National Grid has a licence obligation to control system frequency within the limits specified in the ‘Electricity Supply Regulations’; +/-1% of the nominal frequency of 50.00Hz. System frequency is determined and controlled by the real time balance between system demand and total generation.
Historically, electricity generation has flexed to meet demand, in order to maintain frequency within the operational limits. However, this dynamic is likely to change in the future, as a result of both changing supply and demand, bringing with it new challenges for system operability.
Over coming decades, intermittent renewable generation will account for a greater proportion of the UK’s electricity supply. For both commercial and technical factors, this type of generation is less flexible than traditional coal and gas generation and therefore less able to respond to frequency imbalances. In addition, new demand loads from electric vehicles and heat pumps are expected to change the demand profile. As uptake increases, these new loads not only have the potential to increase total annual electricity demand but also to increase demand over peak if no action is taken. Without appropriate measures in place, these loads could be inflexible; therefore the way in which the electricity system is balanced will need to change in order to remain economic, efficient and coordinated.
It may be possible to utilise increased demand loads from electric vehicles, heat pumps and other technologies in an innovative way to deliver cost effective solutions. One such option is frequency responsive technologies, capable of monitoring system frequency and temporarily adjusting their energy consumption accordingly. Such innovative solutions are relatively unexplored at present and little is known about their technical and commercial viability. Enhancing our understanding of the viability of this service, and of the challenges and opportunities surrounding it, would provide new learning that would allow industry bodies to realise a service that has the potential to cost-effectively address the challenges of transitioning to a low carbon economy.
At present National Grid does not contract, directly or indirectly, with domestic customers. However, with new demand sources likely to increase total annual and total peak power demand over coming decades, there is a great deal of potential for demand side response to provide an effective balancing tool. Therefore, the outputs of this project will also promote discussions of National Grid’s involvement in ‘beyond the meter’ activities.
To complete a desktop study to investigate the potential to use system frequency to control the power consumption of electric vehicles and heat pumps, and explore the value of making these technologies frequency sensitive, through testing the associated commercial, technical and logistical challenges.