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Top paper mill generates seven-digit revenue and supports grid stability through Demand Side Response

Partnering with Centrica Business Solutions, top paper manufacturer has unlocked a significant new revenue stream and is helping to rebalance the wider grid network, by leveraging flexibility in their energy needs through Demand Side Response.

of total ODFM volume delivered during first stress event


of flexibility provided to the Capacity Market


revenue expected over the five-year contract

A top paper manufacturer based in Norfolk operates the world’s largest and most powerful newsprint machine, which has the capacity to produce 400,000 metric tonnes of newsprint each year. They’re an intensive energy user, so minimising energy costs and increasing energy efficiency is critical to commercial success. This also means they have significant capacity to support the balancing of the grid network.

In 2017, Centrica Business Solutions secured a five-year contract to support their flexibility and market optimisation strategy at their site in Norfolk, and leverage underutilised flexibility in their energy needs, after the installation of a 40MW CHP system.

Harnessing artificial intelligence and IoT technology

Our solution is underpinned by smart, IoT technology, with our Energy Insights Solution continually monitoring energy usage at equipment and process level in real-time, using wireless sensor technology. This information is relayed to our cloud-based PowerRadar™ analysis platform, which provides the intelligence to identify efficiency and flexibility opportunities. The platform also captures data from meter points, BEMs systems and their CHP. This provides deep insights and complete visibility over energy usage from across the entire site, to inform and simplify decision making.

Our Energy Insights technology is fully integrated with an artificial intelligence-enabled Utility Optimisation Platform, FlexPond™. This Demand Side Response management and control system manages flexible power loads and captures real-time wholesale market opportunities. Each market optimisation decision is tracked and monitored by our 24-hour trading team.

Maximising efficiency and flexibility

Harnessing these connected, intelligent technologies, the paper mill can maximise efficiency and flexibility from its processes and their CHP. Our Energy Insights Solution identified significant flexibility across their operations, including significant capacity within their de-inking process. In the event of a Capacity Market system stress event, or peak time pricing, they can quickly reduce grid power demand from these energy intensive processes, while also running their CHP system at full capacity.

To ensure there is no negative impact on productivity or safety during Capacity Market system stress events, detailed operating guidelines have been agreed with them and robust safeguards are in place to ensure that flexibility aligns fully with operational needs. What’s more, their operators have complete visibility of the energy system and DSR activity through PowerRadar™, and they can override the automated system should operational conditions change. This means they can find the perfect balance between business requirements, Demand Side Response commitments and lower overall energy costs – enabling them to save money, generate income, reduce carbon emissions, improve productivity and secure energy resilience, all at the same time.

Supporting grid stability during COVID-19

In 2020, the National Grid opened the new Optional Downward Flexibility Management (ODFM) service. This was an emergency response to the unprecedented balancing challenges of record low energy demand and high renewable generation output, experienced during the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown. The paper producer had the processes and automated control, measurement and management systems in place to immediately participate in this new Demand Side Response market.

When the ODFM service opened, they were among the first to respond. They supplied 10% (30MW) of total ODFM volume during each stress event, which was the largest load by any participant. This flexibility was achieved by ramping up production to increase grid energy demand, while turning off their CHP system. This helped National Grid to avert potential power outages, and also reduced the need to curtail wind and solar supply during this period. It also meant they could increase their output, while reducing energy costs.

Leveraging best value from flexibility

By maximising flexibility opportunities through Demand Side Response, Centrica Business Solutions is helping the paper manufacturer to reduce their energy costs, generate revenue, and rebalance the wider energy network. They are providing substantial loads to help balance the network and accommodate higher volumes of intermittent renewables onto the grid. As the grid rapidly decarbonises and intermittent renewables form a greater share of the energy mix, they have demonstrated how businesses can support grid stability by shifting power loads and maximising the use of their own distributed energy assets.

In addition, by harnessing our Energy Insights technology to inform their flexibility strategy, they have gained deep insights into their energy consumption – right down to device and process level. This has informed their energy efficiency and carbon reduction strategy.

To date, the production of paper has provided a total of 50MW of flexibility to the Capacity Market, and it is forecasted that they will generate over £3 million through Demand Side Response over the five-year contract. In all, they have demonstrated how to leverage best value from flexibility, by maximising Demand Side Response and market optimisation opportunities.

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