FlexTECC: Flexible Timing of Energy Consumption in Communities

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Architecture, Building and Civil Eng

Abstract

To meet national greenhouse gas emissions targets and ensure our energy security, our energy system needs to undergo a radical transformation. We need to enhance the energy efficiency of the buildings stock, invent new methods to secure low carbon power, and develop ways of providing low carbon heat. Further, incorporating demand flexibility, where homes and workplaces modify their consumption at opportune moments, can reduce overall energy demand, increase the efficiency of grid operations, minimise the use of high carbon generators and increase the uptake of renewable energy sources. The optimal use of demand response can contribute 40 billion pounds in efficiency savings to the electricity grid. This potential has yet to be achieved, however, as it requires a re-envisioning of the energy system and new developments in building system intelligence.

This innovation fellowship aims to jump start this transformation by developing new techniques to enable buildings to operate efficiently and provide services to the broader energy system. The FlexTECC control strategy will use a decentralised model predictive control framework to imbue buildings with the capability to minimise their own energy consumption but also offer their flexibility to an aggregator that can maximise the collective revenue. The decentralised approach is needed to minimise the problem complexity, provide autonomy to individual buildings and to enable a liberalised flexibility market. To realise the FlexTECC control strategy, three challenges must be overcome.

The first is the challenge of perspective. Small energy consumers, such as homes and work places, are not perceived as capable of providing balancing services to the grid, due to their small size. Therefore control algorithms to supervise the collective actions of building energy systems under this paradigm do not exist, and need to be developed. The second challenge is that of implementation. The easiest pathway to ensure widespread use of the FlexTECC strategy is to develop its intelligence with existing hardware and communication protocols. Through collaboration with a nationally recognised building controls company, the FlexTECC controller architecture will be developed and experimentally validated using a large commercially operated building and two of the Loughborough University test homes. The third challenge is that of market potential. Different communities will result in different aggregations of building demands and therefore different flexibility offerings. Further, those offerings will garner different revenue potential depending on which market or markets are leveraged. To overcome this challenge a series of simulation studies will be undertaken to understand the revenue potential from different types of communities participating in various energy markets.

The three-year fellowship will result in a tested and experimentally validated control algorithm that can minimise the energy consumption of an individual building but also provide energy services to the grid. Further, the market potential will also be assessed, providing knowledge to future aggregators on how to select buildings and energy markets that will maximise the overall revenue. The new field of decentralised control of urban energy systems, required to achieve these aims, will be brought to the forefront through an academic summit. Regulatory hurdles preventing the full implementation of flexible systems will be highlighted through an industry focused workshop on Flexible Cities. This robust research and engagement plan will lead to high impact research outcomes and begin the dynamic transformation of our energy system.

Planned Impact

The FlexTECC control scheme will allow homes and workplaces to minimise their energy consumption as well as provide energy services to the grid. The development and use of intelligent autonomous controllers will unlock significant demand response potential by enable buildings to proactively participate in energy markets. The proposed research will have a large impact on the entire electricity chain from end user to regulator. Active market participation by small energy consumers does not yet exist therefore successful implementation and demonstration of such a technology will open doors for new technologies, new services, and new regulations.

The most immediate beneficiary of the Fellowship outcomes will be TREND Controls. The FlexTECC control strategy will be implemented, tested, and experimentally validated using their current building energy management systems (BMS) and controllers. This will allow them to increase their technical offerings to include flexibility services. These benefits extend to other BMS and smart home thermostat manufacturers. The additional revenue gained from providing flexibility services will reduce the payback time for the device itself increasing the controller's value proposition. With lower costs, the systems will be attractive to more customers increasing the sales of these products.

With the flexibility of homes and workplaces now unlocked, there will be a need for a flexibility broker, a role currently taken up by energy service providers (ESCO). While the work undergone for the FlexTECC fellowship will demonstrate the ability of small energy consumers to provide services to the grid, there are still many market structures under which this flexibility can be exploited. Aggregators, most often ESCOs, will still need to handle the arrangements with the network operator and aid in developing competitive bids. As each energy consumer will be able to contribute their flexibility to any ESCO, a competitive market will grow to manage flexibility assets.

