October 25, 2017 9:00 AM

Open​ ​Utility​ ​secures​ ​£412k​ ​of​ ​BEIS​ ​funding​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​a groundbreaking​ ​online​ ​marketplace​ ​for​ ​flexibility​ ​trading

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​Open​ ​Utility​ ​has​ ​secured​ ​£412,500​ ​funding​ ​from​ ​BEIS​ ​Energy Entrepreneurs​ ​Fund​ ​(EEF)​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​a​ ​groundbreaking​ ​new​ ​online​ ​marketplace​ ​for​ ​local electricity​ ​flexibility​ ​trading.​ ​The​ ​marketplace​ ​will​ ​help​ ​Distribution​ ​Network​ ​Operators (DNOs)​ ​play​ ​an​ ​active​ ​role​ ​in​ ​managing​ ​local​ ​smart​ ​grids:​ ​seen​ ​by​ ​many​ ​as​ ​a​ ​key​ ​missing​ ​piece​ ​in the​ ​transformation​ ​to​ ​a​ ​decentralised​ ​and​ ​decarbonised​ ​energy​ ​system.

With​ ​the​ ​rapid​ ​rollout​ ​of​ ​distributed​ ​renewable​ ​generation,​ ​storage​ ​and​ ​electric​ ​vehicles​ ​DNOs are​ ​facing​ ​unprecedented​ ​congestion​ ​problems​ ​on​ ​the​ ​local​ ​network.​ ​Open​ ​Utility’s​ ​platform will​ ​help​ ​DNOs​ ​transition​ ​into​ ​active​ ​“Distribution​ ​System​ ​Operators”​ ​(DSOs)​ ​that​ ​can​ ​procure customer​ ​flexibility​ ​to​ ​reduce​ ​congestion​ ​at​ ​specific​ ​times​ ​and​ ​locations;​ ​as​ ​a​ ​cost​ ​effective​ ​and agile​ ​alternative​ ​to​ ​network​ ​reinforcement.

Online​ ​marketplaces​ ​like​ ​Airbnb​ ​and​ ​Uber​ ​combine​ ​intuitive​ ​web​ ​design​ ​with​ ​scalable​ ​resource optimisation​ ​algorithms​ ​to​ ​lower​ ​barriers​ ​to​ ​entry​ ​and​ ​unlock​ ​the​ ​value​ ​of​ ​underutilised​ ​assets. Open​ ​Utility​ ​is​ ​leveraging​ ​the​ ​power​ ​of​ ​online​ ​marketplaces​ ​to​ ​solve​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​biggest challenges​ ​facing​ ​the​ ​energy​ ​industry:​ ​enabling​ ​DNOs​ ​to​ ​become​ ​DSOs.

Open​ ​Utility​ ​has​ ​built​ ​up​ ​a​ ​track​ ​record​ ​of​ ​innovating​ ​on​ ​a​ ​global​ ​scale.​ ​The​ ​flexibility marketplace​ ​will​ ​join​ ​their​ ​first​ ​product,​ ​a​ ​peer-to-peer​ ​matching​ ​service​ ​for​ ​renewable​ ​energy suppliers,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​already​ ​operational​ ​in​ ​the​ ​UK,​ ​Italy​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Netherlands.

A​ ​smart,​ ​local​ ​and​ ​flexible​ ​grid

According​ ​to​ ​a​ ​report​ ​by​ ​BEIS​ ​and​ ​Ofgem,​ ​a​ ​smart​ ​and​ ​flexible​ ​energy​ ​system​ ​could​ ​reduce​ ​UK electricity​ ​generation​ ​emissions​ ​and​ ​realise​ ​up​ ​to​ ​£17-40bn​ ​of​ ​savings​ ​by​ ​20501.​ ​These benefits​ ​come​ ​from​ ​better​ ​optimisation​ ​and​ ​operation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​system​ ​which​ ​avoids​ ​or​ ​defers network​ ​reinforcements,​ ​avoids​ ​generation​ ​build,​ ​and​ ​avoids​ ​curtailment​ ​of​ ​low​ ​carbon generation.​ ​Highly​ ​scalable​ ​services​ ​that​ ​enable​ ​customer​ ​participation​ ​in​ ​local​ ​flexibility services​ ​is​ ​fundamental​ ​to​ ​unlocking​ ​these​ ​benefits.

The​ ​rapid​ ​growth​ ​of​ ​electric​ ​vehicles​ ​(EVs)​ ​will​ ​have​ ​a​ ​particularly​ ​big​ ​impact​ ​on​ ​the​ ​local electricity​ ​network.​ ​Flexibility​ ​trading​ ​platforms​ ​will​ ​play​ ​a​ ​key​ ​role​ ​in​ ​enabling​ ​EVs​ ​to co-ordinate​ ​their​ ​charging​ ​schedules​ ​with​ ​the​ ​DSO,​ ​so​ ​the​ ​decarbonisation​ ​of​ ​transport​ ​does not​ ​require​ ​£billions​ ​of​ ​electricity​ ​network​ ​reinforcement​ ​which​ ​ultimately​ ​would​ ​have​ ​to​ ​be borne​ ​by​ ​bill​ ​payers.

