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Cornwall flexible energy trials prove success

Centrica completes the Cornwall Local Energy Market (LEM), the UK’s largest trial of energy flexibility, which saw over 200 homes and businesses trading stored renewable electricity.

Publish date: 6th November 2020

Electric vehicles, smart hot water tanks and battery storage are key to unlocking the Government’s wind power ambitions, by enabling home and business owners to trade electricity providing balance to the electricity grid, according to a report by Centrica. 

Such inter-trading of electricity is known as flexibility and the energy company has concluded the UK’s biggest trial of its potential in over 200 homes and businesses in Cornwall. Over three years, the £16.7 million Cornwall Local Energy Market saw 310MWh of power traded successfully, with greenhouse gas savings of nearly 10,000 tonnes a year as a result.  

In simple terms, flexibility means paying businesses and homes to increase, decrease or shift the times that they use or produce power in response to the needs of the grid. It is essential if the UK is to meet net zero goals and can help balance the peaks and troughs that come with low carbon sources of energy such as solar power and offshore wind.

Smarter energy means greener energy and cheaper bills, which is why this successful trial in Cornwall is such good news. With even more renewable electricity on the way, projects like this will be crucial as we work towards net zero emissions by 2050.”
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP Energy Minister

“Because solar and wind are dependent on the weather, sometimes they produce too much power for the grid to accommodate, and sometimes too little to meet demand,” said Jorge Pikunic, Managing Director of Centrica Business Solutions. “This could lead to assets being switched off, which is expensive and inefficient; and in extreme cases power cuts.

“Flexibility offers an alternative, more cost-effective way of tackling these constraints and gives consumers a real stake in managing the energy system. At a national level, the system is managed using flexible demand, battery storage and flexible generation, however, it is becoming increasingly important to manage network constraints at a local level too.

“The trial in Cornwall has proved that homes and small businesses can play a role, alongside larger industry, in market-based procurement of flexibility - a genuinely new tool in our low-carbon energy system toolbox.”