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The Living Grid

Corporate giants join forces to tackle UK’s energy supply challenge
The Living Grid

A movement of corporate energy users, including three corporate giants in the UK, have announced they have become founding organisations of the Living Grid, a new energy ecosystem designed to create 200MW – enough to power 100,000 kettles – of flexible power across the UK by 2020. The three pioneers alone expect to provide 39MW of flexible capacity by this time.

A new energy ecosystem

This is the first time a working partnership has been created by leading businesses in the UK to help modernise and relieve the pressure on the country’s existing electricity system. Corporate energy users are uniquely placed to lead the way in influencing the demand-side of the electricity grid because their energy needs have a significant impact on peaks and troughs in electricity usage.

Brought together by sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future, the aim is for the Living Grid to offer a radically new energy ecosystem that’s inspired by Nature: responsive, intelligent and adapted to make full use of renewable sources of energy. In its first year, the focus will be on allowing energy consumers to communicate and to adjust their individual use of electricity to benefit the system as a whole.

‘Our existing energy system was designed for another era, when our power was supplied by big, fossil fuel generators – and before the internet. It’s old and inefficient and simply isn’t equipped to deal with more higher percentages of renewable energy, more distributed energy, storage and so on. Put this together with the urgent call to achieve a 1.5°C future in COP21 and it’s clear the UK energy industry finds itself at a pivotal moment.

‘Bizarrely, however, there’s a complete policy vacuum for demonstrating the kind of ambitious path forward that we now need. The Living Grid aims to fill that vacuum, working with leading businesses to show us ‘the art of the possible’ and a future for our energy system that is already available to us if we choose it.’

Founder Director of Forum for the Future

It will start by connecting large corporate energy users’ equipment with smart technology powered by founding tech partner Open Energi. Its ‘intelligent demand response technology’ allows equipment to adjust electricity usage to adapt to peaks and troughs in demand and supply across the grid without affecting performance.

When electricity supply can’t keep up with demand at peak times, connected equipment is asked to decrease consumption momentarily to free up electricity for other consumers. When there is spare supply, equipment can increase demand in order to make use of the surplus.

‘Intelligent demand response – which invisibly and automatically flexes electricity consumption in real-time is paving the way for a completely different electricity market. A market that doesn’t require polluting peaking power, that can integrate renewable energy efficiently and most importantly, that empowers consumers. We’re excited to be part of the Living Grid’s vision to transform the energy system to make it ready for the challenges of the future.’

Business Development DIrector of Open Energi

Carbon savings

Sainsbury’s, United Utilities and Aggregate Industries have all piloted this ground-breaking technology with Open Energi, and will continue to roll it out across their operations nationally. Expected carbon savings for the country are 88,764 (almost 90,000) tonnes by 2020.

By choosing to play an active role in balancing supply and demand through consuming electricity flexibly, pioneers of the Living Grid will receive an additional revenue stream that they could plough back into making their business more energy efficient. By scaling down consumption at peak periods, they also avoid peak-time pricing – reducing their energy bills in the long term.

‘Sainsbury’s is proud to join our other partners in being a pioneer of the Living Grid and to address one of the UK’s most important sustainability issues. By joining forces with others to change how we use electricity, we’re saving extra carbon emissions for the UK and helping to make our electricity network more efficient, for the benefit of everyone in the UK.’

Head of Sustainability, Engineering, Energy & Environment at Sainsbury’s

The Living Grid network aims to recruit 20 organisations to create 200MW of flexible demand across the grid by 2020.

Click here to find out more about Forum for the Future.

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