P2P energy player lobbies for storage

Battery storage in P2P energy networks could help businesses such as the Eden Project save money. (Pic: Jürgen Matern)

Battery storage in P2P energy networks could help businesses such as the Eden Project save money. (Pic: Jürgen Matern)

By Jason Deign

Peer-to-peer (P2P) power supplier Open Utility is planning to pressure the UK electricity market regulator towards introducing grid-balancing measures that could include energy storage.

The company, which runs an energy marketplace called Piclo, hopes to convince the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) that P2P networks are good for consumers and distributed generation asset owners.

“There are significant benefits in better balancing renewables and demand on a local electricity network,” said James Johnston, Open Utility’s CEO and co-founder. “Energy storage will be key in enabling this balancing.”

Currently, he said, UK regulations do little to encourage the use of energy storage in P2P networks. Piclo, which allows businesses to buy renewable power directly from source, does not currently include storage, for example.

However, Johnston said: “If regulations allow for it, incentivising local balancing using P2P energy matching could unlock significant financial rewards for local consumers and generators.”

Developing a change proposal

As a result, he said: “We are currently developing a change proposal for Ofgem to address this.”

The company is working with Reckon, an economics consultancy, on the detail of the proposal.

Energy Storage Report believes it will focus on allowing consumers to cut distribution network operator charges by sourcing distributed energy resources (DERs) from nearby generation sources on a half-hourly basis.

“For innovative models such as Piclo to be at their most effective, regular access to granular, half-hourly data is a core requirement,” says Open Utility in a report on a recent trial with 37 renewable energy generators and businesses.

In the trial, Good Energy, a renewable energy firm, dealt with customer contracts and billing, and the Eden Project, a sustainable visitor attraction in Cornwall, was one of the highest-profile customers.

Adding batteries to distributed energy assets

While storage is not expressly mentioned in the report, it is clear that adding batteries to distributed energy assets would enable these to operate more flexibly in meeting local demand.

“We use actual smart meter data to match consumption with local generation on a half-hourly basis,” Johnston commented.

“This means it’s a dynamic system and consumers will get a varied energy mix, depending on how windy, sunny or wet it is.”

Even without storage, according to Open Utility, the use of a platform such as Piclo to cut Distribution Use of System charges could reduce the Eden Project’s electricity bill by 39% a year.

“Simple rules could also be introduced to ensure Eden Project share some of this reward with the local generators,” says Open Utility.

Leading the charge for P2P energy in the UK

The company is leading the charge for P2P energy exchanges in the UK in the wake of the concept’s success in Germany, through the efforts of companies such as Caterva, LichtBlick and Sonnen, and Netherlands, through Vandebron.

It is unclear at this point whether poor support for residential storage could hamper the development of P2P networks in the UK.

In Germany, storage is routinely used for such platforms, for example forming a cornerstone of Sonnen’s sonnenCommunity.

In the UK, meanwhile, other P2P hopefuls are looking to include storage in their portfolios, regardless of the regulatory environment.

Cambridge-based Origami Energy, for instance, has raised GBP£13.7m in Series A funding “to connect, control and actively manage a large network of existing energy generating/energy using/energy storing assets.”

Storage has great appeal for the company “in being able to plug it in to a wider network of different energy assets for optimisation,” said a company insider.

P2P energy networks given a boost

More widely, P2P energy networks could be given a boost across Europe with the completion next year of a project called P2P-SmartTest.

The project “will employ P2P approaches to ensure the integration of demand-side flexibility and the optimum operation of DER and other resources within the network,” says the P2P-SmartTest website.

Even Open Utility is planning to incorporate storage into its offering before long.

“We very much see peer-to-peer and energy storage as symbiotic technologies and intend to integrate storage into Piclo in the future,” said Nima Taba-tabai, head of sales and partnerships at the company.

Nevertheless, Johnston said: “I think energy storage will remain at the fringes of P2P energy networks in the UK over next 12 months.”

This could change, though, if Ofgem makes a move. “If there is some movement to properly account for local balancing, this could provide significant new revenue streams for energy storage,” Johnston noted.

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