Kiwi Power helps WPD bring Flexible Power to distributed networks

Together with WPD, Kiwi Power implemented a grid management program – Flexible Power – which utilises distributed energy resources to alleviate local grid congestion and constraints and better manage maintenance outages.

One of the UK’s largest distribution network operators (DNOs), Western Power Distribution (WPD), is responsible for delivering electricity to approximately 26 million people across 7.9 million homes and businesses in the Midlands, the South West and Wales. Its network consists of over 225,000km of lines and cables and 296,000 pieces of switchgear, covering an area of 55,3000km2.

As more customers look to a lower carbon future and invest more in electricity generation, an increasing number of distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar photovoltaic panels and wind farms, are being connected to distribution networks. This growth is putting an increased strain on DNOs’ networks, with an increase in demand, generation and storage requirements, all of which requires them to become smarter, more active, and more flexible.

An increase in the number of requests for DER connections on WPD’s network meant it needed to find ways of managing the accompanying additional constraints, as well as better managing outages and network recovery. 

The traditional approach to addressing such constraints is for DNOs to reinforce their network. However, the EU Clean Energy Package mandates that all DNOs should consider flexibility services first. In line with this, UK industry bodies, including the Energy Networks Association (ENA), urged Ofgem to incorporate a “flexibility first” approach in its RIIO-2 price controls regime, on which it consulted in 2018.

In common with the overall market, the company ran a series of increasingly larger procurement rounds for flexibility services. But with different contracts, payment terms, and procurement terms for every programme, linking to flexibility markets proved challenging.

In an effort to address the challenges they faced, WPD decided to build its own flexibility programme that would allow them to procure the right amount of flexibility when and where it was needed. 

In 2017, WPD launched Flexible Power, a customer-facing portal for the procurement and operation of flexibility services from businesses with the potential to shift demand away from peak periods or the ability to switch their consumption to on-site generation. Once contracted, providers are given access to the Flexible Power Portal where they are able to declare their flexible assets’ availability, receive dispatch signals, and view performance and settlement reports.  

Having worked with Kiwi on an innovation project in the past, WPD was aware of the company’s more than ten years’ experience as an operator, asset manager, and battery energy storage developer, its work with DNOs and its technological capabilities, and therefore felt confident in selecting them to create the platform software.

A combination of Kiwi’s expertise and the ability of its technology team to adapt the solution to meet WDP’s needs made it the ideal partner with which to develop Flexible Power as a platform that fits perfectly into the standardisation approach the UK is now leading on.

WPD’s innovation has been a success. A map on the Flexible Power site shows 54 local grid zones for which WPD requests flexibility services – and this number is growing. As of October 2020, it had contracted flexibility totalling 439MW. The company has started signposting, too, showing customers where future requirements will lie, and thereby assuring a greater sense of certainty. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Also in October 2020, it was announced that three new DNOs were to join the programme. SP Energy Networks, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, and Northern Powergrid will shortly add their own zones as they collaborate with WPD and each other to signpost and operate all of their flexibility requirements.

For the first time ever, flexibility providers will be able to view flexibility locations, requirement data, procurement notices and documentation published by all four DNOs on a single, joint website. The DNOs intend to work in partnership to further develop the Flexible Power brand and develop the portal functionality to enable interface capability with other flexibility platforms so wider market participation options can increasingly be made available to providers.

Graham Halladay, Western Power Distribution’s Operations Director, describes this as “a huge step forward towards convergence within distribution system operations and should simplify the journey for flexibility service providers.” He adds that he hopes to “see the increased coverage of regions using Flexible Power open up many more opportunities to our existing providers.”

For more information, visit www.flexiblepower.co.uk