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Unlocking the power of battery storage - how behind-the-meter assets can deliver resilience for local communities 

Summary

In this blog, we delve into the critical role of battery storage, specifically behind-the-meter (BTM) assets, in bolstering community resilience during power outages. We shine a spotlight on the Resilient Customer Response project, which seeks to harness these assets to minimise downtime, particularly for vulnerable customers, using an innovative islandable microgrid solution. Join us as we explore the significance of collaboration with stakeholders and effective communication in ensuring the success of this transformative endeavour.

If the power in your home cuts out tomorrow, how will that impact you? If you’re working from home your Microsoft Teams call will cut out and, depending on where you are based, you may quickly notice a lack of air conditioning. Then consider your neighbour down the road; if they’re vulnerable, they may have an additional dependency on electricity for communication or powering medical equipment.  

Recent power outages in the UK, triggered by extreme weather events like Storm Arwen, Desmond, and Ciara, have highlighted our reliance on electricity and the pressing need for better customer support during such disruptions. Storms aren’t the only extreme weather events to threaten our electricity supply. The current heat wave in Europe has seen some areas experiencing continued power cuts over multiple days due to electricity distribution cables overheating.  

To meet net zero by 2050, more behind-the-meter (BTM) assets (such as batteries in the homes) will be installed and we expect customers will become an ‘active partner in the delivery of net zero’ (NG ESO, Future Energy Scenarios 2023). These assets hold significant potential benefits for our energy system, but to truly capitalise on their benefits we must view the energy system as a whole and consider how we can stack a number of use cases together.  

The Ofgem-funded, Resilient Customer Response (RCR) project, led by Northern Powergrid, alongside LCP Delta and the University of Southampton, offers a promising solution to use BTM assets to deliver resilience. By tapping into the growing pool of BTM assets, such as batteries and Solar PV, this solution could enhance resilience during outages, not only for the owner of the asset but for other local customers, and prioritising vulnerable customers.  

Through exploring multiple technical solutions this first stage of the project has identified an islandable microgrid, powered by a grid-forming battery and BTM assets (as illustrated in the diagram below), as a solution to boost customer resilience during outages.  

LCP Delta's resilient customer response diagram
LCP Delta’s resilient customer response diagram

This innovative approach could potentially reduce customer minutes lost during outages by up to 59% by 2040, without resorting to environmentally harmful alternatives like diesel generators and delivering cost savings to networks.  

Of course, there are practical considerations to address to make this vision a reality. Whilst BTM asset numbers are increasing, it is unlikely they will be able to meet the entire electrical demand on the microgrid in the near future. Therefore, prioritising customer support during outages is crucial so that critical electrical loads, such as medical equipment for vulnerable customers, are provided with power. The next phase of the project will involve engagement with vulnerable customers to understand what electrical appliances are a priority or even critical.  

As we progress with the RCR project, there are several other aspects to consider in further detail, such as technical implementation, incentives for customers to adopt BTM assets, building trust between customers and the parties delivering the RCR scheme, and effective communication during outages. We look forward to collaborating with a range of stakeholders to shape the design of the innovative RCR solution, including, but not limited to: 

  • consumer representatives, 
  • energy suppliers, 
  • aggregators, 
  • microgrid developers, 
  • smart meter providers, and 
  • HEMS providers. 

If you would like to hear more about the project or be part of our stakeholder engagement group for the next stages of the RCR project, and input into an innovative solution to delivering resilience using low carbon technologies, please get in touch with alice.cheetham@lcp.com and tom.veli@lcp.com! 

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