Cornwall to host pioneering local smart grid trial

British Gas owner Centrica has launched a £19m trial to develop a 'virtual energy market' in Cornwall that will allow local businesses to sell their flexible energy capacity to the grid and the wholesale energy market.

The new programme will test the use of flexible demand, generation and storage, rewarding Cornwall’s local businesses and households for being more flexible with their energy.

Centrica will install new technology into more than 150 businesses and homes across the county, as the energy company looks to tap into a global transition from centralised energy generation to a distributed model, where energy is generated and managed closer to the point of demand.

Managing director of Centrica Distributed Energy & Power Jorge Pikunic said: “Cornwall has been at the forefront of harnessing renewable generation, but that has brought challenges to the local grid. Our ambition is to explore how battery storage, flexible demand and generation can to reduce pressure on the UK’s electricity grid, avoid expensive network upgrades and support future decarbonisation.

“This is a unique opportunity for us to work together with local businesses and homes to unlock new approaches that can give consumers more control of their energy, both here in the UK and potentially around the world. I believe this is a clear example of how the energy landscape could look in future – a truly decentralised market where energy is smarter, greener and cheaper.”

The trial will see Centrica partner with renewable generators, local businesses and other large energy users to provide free smart technology upgrades as well as installing new energy storage units to establish new revenue streams. Additionally, the energy company will be rolling out battery units and micro-scale combined heat and power (CHP) systems across 100 homes.

Centrica and British Gas Energy for Tomorrow will be providing some of the funding for the project, alongside a £13m grant from the European Regional Development Fund. The project will be delivered by Centrica along with partners Western Power Distribution, National Grid and Exeter University.

Last month, a similar flexible energy consumer trial was launched in the form of a new gamification platform developed by TheGenGame, Open Energi and Northern Powergrid. Households across the north east of England have been invited to engage with the new demand response initiative by playing the game on their phones; scoring points by improving energy load.

Smart Energy GB, the national campaign for the smart meter rollout, released its Powering Future Cities report earlier this year, which suggested that an expansions of smart cities and more resilient, localised energy systems will be ‘essential’ to combat rising energy demand across the country.

Alex Baldwin

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