Local​ ​flexibility​ ​marketplaces​ ​are​ ​mentioned​ ​as​ ​being​ ​a​ ​focus​ ​for​ ​innovation​ ​funding​ ​in​ ​the​ ​BEIS Smart​ ​Systems​ ​and​ ​Flexibility​ ​Plan.​ ​With​ ​the​ ​£412,500​ ​grant​ ​to​ ​Open​ ​Utility,​ ​BEIS​ ​are demonstrating​ ​that​ ​they​ ​are​ ​keen​ ​to​ ​turn​ ​words​ ​into​ ​action.

Ian​ ​Marchant,​ ​former​ ​CEO​ ​of​ ​SSE​ ​and​ ​investor​ ​in​ ​Open​ ​Utility,​ ​is​ ​supportive​ ​of​ ​Open​ ​Utility’s developments.​ ​Ian​ ​says:​ ​"As​ ​the​ ​energy​ ​system​ ​evolves​ ​into​ ​one​ ​that​ ​is​ ​decentralised​ ​and decarbonised​ ​the​ ​role​ ​of​ ​the​ ​local​ ​distribution​ ​companies​ ​will​ ​change​ ​fundamentally.​ ​Local​ ​and peer​ ​to​ ​peer​ ​energy​ ​and​ ​flexibility​ ​markets​ ​with​ ​play​ ​a​ ​leading​ ​role​ ​in​ ​this​ ​change​ ​and​ ​I​ ​am delighted​ ​the​ ​BEIS​ ​are​ ​sponsoring​ ​this​ ​key​ ​piece​ ​of​ ​preparatory​ ​work​ ​with​ ​Open​ ​Utility"

Value​ ​to​ ​DSOs

DSOs​ ​are​ ​beginning​ ​to​ ​trial​ ​novel​ ​approaches​ ​for​ ​procuring​ ​customer​ ​flexibility.​ ​Most​ ​notably, UK​ ​Power​ ​Networks​ ​announced​ ​in​ ​August​ ​2017​ ​that​ ​they​ ​were​ ​launching​ ​tenders​ ​for customer​ ​flexibility​ ​in​ ​10​ ​areas​ ​covering​ ​13,000​ ​postcodes​ ​in​ ​London,​ ​East​ ​Anglia​ ​and​ ​the South-East​ ​2.

However,​ ​DSOs​ ​face​ ​several​ ​challenges​ ​in​ ​making​ ​local​ ​flexibility​ ​procurement​ ​a​ ​success.​ ​They have​ ​little​ ​experience​ ​in​ ​engaging​ ​with​ ​customers,​ ​as​ ​historically​ ​they​ ​were​ ​an​ ​invisible​ ​part​ ​of the​ ​energy​ ​supply​ ​chain.​ ​Without​ ​high​ ​levels​ ​of​ ​participation​ ​in​ ​their​ ​tenders,​ ​they​ ​cannot guarantee​ ​any​ ​benefits​ ​over​ ​traditional​ ​reinforcement.​ ​Open​ ​Utility’s​ ​solution​ ​can​ ​help​ ​DSOs interact​ ​with​ ​the​ ​long​ ​tail​ ​of​ ​flexibility​ ​providers​ ​to​ ​maximise​ ​participation​ ​in​ ​their​ ​tenders.

Tender​ ​processes​ ​need​ ​to​ ​become​ ​fully​ ​automated​ ​if​ ​they​ ​can​ ​eventually​ ​scale​ ​to​ ​cover​ ​the​ ​1.7 million​ ​postcode​ ​areas​ ​in​ ​the​ ​UK.​ ​They​ ​will​ ​also​ ​need​ ​to​ ​coordinate​ ​with​ ​the​ ​System​ ​Operator, who​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​maintain​ ​overall​ ​control​ ​over​ ​national​ ​system​ ​balancing.​ ​Open​ ​Utility’s​ ​solution utilises​ ​resource-optimisation​ ​algorithms​ ​to​ ​manage​ ​this​ ​complexity​ ​and​ ​has​ ​interfaces​ ​to other​ ​interested​ ​parties​ ​like​ ​the​ ​System​ ​Operator.

We​ ​are​ ​speaking​ ​to​ ​a​ ​number​ ​of​ ​DSOs​ ​to​ ​join​ ​the​ ​trial​ ​later​ ​this​ ​year.

Value​ ​to​ ​Flexibility​ ​Providers

A​ ​key​ ​goal​ ​of​ ​the​ ​project​ ​is​ ​to​ ​lower​ ​barriers​ ​for​ ​providers​ ​to​ ​take​ ​part​ ​in​ ​local​ ​flexibility trading.​ The​ ​benefits​ ​are​ ​increased​ ​revenue​ ​opportunities​ ​which​ ​are​ ​uniquely​ ​available​ ​for distribution​ ​grid​ ​connected​ ​assets.

