Making ACCESS into an appealing offer for local businesses

16 December 2019 - Published by Sophie Rabasch

Developing a smart grid approach across the power network in the UK is seen by policymakers, regulators and the industry as key to achieving a cost-effective, resilient, low-carbon approach to our future power supply. As one sector of society, how business customers elect to interact with a smarter power network is likely to significantly affect the network’s technical performance as well as what benefits can be gained.

In the town of Brandon in the West Suffolk area, there is a point of constraint on the electricity distribution network. There have been issues, such as brownouts - an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage in an electrical power supply system. This unreliability of electricity in the area was why West Suffolk Council (WSC) identified Brandon as a possible demonstration site at the feasibility stage of the ACCESS project. The site would be used to test solutions involving surplus energy peer-to-peer trading.

However, it turned out that the District Network Operator, DNO, had been so concerned about the constraint problems that they had already invited applications for surplus generation to fill the gap and solve the problem. While it meant solutions were already being implemented for the people of Brandon, it also meant that an alternative demonstrator had to be found.

An industrial estate in Mildenhall was identified, with possible future constraint problems due to being an area with great potential for growth. Since WSC have electricity generating assets on the industrial estate, others nearby and a good relationship with businesses, it was a good fit to be the demonstrator replacement project.

At the end of 2019, WSC is in the preliminary engagement stage with the businesses, raising awareness of the ACCESS project and encouraging them to get involved. The next stage is to formulate an offer to the businesses.  There are some who will want to get involved to boost their profile in terms of corporate social responsibility, but the majority will only participate if there are financial benefits to them.

That’s why the success of the ACCESS research project in West Suffolk will require careful consideration of business investment behaviours. The offers need to appeal to both the businesses and to the DNO. The challenge is to identify the messages that are likely to be most effective to secure participation, even as it is not clear at the outset of the research what benefits will be gained.

Such considerations will be just as critical to the success of other similar projects, such as the Amersfoort peer-to-peer trading project. WSC is working with Amersfoort to share knowledge and tackle this shared challenge together.