Consumer Insight: Heatrae Sadia, Levelise and AI hot water tanks

The USER Project is adopting the energy storage potential of the everyday hot water cylinder installed in millions of UK homes to help balance the energy system by utilising Demand Side Response (DSR).

Achieving Net Zero targets across the UK energy system will increase demand for renewable electricity – such as solar or wind. However DSR can help to use energy already in the system in a smarter way, rather than simply generating more energy and increasing the capavity of the grid, to satisfy short and infrequent periods of high demand.

With UK government funding for innovative domestic Demand Side Response demonstration projects, 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 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 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 roofs, rather than large generators far away.

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.

Levelise are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to optimise a virtual community of 350 homes across the country to transform traditional hot water cylinders into grid-interactive water heaters that are context aware. They coordinate their operation in real time by switching on their immersion heating elements according to what is most beneficial for each home, taking into account wholesale prices whilst also supporting the grid.

Our Approach

Our Consumer Insight team will find out how consumers find the experience of living with this technology and testing the insights drawn from the trial with the wider public, including

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