Lastly the end user of the energy services will benefit as well. The FlexTECC control strategy will directly enable small energy consumers to save on their energy bills and to actively participate in the energy market. By enabling the consumer to sell their flexibility, the consumer has more control over how their energy assets are being used. Further, all electricity consumers will benefit from enabling small energy consumers to actively provide demand response. Studies have shown that if the flexibility potential of workplaces and homes is used to provided services to the grid, even with the payments made to incentivise participation, billions of pounds could be saved whilst meeting climate change targets. Therefore, the cost of electricity and the carbon intensity of electricity will reduce for every electricity consumer.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description To date the work has developed a decentralised model predictive control (MPC) framework and implemented the approach in a simulation environment. Through this work, some key findings have been made that relate to the MPC structure itself and the innate ability of the building fabric and electrified heating systems to provide flexibility services.
The first key finding is that a simplified time-series modelling approach can be used to identify the underlying model used in the MPC approach. Using simplified measurements and a co-simulation strategy, the models were shown to perform well in enabling individual buildings to provide sustained demand reductions. This simplified time-series model also enables the MPC to quickly compute a solution to determine the best operational strategies for the building system operation. This means that a data-driven approach to the development of MPC strategies for buildings is achievable. The ongoing steps with this work are to determine the how well this approach will work in real buildings with various disturbances.
Secondly through the simulation studies, the underlying nature of the flexibility ability of buildings has been revealed. To provide flexibility with the building fabric and electrified heating systems whilst maintaining temperature within comfort bounds, the optimal solution is to preheat the buildings to the maximum comfort limit and then reduce the heating provided during that demand response period i.e. the time when flexibility is being requested. The simulation studies show that the winter and morning time periods are not favourable to the delivery of flexibility services due to the cold external weather conditions and lack of solar gains. The best time for the delivery of flexibility services is during the spring and autumn time periods where reductions of up to 30% of aggregate demand can be achieved for 1 hour. The best buildings to deliver this flexibility are those with a high thermal mass.
A third key finding from the simulations is the change in performance due to the level of centralisation of the control strategy. This identifies the level of coordination between each of the buildings in providing this demand reduction. The analysis shows that naïve decentralisation in which every building is independently asked to provide a demand reduction leads to adverse effects as compared with the centralised approaches. First, it can lead to significantly higher pre-peak heating demands as every building is asked to increase demand at the same time. Second, it can lead to more energy consumed over notice and demand reduction period. Lastly, it limits the ability to achieve the maximum demand reductions due to not maximising the benefits of the high thermal mass buildings. Therefore, there is a trade-off in the ability to deliver flexibility services with the level of coordination and knowledge sharing between the buildings.
Exploitation Route The FlexTECC fellowship has developed a model predictive control approach that can be used in both residences and commercial buildings. The knowledge from these findings can be used by the project partners, TREND, and by developers of smart home thermostats. Further the findings here show the benefits of coordination can be substantial meaning that flexibility aggregators can use this information to determine how best to harness the embedding flexibility in electrified building energy systems.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Environment

 
Description Lawrence Berkeley Labs Load Flexibility Technical Advisory Group
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description FlexTECC Collaborators 
Organisation Trend Control Systems Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The main aim of the FlexTECC fellowship is to demonstrate the ability to allow electrically heated and cooled buildings to work together to provide sustained demand reduction that can be used by the electricity grid to aid in the balancing of intermittent renewable resources. My teams contribution to the project is the development the theoretical framework from which this sustained demand reduction can be made. We will also test this new framework in virtual and physical demonstrations using computational resources at Loughborough as well as the campus' test homes.
Collaborator Contribution Trend Control Systems Ltd is a leading provider of building management systems for commercial buildings. They are highly skilled in the development of control hardware and its implementation. They will contribute their knowledge to aid in enabling the theoretical control strategy to be enabled in practice. Jake Woodhouse is an angel investor knowledgeable in the deployment of new businesses. Given an aim of the Innovation Fellowship is to develop commercialisation opportunities, Jake is contributing his time in an advisory capacity to guide the development of the Innovation Fellowship with an eye towards development of the customer experience and potential distribution strategy.
Impact Currently the outcomes have resulted in a few conference publications made from the academic side of the collaboration.
Start Year 2018
 
