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Demand response specialist Flexitricity has transformed the way Gateshead Council maximises value from its award-winning district energy scheme.

Here we discuss how the partnership has given Gateshead the power to maximise revenue, deliver benefits to the local community whilst reducing its environmental impact and balancing the UK electricity network.

Flexitricity’s partnership with Gateshead Energy Company was the introduction of the first behind-the-meter generation asset into the Balancing Mechanism.

The award-winning Gateshead District Energy Scheme is a low-carbon energy centre owned by Gateshead Council, and operated by Gateshead Energy Company, which provides low-cost heat and power to homes, organisations and businesses in the urban core of Gateshead.

In 2017, Gateshead Energy Company started working with Flexitricity to ensure business objectives were being met in the most energy efficient way possible.

As a publicly owned company, one of the most important objectives is to deliver schemes that provide benefits to the consumers within the local community whether that’s cost, carbon or environmental.

Gateshead District Energy Scheme incorporates elements that go beyond the traditional heat network, including a private wire network to supply high voltage electricity to customers, on-site heat storage and electricity storage via a large battery. It is the full integration of heat and power generation, and heat and power storage which sets the scheme apart from others.

Flexitricity’s role is to identify flexibility within the scheme’s site and make that flexibility available to National Grid at the right time and the right price, maximising revenue for the site.

The demand response pioneer operates a 24/7 control room from its Edinburgh headquarters, which is connected to Gateshead’s combined heat and power (CHP) engines via a remote outstation allowing Flexitricity to automatically stop and start the engines when it receives a signal from National Grid.

When public bodies like Gateshead Council can unlock revenue streams from working with Flexitricity, more energy schemes are able to become commercially viable in the future which is both good for business and good for the wider community.

Demand side response not only allows businesses and the public sector to avoid higher energy prices during times of peak demand, it also creates revenue for those organisations when they support the grid. The additional revenue can be invested back into the organisation or community to support growth and transform outcomes for users and customers.

Jim Gillon, Energy Services Manager at Gateshead Council, said that working with Flexitricity has brought benefits for both the local authority and the wider community.

He added: “The main challenges in the industry are around price volatility so we need ways to make our business plan more resilient and that’s where grid services come in, extra income streams diversifies the way we can generate revenue and that makes our business case much more stable.

“For us as a publicly owned energy company the process of working with Flexitricity has been seamless, every step of the way we’ve been supported. Their professionalism and reliability have been second to none.

“Price challenges within the energy market is an ongoing problem.  Working with Flexitricity has helped make our business plan stronger and by accessing extra income streams we have been able to diversify how we generate revenue and improve our business operations.

“If we can unlock additional revenue streams it makes more schemes viable and allows us to take more schemes through to construction and development which is good for us, it’s good for the community and it helps us pass on the benefits whether they are cost or carbon reduction to the wider community.”

About Flexitricity

Flexitricity’s role is to aggregate small generators and energy users into a ‘virtual power plant’ to make them collectively attractive to National Grid.

A wide range of major energy users and generators – from hospitals and universities to data centres and battery storage projects – have been able to benefit from demand side response. To date, Flexitricity has generated over £20million in direct revenue and savings for its customers.

Flexitricity’s founder, Dr Alastair Martin, first pioneered the concept back in 2004, changing the face of the UK energy system forever – making it greener, fairer and more efficient.

We need more flexibility in the energy network to help us support renewables and move to a low-carbon economy. Traditional generators like large coal and gas-fired power stations are being replaced by cleaner but intermittent renewables.

This is creating a huge opportunity for flexible energy users and generators to help National Grid meet the energy demands of the UK.

This industry is still in its infancy and Flexitricity will be a key player in its growth as the UK makes the transition to a low-carbon economy.