UK distribution network’s ‘flexibility tender’ saves on costly grid reinforcements

Although UKPN installed the first megawatt-scale battery in England at Leighton Buzzard (pictured) under an innovation and pilot programme, as a DNO, it is not allowed to own energy storage. Image: UKPN.

Over half a million dollars of contracts to supply flexibility to a distribution network in Britain have been awarded through a commercial tender to resource operators including behind-the-meter energy storage systems.

Distribution network operator UK Power Networks (UKPN) and its technology platform provider Piclo celebrated the the completion of a new flexibility auction last week, the first time the latter’s online platform has been used for commercial purposes.

The platform, years in development, has been tested extensively but has now been used at the commercial scale for the first time, helping UKPN procure 18.1MW of flexibility.

Contracts worth £450,000 (US$560,000) have been awarded to AMP Clean Energy, aggregator Limejump (a recent acquisition by Shell) and residential and commercial energy storage providers Powervault and Moixa, with the flexibility procured used by UKPN to offset more costly grid reinforcements in constrained areas of the network.

The Piclo platform creates a heat-map of areas of congestion, correlating them with providers of flexibility with resources such as demand side response, battery storage and behind-the-meter generation. Network operators can then contract this capacity to minimise these bottlenecks. 

The auction was first announced in May this year, with details to follow “in due course”, and following its success, UKPN has now handed Piclo an ongoing commercial contract, the tech company’s second such contract having secured a similar arrangement with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks earlier this year.

James Johnston, chief executive and co-founder at Piclo, said the company was thrilled from the results of its first auction, realised after “years of trials and ongoing development”. 

“As renewables have boomed across the UK and internationally, grid congestion and the network flexibility required to affordably alleviate it have become top priorities for network companies.

“This first full, commercial auction will be the first of many as distribution companies across the UK and even internationally take UK Power Network’s lead in enabling the shift to a smart, flexible, low-carbon power system.”

Piclo continues to work with all six of Britain’s distribution network operators (DNOs) after penning an agreement with Western Power Distribution late last year, and the company also counts tens of flexibility providers in its ranks

Sotiris Georgioupoulos, head of smart grid development at UKPN, said flexibility offered the DNO a “wealth of opportunities”. 

“All of the bids we accepted in this tender round met our robust economic criteria to ensure they will benefit our customers by offering lower costs in comparison to the traditional approach of building new assets. The UK is a world-leader in smart grid technology and flexibility has a key role to play as we move towards a decarbonised, decentralised and digitised network that will offer significant benefits to our customers.”

This article first appeared on Solar Media's energy transition site, Current±.

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