Locogen, along with our ZUoS project partners, Scene Connect and Mentone Energy, have just completed the Sustainable Mobility and Low Carbon Innovation Accelerator programme run by Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc (MSIP).
We took part in the accelerator as part of the ZUoS consortium, a start-up focused on optimising energy consumption at household and community level.
The accelerator programme was a demanding and extremely valuable experience. It helped us distil the ZUoS business plan and value proposition by pitting us against scary-sounding industry expert ‘agitators’, who quizzed us on every aspect of the ZUoS technology and market strategy across eight gruelling sessions. The programme lasted 16 weeks and also offered helpful mentoring and coaching sessions. We then got to pitch ZUoS to an audience of potential investors, clients and partners in a final showcase event.
So, what is ZUoS and why are we so excited about it?
ZUoS addresses two of the most fundamental problems of moving towards a greener grid, where electricity is generated by renewables.
The National Grid was designed for a different, now outdated, model of large central generators, such as coal-fired power stations. These would transmit electricity outwards from the centre, along the transmission network, onto the local distribution networks and finally to the consumer.
The first problem is that renewable generation tends to work the other way round, generating electricity at what used to be the extremities of the grid (e.g. in the north and west, where it’s windy) and transmitting it towards population centres.
The second problem is that renewables also suffer from the classic intermittency problem. The more renewable energy we add to the grid, in our quest to meet net-zero targets, the less control we have over the generation – you can’t very well ask the wind to blow harder to increase output from wind turbines the way you could add more coal into the burner of a power plant.
If we are to have clean, green electricity from renewable sources, we need to solve both of these problems. But, at the moment, that means installing extremely costly grid reinforcements to cope with all the new renewable generation and rolling out acres of battery installations to smooth out the intermittency issues. Both of these solutions have their place but they are expensive and those costs are ultimately passed on to the consumer in the form of higher electricity bills.
If, as the government has stated, the transition to net zero should be inclusive and fair, we cannot allow that change to put more people into fuel poverty.
How ZUoS helps integrate renewables on the grid
ZUoS addresses these problems by flipping the traditional supply model described above on its head, so that electricity demand can be matched to the generation profile. The platform uses machine learning algorithms to carry out hyper-local weather forecasting and hence forecast renewable generation. It then sends control signals to interconnected devices such as heat pumps, batteries, and EV chargers, instructing them to shift loads to times when the grid has an abundance of cheap, green, locally produced energy.
To achieve this, the ZUoS platform has three key modules:
- A network modelling module that allows us to build ‘digital twins’ of local energy networks and run simulations based on future energy scenarios – helping us to understand how electricity is generated and consumed in the local network and predict the impact of adding more renewable generation and/or demand.
- A forecasting model that allows us to predict day ahead energy prices, grid carbon intensity, and hyper-local weather conditions – helping us to match the demand-side response through active network management.
- A data analysis and intelligent control module that allows us to monitor real-time network conditions against our predictions allowing us to ramp up or ramp down Distributed Energy Resources (DERS), matching local generation to demand.
In short, ZUoS overcomes grid constraints and allows more renewable generation to be added without costly upgrades. It further helps those generators by minimising revenue loss due to curtailments – by shifting local demand to those times when there is an abundance of cheap, green, locally produced energy. Consumers, meanwhile, benefit from having their consumption matched to the availability of that cheap, green electricity, democratising the energy industry by enabling access to emerging markets, maximising collective self-consumption and putting communities at the heart of a fair energy transition.
A £12 billion market
The Government’s white paper outlining the UK’s pathway to net zero estimated that the market for flexibility services was worth some £12 billion. ZUoS represents an innovative approach to addressing this market and we’re already working with a number of clients to test the technology in live deployments.
ZUoS can optimise self-consumption across a neighbourhood, a campus (NHS, University, etc), or a distinct group of individual properties (Local Authority, Housing Association, Community Energy Group members, etc). Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss how we can help your local energy network project.