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We have launched a new domestic flex pilot to help customers save money

We have launched a pilot scheme that enables customers to save money on their electricity bills while helping manage demand on the network.

Future Flex graph

Sustain-H has already proved a hit with providers, with eight signing up to offer the service to their customers – four times the number trial organisers originally hoped for.

The scheme is the latest flexibility services project we have created but is the first specifically designed for domestic customers.

“Our key design principles were simplicity and inclusivity, in response to industry feedback,” said Matt Watson, WPD Innovation & Low Carbon Networks Engineer. “For instance, we’ve sought to be inclusive by being open to both smart meters and asset-meters.”

Flexibility services usually work by asking providers to drop their demand by a specified amount. What makes Sustain-H different is that it asks providers to drop to – or below – a pre-agreed level at pre-agreed times. They then need to hold that usage for a four-hour window.

Sustain-H is being procured in Constraint Management Zones within the Midlands, South West and Wales, to help us manage areas of grid constraint. It was designed collaboratively by WPD, Everoze and SGC during the spring lockdown.

Nithin Rajavelu, who led service design at Everoze, said: “Together with participants, we’ve conceived of and are now delivering a pioneering a new service, without any of us meeting face-to-face once. That’s quite remarkable when you think about it.

“It turns out that not even a global pandemic can slow down the domestic flex sector.”

Customers delivering within the targeted four hour windows can each earn around £10 a year for homes with electric vehicle chargepoints (the most popular option), and up to £60 a year for a home with a full suite of flexibility technologies including heat pump and battery.

The design and operation of the service has been supported by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance. But, unusually for a DSO innovation pilot, the service payments themselves are funded out of our core business budget.

Watson explained: “We’ve sought to align with our business-as-usual team wherever possible to enable a clear pathway to commercialisation. So we’re using the standardised service contract being rolled out across Distribution System Operators and we’re basing tariffs on those already used for other WPD flex contracts.”

What has struck the team is the eagerness of suppliers to take part – five go live in November, while a further three will come online in March 2021.

Felicity Jones, Partner at Everoze, said: “We were hoping to sign-up two flexibility providers at first – and were overwhelmed by industry response. July was a very hectic month of calls. What’s struck me is the diversity of participants seeking to own the customer relationship.”

Suppliers who have signed up to the pilot range from Ecotricity, EDF and Octopus Energy, through to tech innovators Kaluza, SMS and Stemy Energy, through to EV industry pioneers and myenergi.

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  • DSO/Smart Networks