UK Research and Innovation has awarded roughly £51 million from the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to four smart energy pilot projects.

The grants have been made as part of the £102.5 million Prospering from the Energy Revolution Challenge.

Energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry, said: “We are at the start of a green revolution, as we move to more digital, data-driven smart systems that will bring us cleaner and cheaper energy.

“These projects, backed by government funding, are set to spark a transformation and change the way we interact with energy for the better as part of our modern industrial strategy.

“We’re excited to see how these businesses and project partners reveal how innovative tech, such as energy storage, heat networks and electric vehicles, can set us on the path to a smarter energy future. This is tomorrow’s world, today.”

Rob Saunders, deputy challenge director at UK Research and Innovation, added: “We all need energy systems that are cheaper, cleaner and consumer-friendly.

“We have a great opportunity with these demonstrators to show just how innovation can deliver this energy ambition for the future.

“Supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, these projects can drive investment, create high-quality jobs and grow companies with export potential.”

The four projects are:

Local Energy Oxfordshire

Local Energy Oxfordshire (LEO) will explore how the growth of decentralised renewables, battery storage, electric vehicles and demand-side response can be supported by a smarter and more flexible power grid.

Project leader Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) described it as “one of the most wide-ranging and holistic smart grid trials ever conducted in the UK”. The three-year scheme will cost £40 million, of which the government will contribute £13.8 million.

Oxfordshire was chosen as the location due to the significant constraints on the electricity network in the area as well as the progressive attitude of the local authorities and the thriving community energy scene.

The project will allow SSEN to test multiple aspects of the distribution system operator (DSO) model as it attempts to balance local supply and demand in a real-world environment.

The consortium conducting the trial includes numerous partners.

The Low Carbon Hub will develop and manage a portfolio of local generation and demand projects.

Academics from the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University will collect and analyse data to create a new model for mapping and planning the local energy system.

Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council will provide key infrastructure including intelligent street lighting, EV chargers and heat networks.

Origami and Piclo will trial innovative business models while delivering energy trading, aggregation and flexibility services through their respective platforms.

Nuvve will provide vehicle-to-grid and smart EV chargers and EDF Energy will offer innovative energy services to customers.

SSEN head of future networks Stewart Reid said: “We are delighted that the UK government has provided the final piece of funding for Project LEO. This will provide crucial research and learnings, accelerating the transition to new local energy systems and the move to a smart, flexible, low-carbon future.

“The electrical network and communities of Oxfordshire create the perfect environment for all the project partners to understand the value of new markets, technologies and solutions.

“Importantly for SSEN it will allow us to understand how we will need to change to facilitate these new markets and solutions while still delivering energy in an economic, reliable, fair and sustainable manner.”


Reflex – short for responsive flexibility – will attempt to create a “smart energy island” in Orkney by combining the provision of electricity, transport and heat within a single overarching system.

The aim is to use flexible energy resources to maximise the “significant potential” for renewable generation on the archipelago and reduce its reliance on imported electricity from mainland Scotland.

The scheme is being led by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), which has partnered with Solo Energy, Aquatera, Community Energy Scotland, Heriot-Watt University, Orkney Islands Council and Doosan Babcock. The government will contribute £14.3 million to the £28.5 million project.

As many as 600 batteries will be deployed on the islands – 500 of them in homes – as well as up to 600 new electric vehicles (EVs), 200 vehicle-to-grid chargers and 100 flexible heating systems.

An integrated transport system featuring electric bikes and buses will also be set up and Doosan Babcock will install a grid-scale hydrogen fuel cell. The assets will be monitored and controlled using Solo Energy’s FlexiGrid platform.

EMEC managing director Neil Kermode said: “This new model will demonstrate how we can better interact with, own and manage our integrated energy systems locally, both at individual and community level.

He continued: “The target for Orkney is to have a negative carbon footprint and this pioneering project will build upon the existing local energy system, local infrastructure and local expertise, to accelerate this transition to a fully sustainable and flexible energy system.”

Perry said: “What we are seeing here on Orkney is a test bed for the energy system of the future… What we learn from these innovations could one day be rolled out across the UK and exported around the world and we’ll be able to say it was ‘made in Orkney’.”

Energy Superhub Oxford

Energy Superhub Oxford will see the installation of the world’s first transmission-connected hybrid lithium-ion and redox flow battery system, along with around 300 domestic ground-source heat pumps and up to 100 rapid EV chargers.

Together they will form one of 45 EV charging superhubs in a £1.6 billion UK-wide network announced by the project lead, Pivot Power, in May 2018. The government will provide around £10 million of funding for the project, which will cost £41 million in total.

The battery system will have a maximum power output of 50MW and a storage capacity of 55MWh. Of this 2MW and 5MWh will come from the redox flow element supplied by RedT.

The facility will be located near a substation at Crowley and connected to the transmission network through a power line running around the south of the city between vehicle depots to its east and west.

EV chargers will be fitted at both depots to allow Oxford City Council to electrify its fleet of vans and bin lorries. They will also be fitted at a park and ride facility close to one of the depots.

The heat pumps will be installed as part of communal heating systems within council-owned social housing. They will be operated under a heat-as-a-service model, with tenants setting their preferences through a smart phone app.

All of the assets will be monitored and controlled through a platform developed by Habitat Energy. The University of Oxford will gauge the success of the project and produce recommendations to support the roll out of similar initiatives around the UK.

Matthew Boulton, chief operating officer at Pivot Power, said: “We are providing the mass charging network needed to kick-start an electric vehicle revolution in Oxford and support the city’s ambitious plans to clean up its air and cut its carbon emissions. We’re thrilled that our network will enable the city council to start transitioning its entire vehicle fleet across to electric.

“We are hoping to encourage all sorts of other Oxford groups – residents, commuters, bus companies, logistics operators – to take advantage of the power we are bringing to the south of the city and switch to electric vehicles. Together we can make rapid improvements to Oxford’s air quality and turn it into a global showcase of a clean electric city. “

Smart Hubs SLES (Smart Local Energy System)

Smart Hubs SLES will integrate the energy management of a number of residential and commercial properties in the Adur and Worthing areas of West Sussex.

Hybrid heating systems combining air-source heat pumps and gas boilers will be fitted in 250 homes by Passiv Systems. Solar panels and battery storage will also be fitted in 250 homes by Moixa, although there may be some overlap between these two groups. Connected Energy is expected to build a 20MW standalone battery storage facility.

Switch2 Energy will create a new heat network serving 100 homes in Shoreham Port. It will be fed by a marine-source heat pump provided by by ICAX.

Honda, working with Moixa, will install 50 EV chargers. At least some are expected to offer vehicle-to-grid charging.

One of the chargers will form part of a hybrid hydrogen and electric vehicle refilling station. The hydrogen will be produced using electrolyser provided by ITM Power and Flexisolar will supply power for the facility, partly using onsite solar generation.

Turbo Power Systems will explore the benefits of directly connecting the assets to one another to create a “mesh network” and Flexitricity will use its platform to aggregate them into a “virtual power plant” for energy market trading.

The £40 million project, led by Advanced Infrastructure, has been granted £13 million of government funding. The Carbon and Energy Fund, West Sussex County Council and Adur and Worthing Councils are all partners.

Steve Read, director of energy, waste and environment at West Sussex County Council said: “The lessons we learn will help the government to plan ahead and adapt our national energy system to the fundamental changes taking place.

“These include the growth in renewable energy supply, increasing demand for energy from electric vehicles and other innovations and the challenge of balancing energy supply and demand.”