October 25, 2017 9:00 AM

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

Piclo Logo Thumbnail

​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

[This notice was update on 26th March, 2024]

Piclo’s mission is to decarbonise the grid. We develop software solutions that make our energy networks smarter, flexible and more sustainable. Piclo Max, our market access platform, enables flex sellers (such as EV and battery owners) to access all electricity markets from one place. Piclo Flex, our flexibility services marketplace, enables flex buyers (system operators) to source flexible electricity from flex sellers during times of high demand or low supply.

To date, Piclo has over 300,000 registered flexible assets representing 22 GW of registered flex capacity, with flexibility contracts awarded totalling £74m and 2.6 GW+ of flexible capacity procured.

Piclo currently operates in six global markets: in the UK, supporting all six Distribution System Operators (UK Power Networks, SP Energy Networks, Electricity North West, Northern Powergrid, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and National Grid Electricity Distribution); and the Transmission System Operator (TSO) (the ESO); in Ireland (ESB Networks), Italy (E-Distribuzione), Portugal (E-REDES)); in Australia (CitiPower, Powercor); and in the United States in New York State (National Grid) and Connecticut (United Illuminating). Aside from its leading position in the UK, Piclo has a growing presence in Europe, USA and the Asia-Pacific. 

For more information book a demo, follow us on LinkedIn, and watch us on YouTube.