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 develops software to make electricity grids smart, flexible and sustainable. Chaired by Volker Beckers, the London-based company has been building solutions for the energy industry since 2013, having secured funding including grants from DECC and BEIS and investment from the Green Angel Syndicate, Mott MacDonald Ventures and the Clean Growth Fund. Piclo Flex is an independent marketplace for trading flexibility online. The platform provides market visibility, qualification services and online auctions with over 12GW of flexible capacity registered. Since 2018, Piclo has supported the business-as-usual flexibility procurement of six of the UK DNOs and is commercially contracted with UK Power Networks, SP Energy Networks and Electricity North West.


Piclo Communications Team

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