Introduction

This toolkit is designed to share our learnings with other community energy organisations who might want to become involved with supporting a local flexibility service. We realise that you might choose to go about it differently, as flexibility as an area of work is still in its exploratory phase. Therefore, the Toolkit is not meant to prescribe how you go about it. Instead, it is meant to provide tools and advice based on our experience that might help you develop a flexibility service and prevent you from having to ‘reinvent the wheel’.

The toolkit format enables you to drill down into detail on what you are most interested in.

Why did BWCE choose to develop a flexibility project?

At BWCE we realised the importance not only of generating renewable energy, but helping to ensure consumers use energy when there is a lot of renewable energy on the grid. In this way we are helping people be more flexible about when they use power. We see a role for community energy organisations in helping to match renewable energy generation with electricity demand, and have been looking at how to do this through a project called Flex Community™

What is Flex Community™ ?

Flex Community™ brings together all those involved with supplying and using electricity including householders, energy equipment providers, installers and grid operators (in our case Western Power Distribution – WPD). It is a complex, interconnected network that can be likened to an ecosystem; we call it an ‘energy ecosystem’.

Flex Community™ is exploring how ‘flexible’ households can be around the times they use electricity so we can work out how best to match household demand to renewable supply. This involves shifting the electricity demand patterns of a community of householders so small degrees of flexibility from individual householders can add up to make a collective impact.

Flex Community™ enables householders to:

  • Install smart devices to enable existing energy technologies (e.g. heat pump, electric vehicle charger, immersion heater) provide flexibility (i.e. respond to electricity grid requests to shift the electricity demand to different times of the day when required).
  • Install a new energy technology and associated smart device to enable them to provide flexibility.

Flex Community™ was developed with the support of Next Generation funding from Power to Change.

What is flexibility and why should community energy organisations get involved in delivering it?

“Flexibility is the ability to modify energy consumption patterns in response to an external signal (such as a change in price, or a message) to provide a service with the energy system”

See OFGEM for more information.

As a community energy organisation the predominant focus of BWCE has been renewable energy generation. However, it became increasingly clear that the increase in renewables required for the energy transition would only come about through major changes in the way we consume energy. This includes both how much energy we consume and when we consume it. We need to ensure e energy demand better matches when decentralised and intermittent renewables are ‘on the grid’. For more details on this click on the ‘Key Messages‘ below.

Whilst we continue in our mission to install new renewables we are now committed to:

  • Matching energy demand with energy generation.
  • Relating to people as energy consumers in addition to investors and supporters of generating projects.
  • Generating a closer link in people’s minds between energy supply and demand.

Learning from your flexibility project

Domestic demand flexibility is a relatively new area of working and we learned a lot in the course of our Next Generation funded project.  Our Learning Strategy set out what we wanted to learn and how we would go about it. We feel that it is important for any community energy organisation developing a flexibility project to write a learning strategy at the outset.

Flex Community™ Learning Strategy

How to navigate the toolkit

The following links will take you information on the different elements of Flex Community™ and what we learned from our experience of developing and implementing it. The diagram gives an overview of the toolkit and the links below it will take you to the various sections.

Which partners were involved in Flex Community™ ?

In order to run a flexibility project you will need to involve a mix of people and organisations. We set out the key participants and their roles based on our experience of Flex Community™ . These include:

  • The community energy organisation
  • The digital technology provider
  • The householders
  • The installers
  • The Distribution System Operator.

The Partners

What technology was used in Flex Community™ ?

We run through the different technologies we used in Flex Community™ and provide details of how we used them. These include:

  • The artificial intelligence platform
  • The smart energy devices
  • The Flex Community app.

The Technology

How did we explain the concept of flexibility and why it is needed?

A selection of messages we used to explain the background and concept of Flex Community™ together with examples of how we conveyed these messages.

Key Messages

What tools did we use to reach people and get them involved?

A series of ‘tools’ we used to publicise Flex Community™ , inform people what it was all about and bring them on board.

Engagement Tools

What is the Flex Community™ Portal and what is it used for?

Developed by Stemy Energy in collaboration with BWCE as the website which enables householders and installers to join and participate in Flex Community™ .

the portal

What steps did householders take on their journey to flexibility?

We set out the different steps householders go through in order to install smart energy devices and/or energy technologies and then offer flexibility. In Flex Community™ this ‘journey to flexibility’ is made possible by the use of the online Flex Community™ Portal.

Customer Journey