‘Virtual power station’ created by UK Power Networks

A ‘virtual power station’ equivalent to the electricity generation of a gas-fired power station, is being created by UK Power Networks.

New contracts for energy capacity worth £30 million are being awarded to 17 innovators in the energy, tech and car sector including Octopus Energy, Electric Miles and Ohme, making it the UK’s largest-ever ‘Flexibility’ tender. The far-sighted move is creating new opportunities for batteries and renewable energy with 77% of the capacity coming from low carbon sources.

Creative technologies from smart cable chargers to digital apps that manage your EV charger will harness distributed energy resources including electric vehicle batteries and demand side response. Together they will create a virtual power station to help manage increased demand for electricity at peak times at lower cost, as customers shift towards low carbon energy technology.

More than two thirds of the new capacity (248 Megawatts) will come from using electric vehicles’ batteries and smart charging when they are hooked up to the power networks. Flexibility providers who have been awarded contracts by UK Power Networks will now recruit up to 25,000 EV owners to support the network in this young and growing market.

UK Power Networks, already the largest company to sign agreements for using the power of EVs in the UK, is laying the groundwork now for 2030 when the company estimates that up to 4.5 million new electric vehicles will be connected to the network. Even if just 10% of them participated in the flexibility market it would create an additional 1.3GW of capacity – the equivalent of a nuclear power station.

Sul Alli, director of strategy and customer services at UK Power Networks, says: “Britain is leading the world at harnessing the power of all these electric vehicle batteries that are going to be connected and using them for public good. 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. There’s a long way to go and no silver bullet, but the way we’re using technology and data is going to be a big part of the answer to meeting the challenge of reaching Net Zero.”

James Eddison, CTO and co-founder of Octopus Energy, says: “Octopus Energy is committed to make the transition to a green energy system as fast and affordable as possible. To do that, we need to harness the power of consumer energy demand, but so far the potential of household flexibility remains largely untapped. This tender shows that we’re entering a new era in energy in which we are smart about the way we utilise the infrastructure in place and the devices connected to it.”

Another participant in UK Power Networks latest round of flexibility contracts is Ohme, a UK-based company with the ambition to become the world’s most trusted smart charging platform. The combination of Ohme’s intelligent EV chargers, its mobile app and underlying platform delivers the capability to enable any connected EV to provide flexibility to the network.

This means batteries can soak up energy at peak times, without compromising drivers’ desired charging schedule, which they can set with ease through the Ohme app. Ohme’s ability to communicate directly with drivers, coupled with its technology to turn up and turn down electricity demand at the micro-level, lays the foundations for managing this new world of grid balancing services.

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