Innovation & Disruption At The Grid’s Edge

On 19 June 2018 Pixie Energy Cornwall Insight hosted an event in central London centred on Innovation and Disruption at the Grid’s Edge. The grid’s edge – broadly defined as the interface between the electric distribution network and customers’ premises – is an evolving and vital part of the electric power sector, whose transformation will have far-reaching implications for our future energy system.

The title of the event is based on Menlo Energy Economics Founder and President Fereidoon Sioshansi’s new book Innovation and Disruption at the Grid’s Edge – How distributed energy resources are disrupting the utility business model, which identifies the most important drivers of change at the grid’s edge as follows:

  • Rapid uptake of distributed energy resources (DERs)
  • Advances in energy storage and management
  • Developments in platforms that allow aggregated generation and peer-to-peer trading between participants

The book also addresses the challenges facing regulators who must strike a balance between promoting innovation while sustaining the necessary conditions for established players and newcomers.

The event also featured a presentation by Sioshansi, who discussed customer stratification i.e. their roles as consumers, prosumers, prosumagers (someone who is a producer, consumer and who has made additional investment in distributed storage), and nonsumers.

The rise of prosumangers, in particular, could create notable opportunities for aggregators, who will be able to optimise behind-the-meter assets. Some prosumagers could even become net exporters to the grid, the operators of which will increasingly be required to provide balancing services, voltage and frequency support and service reliability.

Addressing other issues on the grid’s edge, Nigel Cornwall focused on community energy investment in a post-subsidy world. Community and local energy (CALE) groups can, in the future, become leading examples of prosumagers whose business models can rely heavily on integrating innovative technologies and storage with DERs, and utilisation of aggregation platforms such as blockchain.

Cornwall Insight CEO Gareth Miller addressed the issue of decarbonisation in the heat and transport sectors. The decarbonisation of heat, which will likely be dependent on the continued uptake of DERs, will also rely on grid’s edge transformation, with potential dependency on electricity storage and innovative demand-side management and back-up solutions. Likewise, the electrification of transport will see great change in the way consumers interact with the grid, altering electricity consumption patterns, and adopting systems such as vehicle-to-grid (V2G).

The event also featured presentations by industry specialists and academics, several of whom have contributed to Sioshansi’s book. They will included Malcolm Keay, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, who discussed the disconnection between the retail and wholesale energy markets; and David Shipworth, Professor of Energy and the Built Environment at the UCL Energy Institute, who discussed peer-to-peer trading.