s 34MW flexibility tender seeks to ease demand concerns

One of the distribution network operators (DNOs) tasked with maintaining security of electricity supply into British homes is launching a tender for flexibility services that include energy storage.

UK Power Networks (UKPN), responsible for wires, towers and cables in the south east and east of England, will seek over 34MW of flexibility services across its network to be available in January 2018 in the first open tender of its type to be held by a DNO.

UKPN has issued an invitation for expressions of interest from distributed energy resources capable of adjusting how much they consume or generate in ten network locations. These will be used to support the local distribution network at times of high electricity demand in return for payments from UK Power Networks.

These resources can be generators, consumers, and electricity storage connected to UKPN’s networks that can respond when instructed.

The ten areas and the requirements of each are:

Up to 35.4MW of flexibility is being sought. Table taken from UKPN Flexibility Services Invitation for Expressions of Interest.

“As the distribution system operator in London, the South East, and the East of England, we are looking to use this flexibility to support how we plan and operate the local networks, with the ultimate aim of reducing costs in customer energy bills whilst ensuring that the lights stay on,” the invitation states.

The responses will be used to understand what flexibility resources are available, or could be available, in each location to determine the viability of each location for deployment of flexibility.

UKPN is also seeking to understand the needs, capabilities, and any restrictions of those resources, to inform the service requirements and design, while suitable providers for this year’s procurement will be pre-qualified, with potential future providers to be recorded.

In order to participate, flexibility resources must be connected to the network asset being supported, such as a substation and minimum flexibility capability of directly contracted resources or aggregated portfolios must be at least 500kW, although this is currently under review following the Flexibility Service Design consultation.

The flexibility provider should be able to deliver and manage, upon UK Power Networks’ request, a net reduction in the load or an increase in the export, as seen by the distribution network. They should have the ability to act (provide a response) reliably and consistently, in both magnitude and duration, throughout the contracted windows.

All technologies are being invited to express interest and should be able to deliver the service from January 2018 and/or next winter (2018/19).

Final invitation coming in October

UKPN launched its Flexibility Service Design consultation last month, the responses of which will be used to determine a firm timeline for the service tenders as well as design of payment structures, including the use of availability windows, as well as other elements associated with the tenders.

This will be used to form the final tender invitation to be launched on 2 October, with submissions to be made in the three weeks to 17 November, with successful participants to be announced three days later.

The consultation marks the first time a DNO has gone out to market with an open tender for flexibility services, and follows other significant firsts made by UKPN in this area. In May, it awarded a contract to aggregator Limejump to take on the commercial operations of the UK’s first significant battery, a 6MW/10MWh system at Leighton Buzzard, a few miles north of London.

As a condition of the agreement, the battery must be available to support UKPN’s local grid during winter peak hours of 5-7pm in the town of Leighton Buzzard between October and March.

Other DNOs are set to follow suit as they transition to smarter, more connected distribution system operators (DSO), which Western Power Distribution already committed to flexibility trials and SSEN understood to be preparing its own open tender.

The UK set something of an international precedent for tenders in energy storage when the country's main transmission system operator National Grid launched its much talked-about enhanced frequency response tender for 200MW of services in summer 2016.