This project will develop and test a digital platform that will allow community organisations and citizens to club together to use energy more flexibly (for example, by avoiding peak times or supplying energy to the grid), and demonstrate how an income can be gained from engaging in energy flexibility markets.
Community Energy Scotland (CES) has been working with local community groups across Scotland over the last 10 years, supporting them to set up community-owned renewable energy generation assets. We have facilitated over 500 community projects and helped communities set up 37MW of community-owned generation assets, which are now bringing substantial funds into communities around Scotland. With the coming changes to the energy system, there are new opportunities for communities to harness benefits, and we have been running smart local energy systems pilot projects with a few communities to test how this can be done.
Carbon Coop are a group of Greater Manchester residents who believe in working together to reduce costs through bulk purchase and improve their homes to 2050 standards. Established in 2008, they’ve begun to carry out changes in their houses and communities, and teamed up with housing specialists while also developing digital options for collaboration and data management.
South Seeds is a community organisation based in the South Central area of Glasgow working in partnership with local residents and organisations to help improve the area and support residents to lead more sustainable lives. This includes tackling fuel poverty through providing home energy advice and looking at collaborative approaches to achieving low carbon affordable heating and transport.
The ECAS platform we plan to develop and demonstrate aims to address fuel poverty in Scotland by bringing an additional option to the table, alongside current projects improving energy efficiency or encouraging switching suppliers. For many, switching supplier is not easy and for citizens living in shared buildings or on low incomes, installing renewable energy such as solar panels is complicated and expensive.
Soon the UK will have a ‘smarter, more localised’ energy system where energy supply and demand will need to match more closely at the local level rather than being managed nationally. This means that in future, the company managing the local electricity grid will be paying consumers and energy generators to be ‘flexible’ about their energy use – i.e. switching off their energy use at peak times, moving their energy use to a time of the day when there is lots of energy supply or providing energy supply to the grid at peak demand times. However, they would not do it by linking with each individual household or generator – they will be interested in large ‘lumps’ or ‘aggregated’ loads to make it manageable for them.
This project will develop and test a digital platform that will help community members and local organisations sign up to providing this kind of energy ‘flexibility’ so that it can be ‘aggregated’ or added up and provided to the electricity grid managing company. We will be working with South Seeds and local participants in Glasgow’s southside to demonstrate this, though we won’t be doing it for real as this energy flexibility market is not yet developed for households and small scale users.
ShareLab funding provides us an opportunity to innovate and try this idea out with a local community, and ShareLab’s interest in and knowledge about effective use of digital platforms for social impact will be a real help as well.
We hope that this project will provide us with vital learning to help develop the Energy Community Aggregator Service (ECAS) which Community Energy Scotland, Carbon Co-op and Regen SW have been scoping up. This is an energy flexibility aggregation service based on a trusted, citizen-owned and controlled locally focused model, operating on a regional scale and with a national reach. ECAS would recruit regional community-based organisations (across Scotland and the UK) to act as enablers helping local residents gain the financial value of offering flexible electricity loads. The community organisations would also secure an income from their enabling role.
By Gillian Wilson, Head of Development, Community Energy Scotland