Western Power Distribution
Image: WPD

British network operator Western Power Distribution has launched its first flexibility pilot targeting residential customers.

Sustain-H is being procured in Constraint Management Zones within the Midlands and south west of England and Wales, to help Western Power Distribution manage areas of grid constraint.

Flexibility services usually work by asking providers to drop their demand by a specified amount. Sustain-H differs in that it asks the providers to drop to or below a pre-agreed level at pre-agreed times. They then need to hold that usage for a four-hour window.

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“Our key design principles were simplicity and inclusivity, in response to industry feedback,” said Matt Watson, Innovation & Low Carbon Networks Engineer at WPD.

“For instance, we’ve sought to be inclusive by being open to both smart meters and asset-meters.”

Sustain-H has attracted eight flexibility providers signing up to offer the service to their customers – four times the number trial organisers originally hoped for. Five go live in November, while a further three will come online in March 2021.

Customers delivering within the targeted four-hour windows can each earn around £10 ($13) a year for homes with electric vehicle charge points – the most popular option – and up to £60 ($79) a year for a home with a full suite of flexibility technologies including heat pump and battery.

The design and operation of the service has been supported by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance. But, unusually for a distribution operator innovation pilot, the service payments themselves are funded out of WPD’s core business budget.

Flexibility suppliers who have signed up to the pilot include Ecotricity, EDF, Octopus Energy, the tech innovators Kaluza, SMS and Stemy Energy, and EV industry pioneers ev.energy and myenergi.

Sustain-H was designed collaboratively by WPD, the renewables consultancy Everoze and SGC.