SP Energy Networks has become the fifth distribution network operator (DNO) to join a trial of the flexibility marketplace Piclo Flex.

UK Power Networks, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, Electricity North West and Northern Powergrid have all previously signed up to the online platform.

As part of their shift towards a distribution system operator model, DNOs will use the marketplace to procure flexibility to tackle congestion on their networks.

Scott Mathieson, director of network planning and regulation at SP Energy Networks, said: “Flexibility is key to the management of the electricity network of the future and SP Energy Networks is leading the charge.

“Innovative solutions to help make this happen, like Piclo Flex, are to be warmly welcomed and we look forward to taking part in the trial and learning lessons from it to ensure that the network we operate and the power we deliver makes the most effective use of existing electricity infrastructure and ensures we keep customers’ bills down and their lights on.”

Piclo Flex is an offshoot from a peer-to-peer energy trading platform called Piclo which Open Utility launched in 2015. It has since taken the name Piclo for itself and rebranded the original platform as Piclo Engage.

The company was awarded more than £400,000 by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in October last year to undertake a trial of Piclo Flex.

Piclo co-founder and chief executive James Johnston said: “We are pleased that SP Energy Networks recognise the value of using an online marketplace to source flexibility.

“We are aiming to prove that a single place to find all flexibility opportunities lowers barriers for participation and increases overall market liquidity.”

DNOs have been invited to register the geographical areas in which they expect to require flexibility, while a select group of battery operators and demand-side response aggregators have also been invited to register assets they intend to make available on the marketplace. Trading is expected to begin early next year.

Piclo plans to launch the platform on a commercial basis following the formal end of the BEIS-sponsored trial on 15 February 2019.

The only DNO not to join the trial so far is Western Power Distribution (WPD) although the company said it is currently in discussions about signing up.

WPD network strategy team manager Ben Godfrey told Utility Week: “WPD is committed to transparently providing information on our system needs for flexibility and believes the provision of this data will best enable accessibility for flexibility through multiple routes and platforms. This will allow customers to choose the right pathway for them.”

SP Energy Networks recently launched its own online flexibility trading platform called Project Fusion. Ofgem awarded the scheme up to £5.3 million in the most recent Network Innovation Competition in 2017 and last week confirmed the value of the grant at £5.1 million.