Building a virtual energy market in Cornwall

Close-up of solar panels on a red-tiled roof with a cloudy blue sky in the background

Hive Honeycomb platform builds on the same technology that connected over 200 homes and businesses to build the innovative Cornwall Local Energy Market (LEM).

The £16.7 million project is the largest trial of energy flexibility so far in the UK. It’s seen 310MWh of power traded over three years – and it’s achieved greenhouse gas savings of nearly 10,000 tonnes per year.

At the start of the trial, homes and businesses were given new tech including solar panels and wall-mounted battery storage. The batteries were aggregated using software now incorporated into Honeycomb platform, with the combined storage capacity creating a Virtual Power Plant that could trade autonomously with the grid operators.

As well as paving the way for a smarter, greener, more flexible grid, the project also delivered very real benefits to participants. Some businesses were able to make 35% savings on energy costs by aligning their operations to the best times for grid capacity.

The technology behind the project

The success of the project was built on our pioneering auction-based marketplace that matches buyers and sellers of energy on an easy-to-use tech platform.

The Cornwall LEM was the first time anywhere in the world that a local Distribution System Operator (Western Power Distribution) and the Transmission System Operator (National Grid ESO) were able to procure flexibility simultaneously – a crucial step towards a smarter, more flexible grid that’s better able to manage renewable energy.

What is energy flexibility?

In simple terms, energy 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 also means harnessing the storage capacity of the country’s growing number of electric vehicles, smart hot water tanks and home batteries – and enabling the trading of energy stored by consumers back to the grid.

Renewable sources of energy inevitably create peaks and troughs in supply as weather conditions change. But allowing homes and businesses to trade their stored energy can help to balance the grid – and play a key role in reaching the UK’s net zero goals.

In fact, in order to accommodate the UK government’s plans to power every home with offshore wind, as much as 25TWh of electricity will need to be traded flexibly every year. That’s almost double the annual electricity demand of Wales.

What the experts say

“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.”

Jorge Pikunic – Managing Director, Centrica Business Solutions

“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.”

Kwasi Kwarteng – Energy Minister

“The electrification of heating and transport will greatly increase demand at peak times and flexibility will be absolutely vital to cope with this. The insights from projects like this alongside the right policy framework from government will help us to deliver flexibility at the large scale needed.”

Emma Pinchbeck – Chief Executive, Energy UK

If you'd like to find out more about this project – or about how Hive Honeycomb can help you – get in touch to speak with one of our experts.

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Hive launched in 2013 and is one of the top smart thermostat providers in the UK. With 2.1 million customers and counting, it is part of British Gas, one of Britain’s leading suppliers of energy and services. The range of Hive products and services are designed to work together, to offer affordable, easy to use solutions and make a difference in people’s lives.

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