Artificial Intelligence to drive new UK demand response initiative

Innovative energy start-up Upside Energy has joined forces with a leading specialist university in a demand response project that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to reduce the UK's reliance on reserve capacity provided by traditional power stations.

The collaboration with Heriot-Watt University, which will manage a portfolio of storage assets to provide real-time energy reserves to the grid, has been awarded a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) grant by Innovate UK.

Upside Energy’s pioneering ‘virtual energy store’ connects renewable energy to distribution networks, using machine learning and AI methods. Upside will use the University’s specialist skills in these areas to optimise algorithms that manage demand response of different devices. 

“This is a really exciting project,” Upside Energy chief executive Dr Graham Oakes said. “Both because machine learning is going to be fundamental to how Upside evolves its algorithms and hence delivers growing value to the energy system and wider society, and because it builds on the longstanding relationship that we have been developing with Heriot-Watt University. 

“Our strategy is to work with academic partners to develop the intellectual property that will be at the heart of an intelligent energy system, one where resources are used carefully and thoughtfully and hence at low cost and with minimal impact on the environment. This partnership with Heriot-Watt is a great example of that strategy coming to fruition.”

Smart strategies

Upside Energy’s ground-breaking virtual energy store was crowned the winner of edie’s Innovation Zone Competition at the 2016 edie Live exhibition in Birmingham, fending off tough competition from nine other green innovations.

The company will work closely with the Heriot-Watt University team to facilitate the transfer of machine learning and AI methods, and to develop a novel ensemble learning and algorithmic selection approach that will be required to support algorithm evolution within Upside’s unique open innovation architecture.

Heriot-Watt University assistant professor Dr Valentin Robu said: “There is an increasing need for smart control strategies that enable distributed energy storage assets to perform demand response. Techniques developed in the machine learning and AI communities will have an increasing role to play in enabling these efforts. 

“Machine learning and AI techniques can help not only in the design of control algorithms for individual assets, but also in the selection process of which of these algorithms perform the best under specific scenarios and conditions on the grid. Moreover, there is an increasing interest in advanced fusion prognostics techniques that enable real-time monitoring and accurate forecasting of the state of health of energy assets.”

High demand

Demand response is emerging as a key technology that will strengthen Britain’s energy system and enable businesses to reduce energy bills and improve green credentials.

Last year, Sainsbury’s became a founding partner of the Living Grid, a new collaborative demand response ‘energy ecosystem’ which aims to create 200MW of flexible power across the UK. Partnerships such as this will help to create more flexible power system, which, according to reports, could create savings for the UK to the tune of £8bn by 2030.

As demand response continues to gain traction among sustainability professionals and energy managers alike, edie recently rounded-up some of the biggest and best projects across the UK that are demonstrating the vast economic and environmental potential that this burgeoning technology has to offer. Read our top 10 here.

edie’s innovation month

The month of January sees edie shift the editorial spotlight to green innovation, with a series of exclusive interviews, features and podcasts running throughout the month to celebrate the very best of emerging clean technologies and low-carbon systems.

Change will not happen without genuine innovation and so this month will explore the bleeding edge where change is really happening. From emerging tech to new business models; breakthrough approaches and creative leaders, we’ll shine the spotlight on the real game-changers and sort the facts from the fads.

Read all of edie’s innovation content here.

George Ogleby

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