Local Energy Trading

Local Energy Trading is a new idea.  It recognises that in a dense urban area, such as London’s South Bank, not everyone needs energy at the same time.  BankEnergi aims to use this to create a local energy market, made up of neighbouring assets and buildings in the South Bank and Waterloo area. But how will this work in practice?

Some users need a lot during the day, but only a minimal amount overnight.  For others, peak demand comes in the evening, as visitors flock to theatres and concert halls, or settle down for the night in one of the area’s top hotels. By managing demand and sharing energy supplies, users with different profiles will be able to save money.

Surplus stored energy will be traded via the BankEnergi exchange resulting in a new low-cost energy supply. Battery storage, demand flexibility, renewable energy technologies, such as solar PV, thermal storage, and the intelligent charging of EVs are all innovative ways BankEnergi can match supply with demand through its trading platform.

Battery storage

Until four or five years ago, using batteries to store serious amounts of electricity was just a pipe dream.  But with improvements to battery technology, often driven by the car industry, costs have fallen and the amount that can be stored (the energy density) has improved no end.  Batteries can be made up from new lithium-ion cells, but for many purposes, older recycled cells that are no longer good enough to power an electric car can also be used.

The capacity of typical battery storage can now be sufficient to limit the power required by a building at peak times, when energy is at its most expensive.  Moreover, there may also be incentives for installing batteries because they reduce the need to reinforce the grid in the areas of greatest demand.

Demand flexibility

Rather like battery storage, demand flexibility is designed to reduce demand at times when electricity is at its most expensive.  Although it is often associated with industrial processes which can be temporarily halted, it can also be used in shops and offices by reducing the demand for chillers or heating water – and at times of extreme demand, reducing non-essential lighting.

Thermal storage

When energy demand is highest in winter, prices can rise sharply.  That’s where thermal storage helps most – water can be heated and stored in large buffer tanks when rates are lower and then used for heating when prices are higher.  As both process and heating demand tend to follow set patterns, it is possible to design algorithms to do this automatically.  Thermal storage works especially well with air or ground source heat pumps, which often rely on a low temperature buffer tank in any case.

The same approach can be used in summer to store chilled water in some air-conditioning systems.

Intelligent charging of EVs

We’ve all heard a lot about electric vehicles (EVs) and the strains that they may put onto the electricity grid.  This can be mitigated by intelligent charging, keeping them at a minimum acceptable charge level when costs are high and then topping up their batteries when electricity costs are lower (or it is known that they will be needed for a long journey).  In future, EVs’ batteries may also be used for bi-directional storage – releasing electricity back into the local network when it is most needed, as a mobile for of battery storage (this is known a vehicle to grid, or V2G).

Renewable energy technologies

Installing renewable energy doesn’t normally immediately create the level of flexibility of other measures in this section.  But if there is surplus renewable energy – for example from PV on office roofs on sunny weekends, this can be exported to nearby businesses that still have a demand for energy.  Renewable energy can also be used to charge batteries or thermal stores, when market prices are low.

What can I do?

The section above summarises five of the key technologies that will help organisations that want to take part in local energy trading.  Currently, there are still some barriers around the limitations of having a single electricity supplier to each meter point, but we are working with the system operators (Elexon) and others to overcome these.  We also realise it will take time to get everything set up: our recommendation is to start with the free energy review and then we can work with you to identify which assets you have, or may be considering installing, that would facilitate local energy trading.

Solar Panels are already on some South Bank buildings

If you are based on the South Bank in London, and would like to find out more about potential local energy trading, then the first step is to ask for a free energy review. As BankEnergi is currently funded through the UK Government’s InnovateUK programme, we can offer this without any obligation.  To request a review, and meet with the team, please contact us by email or by completing the form on the contact page.  We’d love to hear from you!