Cross-industry consortium needed to make flexible grid

Industry experts have called for the creation of a consortium of stakeholders to develop common standards for the future flexibility market.

Smart energy technology firm Geo and boiler manufacturer Vaillant made the recommendation in the first in a series of papers outlining proposals for DSR flexibility for domestic heat pumps.

It explores the potential impact of heat pumps on low voltage networks, the need for technical standards and interoperable protocols, as well as the need for a code of practice.

It found that a lack of a common standard means that customer energy management (CEM) manufacturers (companies that manufacturer in-home displays) have to develop partnerships with many different manufacturers, gain access to their proprietary protocols and build bespoke solutions.

This may result in consumers unwittingly being locked into a specific set of brands of supported equipment. Additionally the cost for CEM manufacturers to develop, maintain and support a range of compatible devices starts to become prohibitive.

The paper added: “The alternative of an industry-led open standard for allowing communication between the CEM and a variety of smart appliance types from many different manufacturers would help enable competition and reduce costs, in turn driving the much-needed uptake of domestic DSR.

“It would also enable greater flexibility for users to choose their ESAs (energy smart appliances) from different brands and swap them out over time, avoiding lock-in.”

It noted that UK PAS1878, which outlines the requirements an electrical appliance needs to meet to be classified as ‘smart’, does not provide enough detail for manufacturers and DSR service providers (DSRPs) to provide integrated and interoperable systems which would “necessarily work well in the real world”.

It calls for PAS1878 to be reassessed by the industry as it contains technical proposals allowing multiple parties to control different loads in the same home at the same time – potentially causing “unwanted behaviour” for the network operator’s low-voltage network and consumer assets.

As such it stresses the need for the creation of an industry consortium to be formed of various stakeholders including smart appliance manufacturers, energy retailers, DNOs, DRSPs and home energy management vendors.

“The consortium should work to harmonise on and promote key standards which can be adopted internationally, with the aim of promoting consumer awareness with a “DSR ready” trust mark to give consumers confidence that purchasing equipment will be compatible with each other and able to join into DSRSP offerings,” the paper said.

It added that the consortium would need to operate in much the same way that other standards bodies do with steering groups, working groups and voting rights, with the evolving generations of mobile telecommunications standards an example of a model to follow.

Industry experts from manufacturer organisations would write the specifications, have them peer reviewed, and challenge each other to develop solutions with a roadmap of evolution. Additionally, the consortium would need to have methods to recognise intellectual property right claims from its members.

Earlier this year the energy digitalisation taskforce called for the creation of a new independent delivery body as part of several recommendations to help develop the modern and decarbonised digital energy system which will be necessary to unlock whole system flexibility.

Elsewhere Geo’s report calls for the establishment of a code of practice for the heat pump industry and DSR providers to follow. Surveyors, installers, manufacturers and companies offering finance or Heat as a Service (HaaS) offers, should sign up to this code, it recommends.

Steve Cunningham, chief executive of Geo, said: “To save households the most money and do as much as we possibly can to reduce carbon emissions, homes of the future will be fitted with home energy management systems that automatically operate our heat pumps and charge our EVs at the cheapest and greenest times.

“But the increase in demand that electrification will drive can only be affordable if we have a much more flexible approach to managing demand on the grid. To do this we need common standards across the sorts of smart appliances which are increasingly becoming part of the modern home.

“That is why we are calling for a cross industry consortium to establish common standards to make a more flexible grid a reality: we cannot allow a lack of industry coordination cost British consumers £12 billion a year.”