Heatrae Sadia and Levelise: Testing grid balancing with hot water tanks

For the UK to achieve the ambitious target of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, our energy system must become cleaner, smarter and more flexible.

The UK government is funding innovative domestic Demand Side Response demonstration projects, with hot water cylinder manufacturer Heatrae Sadia joining 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 Challenge

A more flexible energy system will help the UK to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 at a lower cost.

Traditionally, electricity system flexibility was delivered on the ‘supply-side’, by power stations changing how much energy they generated to ensure supply always matched demand.

But with the increasing demand for clean but intermittent renewable energy from the wind and sun, continuing to rely on supply-side solutions alone would require massive amounts of new generation, grid-scale energy storage and increasing the capacity of the grid to distribute more electricity at times of peak demand – which would be prohibitively expensive.

Demand-side response (DSR) uses digital platforms and smart controls to shift consumer demand away from times of peak energy consumption or to take advantage of times of excess renewable generation by working with smart technologies such energy storage, heat pumps and electric vehicles.

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 times of peak demand.

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 Innovation

The Ubiquitous Storage Empowering Response (USER) project, is testing the management of hot water tanks in large numbers, unlocking flexible grid services that could benefit both the energy system and the consumer.

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.

The Solution

Our Consumer Insight team is finding 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.

Consumer Insight and Proposition Design

Helping innovators to research, design and test innovative products, services and business models with consumers.

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