Consumer Insight: Unlocking the ‘prosumer’ using AI-led hot water tanks

Introduction

Meeting the UK’s emissions targets could lead to an increasing need for demand side response (DSR) in the electricity system – where consumers use energy already in the system in a smarter way, rather than simply generating more energy to satisfy short and infrequent periods of high demand.

There are several reasons for this. One is that generation from renewable sources – such as solar or wind – are dependent on the weather. Meanwhile, the UK’s net-zero target will only see the demand for low carbon electricity increase.

As part of the government’s latest drive for energy innovation, hot water cylinder manufacturer Heatrae Sadia has joined forces with smart energy company Levelise to understand the potential for domestic hot water cylinders to offer DSR services.

Energy Systems Catapult is working with both companies to provide feedback on the technology from real consumers and help them refine their proposition to maximise its appeal.

The Opportunity

There are currently nine million hot water tanks in the UK. If the time-of-use and temperature settings of these tanks were appropriately managed, it could take a huge amount of pressure off the grid during peak times.

By integrating DSR technology with hot water tanks, it would enable them to be cost-effectively turned into flexible energy assets – allowing network operators to manage the grid more effectively.

The technology would also open up opportunities for peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading – allowing homes and businesses to buy from nearby generators, like community windfarms and schools with solar panels on their rooves, rather than large generators far away.

The Innovation

The hot water tank heats up during periods of excess supply and releases the heat when it is needed.

By managing the tanks in large numbers, flexibility services could be unlocked creating a new stream of revenue for consumers and delivering benefits for the energy system.

The Project

The Ubiquitous Storage Empowering Response (USER) project, now in its second phase, seeks to unlock the ‘prosumer’ role in the domestic sector by means of AI-led hot water tanks.

Energy Systems Catapult will be providing an opportunity for consumers to give feedback on this DSR system and test the insights drawn from the trial with the wider public.

Our Approach

The Catapult’s Consumer Insight team will find out how consumers find the experience of living with this technology. They will help the consortium:

  • Recruit a representative sample
  • Explain the benefits of DSR in a way consumers understand
  • Make the proposition more appealing
  • Publicise the findings.