We​ ​will​ ​be​ ​running​ ​a​ ​consultation​ ​to​ ​engage​ ​with​ ​the​ ​flexibility​ ​community​ ​to​ ​ensure​ ​that​ ​the service​ ​fits​ ​the​ ​needs​ ​of​ ​a​ ​wide​ ​range​ ​of​ ​stakeholders,​ ​including​ ​demand-response​ ​aggregators, battery​ ​manufacturers,​ ​energy​ ​suppliers,​ ​distributed​ ​generators,​ ​project​ ​developers,​ ​electric vehicle​ ​manufacturers​ ​and​ ​technology​ ​suppliers.

Piclo​ ​Platform

Open​ ​Utility​ ​is​ ​becoming​ ​a​ ​global​ ​leader​ ​in​ ​software​ ​infrastructure​ ​for​ ​decentralised​ ​energy through​ ​their​ ​Piclo​ ​Platform.​ ​The​ ​flexibility​ ​marketplace​ ​will​ ​become​ ​the​ ​latest​ ​service​ ​to​ ​be offered​ ​on​ ​the​ ​platform.

The​ ​first​ ​commercial​ ​service​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Piclo​ ​Platform​ ​is​ ​a​ ​peer-to-peer​ ​(P2P)​ ​energy​ ​matching service​ ​for​ ​businesses​ ​who​ ​want​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​from​ ​local​ ​renewable​ ​generators.​ ​Open​ ​Utility​ ​trialed the​ ​P2P​ ​service​ ​through​ ​funding​ ​from​ ​a​ ​previous​ ​EEF​ ​award​ ​from​ ​the​ ​government​ ​in​ ​2014,​ ​and subsequently​ ​launched​ ​a​ ​commercial​ ​version​ ​with​ ​Good​ ​Energy​ ​in​ ​2016.​ ​Open​ ​Utility​ ​is​ ​now setting​ ​up​ ​trials​ ​of​ ​the​ ​P2P​ ​matching​ ​service​ ​in​ ​Italy​ ​in​ ​partnership​ ​with​ ​ERG​ ​and​ ​in​ ​the Netherlands​ ​in​ ​partnership​ ​with​ ​Essent.

About​ ​Open​ ​Utility

About​ ​Open​ ​Utility​ ​is​ ​an​ ​ambitious​ ​software​ ​company​ ​based​ ​in​ ​London.​ ​In​ ​2015​ ​Open​ ​Utility launched​ ​their​ ​flagship​ ​Piclo®​ ​peer-to-peer​ ​energy​ ​marketplace​ ​for​ ​UK​ ​business​ ​customers with​ ​their​ ​first​ ​partner​ ​Good​ ​Energy.​ ​In​ ​2017​ ​Open​ ​Utility​ ​is​ ​expanding​ ​the​ ​Piclo®​ ​service​ ​in selected​ ​international​ ​markets.​ ​Open​ ​Utility​ ​has​ ​secured​ ​£1.5million​ ​of​ ​funding,​ ​including grants​ ​from​ ​DECC​ ​and​ ​private​ ​investment​ ​from​ ​Ian​ ​Marchant,​ ​former​ ​CEO​ ​of​ ​SSE.​ ​Open​ ​Utility has​ ​been​ ​named​ ​by​ ​Bloomberg​ ​as​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​UK’s​ ​top​ ​50​ ​Business​ ​Innovators​ ​and​ ​won​ ​Startup of​ ​the​ ​Year​ ​at​ ​European​ ​Utility​ ​Week.​ ​​ ​More​ ​information​ ​is​ ​available​ ​at:


1​ ​Upgrading​ ​Our​ ​Energy​ ​System:​ ​Smart​ ​Systems​ ​and​ ​Flexibility​ ​Plan,​ ​BEIS​ ​and​ ​Ofgem,​ ​July 2017, rading-our-energy-system-july-2017.pdf

2​ ​Flexibility​ ​Services:​ ​Invitation​ ​for​ ​Expressions​ ​of​ ​Interest,​ ​UK​ ​Power​ ​Networks,

About Piclo 

Piclo’s mission is to decarbonise the grid. We develop software solutions that make our energy networks smarter, flexible and more sustainable. Our flagship product, Piclo Flex is the leading independent marketplace for energy flexibility services, enabling system operators (such as the ESO, UKPN and a growing number internationally) to source energy flexibility from flexible service providers (e.g. electric vehicles) during times of high demand or low supply. As of 2022, Piclo Flex has 55,000 registered flexible assets representing 16.6 GW of flex capacity, with flexibility contracts awarded totalling £58m and 1.1 GW+ of flexible capacity procured.

Piclo currently provides flexibility services in six global markets: in the UK, supporting three Distribution System Operators (UK Power Networks, SP Energy Networks, Electricity North West); and the Transmission System Operator (TSO) (The ESO); in Ireland (ESB Networks); in Italy (E-Distribuzione), Portugal (E-REDES), Lithuania (Energijos Skirstymo Operatorius AB (ESO)), and in the United States in New York State (National Grid). Aside from its leading position in the UK, Piclo has a growing presence in Europe and the USA.

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Register on Piclo Flex here: