Ben Aylott leaving for new pastures

by Blog

We’re sad to announce the departure of Ben Aylott, who is leaving the Carbon Co-op staff team to take up a position in cloud computing. We wish him all the very best in his new role. 

Ben joined Carbon Co-op back in 2016 when the organisation consisted of just four people, a board and a handful of members, and has since become a well respected and integral member of staff. Much of the progress Carbon Co-op has made over the past six years is down to him.

Ben first contacted us way back in 2015, when he was a masters student at the European Solar Engineering School at Dalarna University, Sweden. He joined us in 2016 on a six months  thesis project placement looking at the design and modelling of PV micro grid systems including battery storage and hybrid systems.

However, he quickly became involved in our Horizon2020 innovation project Nobel Grid, which involved European citizen-led energy cooperatives we still work with today. Ben’s work on the project saw the involvement of Lancaster Co-housing and the integration of new tools into their energy system. 

As the project ended, Ben had the vision to identify domestic demand side response as a key future area of development for the UK’s energy system and he authored a pair of foresighted position papers/feasibility studies that set out the case: Energy Communities Aggregator Service (ECAS) – Local Flexibility Markets (2018); and OpenDSR Phase 1 Feasibility Report (Public Version).

The OpenDSR paper in particular, set out a vision for an open domestic demand side response sector in the UK without the ‘zoo’ of proprietary technology provider platforms and systems that impede aggregation and highlighted the implementation of OpenADR in California that helped provide a coherent and consistent framework which helped to create one of the early viable domestic flexibility programmes. 

BEIS (and others) bought into this vision and in 2019 we received funding to deliver the OpenDSR project, building the Powershaper service and integrating an end-to-end domestic flexibility system using OpenADR. The partnership project, which also involved Regen, Megni and EV Parts UK, saw the implementation of a series of demand side response campaigns with participants using electric vehicle chargers and hot water heating elements to shift demand. The results provided fascinating insights into householder behaviour and valuable intelligence on how a commercially viable model might build effective cohorts of householders. 

One significant offshoot of this project has been Powershaper Monitor, a householder service to enable people to access and review their half hourly smart meter data. This service underpinned OpenDSR but is now finding applications as a stand alone tool and as an add-on to other services such as People Powered Retrofit. Looking ahead this functionality has exciting applications in the verification of the impact of demand reduction interventions (watch this space!). 

Much of the foundational work from OpenDSR has gone on to inform RESCoopVPP, our current Horizon 2020 project that goes under the title Powershaper Flex. Ben was instrumental in developing the concept behind this project in collaboration with our European friends within other citizen led energy co-operatives and the coming year will see the results of this project deployed in the field with householders. 

During his time at Carbon Co-op, Ben has also been a familiar face at Community Energy events in the UK and beyond, travelling around Europe and even to Canada to explore a potential collaboration. Along with Jonathan Atkinson he co-authored an influential blog setting out the role community energy might play in a future energy system.

He has contributed hugely to the development of Carbon Co-op which has grown in his time here from a small community energy organisation to one employing a staff team of nearly 20 people, a membership of more than 400 and an annual turnover of nearly £1m. Much of this progress has been thanks to Ben’s hard work, insight and enthusiasm. 

We wish him well in his new role and look forward to staying in touch and hopefully future involvement in the organisation in some shape or form. The Energy Systems side of our work will now be taken forward by Carbon Co-op Co-founder Matt Fawcett assisted by project manager Claire Knox and a team of software engineers and other staff members. 

We’d like to say a big thank you to Ben from all the staff, board and members of the organisation.