Carbon Co-op explores device ‘open standards’ in BEIS feasibility study.
Accessibility of smart energy appliances, such as electric vehicle chargers, electric heating and battery storage, are a key part of reducing reliance on fossil fuels in the grid. But these devices use a lot of electricity, so it is important to charge at times when the grid has enough supply, and when that supply is as green as possible – flexing when these appliances are used is known as ‘Demand Side Response’.
Indeed, to keep the lights on, many of us are trying to be flexible in how we use energy, to help the grid meet our collective needs this winter. Shifting our usage to when electricity is green and abundant means the grid can avoid blackouts, and avoid resorting to fossil fuels like gas and coal plants to meet peak demand. We can help the grid by turning appliances off manually at certain times, but of course, it’s challenging to always remember to do this. Therefore, one answer is automation.
‘Aggregators’ are intermediary organisations, like Carbon Co-op, that act as a bridge between the grid companies and many householders. We can remotely and automatically (i.e. without householder input) turn off smart appliances in the home in response to dips in energy supply or peaks in demand on the grid. We can do this by connecting appliances to ‘Home Energy Management systems’ (HEMS), which are tiny computers that can send ‘turn-off’ and ‘turn-on’ signals to devices. People don’t need to switch things off, and we can make responding to grid strains easier, maximising our collective impact.
But there is a challenge: only a handful of smart appliances operate with ‘open standards’ – the systems and codes needed for households to connect to Home Energy Management Systems or energy monitoring platforms. Manufacturers often seek to protect intellectual property by using their own operating system ‘walled gardens’. This can prevent communication between devices, and therefore the optimisation of energy consumption in the home, making it more difficult to reduce bills and carbon footprints.
A lack of off-the-shelf device interoperability also decreases choice for the consumer, and excludes many from participating in flexibility events due to the difficulty and prohibitive costs of replacing technology, or installing smart equipment in the first place. It means that aggregators will never get off the ground and reach those big energy loads needed to make an impactful contribution to collective flex and carbon reduction.
Wouldn’t it be simpler if all appliances used the same systems and codes – just like it would be simpler for us to all use the same type of phone charger rather than have dozens of types?
Carbon Co-op will be exploring this possibility through a feasibility study entitled ‘OpenDSR for All’: funded by the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio through the BEIS Interoperable Demand Side Response programme. The study will be making recommendations for how we can better use an existing set of requirements and codes, known as PAS standards, which set out guidelines for how devices and systems should function within Demand Side Response services.
OpenDSR for All is therefore exploring how interoperable Demand Side Response and Home Energy Management Systems can help the grid in future winters, maximise our collective flexibility, and enhance capacity for renewable electricity generation in the decades ahead.