Description ASHRAE Regional Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A presentation of the energy flexibility research resulting from the project at its current stage. The presentation resulted in discussion with other researchers increasing the reputation and network in the field of energy flexible buildings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://crc2018.ashrae.uk/
 
Description Argyris MARUF Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Argyris attended the MARmara Urban Forum (MARUF ) held in Istanbul, Turkey between the 1-3 October 2019. MARUF is a biennial international urban forum to be organized by Marmara Municipalities Union, gathering professionals from cities, national, regional and local governments, private sector, NGOs, universities and other stakeholders that play a crucial role in the design, transformation and governance of cities with the aim of sharing knowledge, experience and of creating new opportunities. Argyris gave a 20 minutes presentation during the session "Sustainable urban infrastructure for liveable cities", focusing on the Urban Building Energy Modelling and concentrating on how buildings can play a crucial role as part of the urban infrastructure through demand side response. During his presence, Argyris met with representatives of private companies and consultancies (AvantGarde Energy, UNICITI, Joseph Hardy design and heritage) as well as local municipalities and universities (ITU, Sehir, Yildiz, EPFL), building up relationships and networks for future collaborations on research and workshops
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.marmaraurbanforum.org/s/argyris-oraiopoulos
 
Description Cornell Systems Engineering Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I gave a research talk about the initial FlexTECC simulation outcomes to Academics and PhD students in the Cornell Systems Engineering Seminar Series. The aim was to discuss the application of systems engineering techniques to the building energy domain.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://events.cornell.edu/event/ezras_round_table_systems_seminar_bianca_howard_loughborough_univer...
 
Description IEA Annex 67 Energy Flexible Buildings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The aim of the Annex is to increase knowledge on and demonstrate the Energy Flexibility buildings can provide for the energy grids, and to identify critical aspects and possible solutions to manage this Energy Flexibility. In-depth knowledge of the Energy Flexibility that buildings may provide is important for the design of future Smart Energy systems and buildings. The knowledge is, however, not only important for the utilities it is also necessary for companies when developing business cases for products and services supporting the roll out of Smart Energy networks. Furthermore, it is important information for policy makers and government entities involved in the shaping of future energy systems.

The IEA Annex 67 holds a series of workshops where academic and industry experts contribute to the development of a document outlining the current state of the art in the field. This document is due for production in 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.annex67.org/
 
Description IEA Annex 82 Energy Flexible Buildings Towards Resilient Low Carbon Energy Systems 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Participated in the development of the new International Energy Association Energy and Buildings Programme Annex 82 on Energy Flexible Buildings Towards Resilient Low Carbon Energy Systems. I attended the development workshop and contributed topic ideas to the development of the this expert working group which includes academics, industry practitioners, and businesses. This expert working group will continue from 2020 to 2023 with the aim to address the following key areas/challenges in energy flexibility and resilience: Scaling from single buildings to clusters of buildings, Flexibility and resilience in a multi carrier energy system, Multi stakeholders acceptance/engagements, and Business models development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.iea-ebc.org/projects/project?AnnexID=82
 
Description NREL Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr. Howard gave a seminar to practitioners at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory. I presented the initial findings from the FlexTECC project around the simulated behaviour of using model predictive control for the delivery of flexibility. I also had one to one discussions with the practitioners about flexibility, urban energy modelling and net zero buildings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Powerswarm Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I presented research at the Power Swarm meeting. Power swarm is a group of energy experts that believes the UK's transition could benefit from the whole energy systems community moving closer together. The monthly meetings bring together industry practitioners, policy makers, and academics to discuss the current challenges that need addressing. I spoke about the initial results of the FlexTECC outcomes to the group and received interesting questions about the cost of flexibility. There was also follow up interest in using the results of the analysis in future flexibility analysis.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://powerswarm.co.uk/past-meetings/
 
Description uSIM Conference Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The research was presented to a group of practitioners and academics in urban energy modelling. The presentation sparked discussions increasing the reputation and network in the field.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://usim18.org.uk/