AGILE - Aggregators as diGital Intermediaries in Local Electricity markets: EPSRC/ESC Follow on Funding

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Civil Environmental and Geomatic Eng

Abstract

There has been a huge investment in micro generation from both customers and small scale providers, particularly in residential PV. Individual participation of these assets (offers to buy/sell/store energy) by micro/domestic scale agents in local, distributed electricity markets is currently a significant business and technological challenge in the UK's large-scale energy systems. A solution to enable energy trading between small scale generators and consumers that provides a compelling business case for storage and further penetration of embedded renewables is essential.

New aggregators, that is, new market players who are highly adaptable in terms of dynamically organising Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), are emerging to provide a retail service to distributed groups of customers who could not manage to act in the energy market on their own. These aggregators would deal with requirements of the wider energy system by utilising diverse and multiple low carbon and renewable technologies for generation and storage to provide local/micro-grid solutions. However, there are significant barriers to the emergence of such entities which can be overcome by adoption of contemporary digital technologies.

Our AGILE proposal sets out an integrated digital solution which can deliver suitable mechanisms to allow aggregators to offer the wider energy market bundled DER services of particular duration and value. To allow this, the preferences and descriptions of DERs, which form smart, micro contracts, will be articulated using an agent based model. Bids and offers will be enabled through integration with Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs) which will provide a trustworthy implementation of the scheme through a distributed database trusted by all agents. AGILE will examine the synergies between several permissioned, public, and hybrid DLTs as there are key questions about which type of ledger and related services is best for this elastic aggregator approach.

An optimisation model will recommend particular configurations of DERs satisfying several portfolio optimisation strategies (financial, environmental and social welfare). The validation of preferred configurations of DERs is an essential step to ensure the feasibility of DER incorporation and a digitised, stylised IEEE network will be integrated into the digital solution to achieve this. Validation using a range of realistic network topologies will be performed to evaluate the effect on aggregator business models.

Planned Impact

AGILE deliverables, findings and activities will have broad ranging direct and indirect impacts across social, environmental and economic domains. The importance of aggregators in the presence of high renewables penetration in a distributed energy network will directly aid the delivery of smart technologies and processes. Peer-to-peer systems, supported by emerging technological enablers (e.g. Blockchain, Smart Metering), offer new ways of conducting business. In the energy distribution field, they offer the potential for prosumers and consumers to trade directly locally, spurring investment in renewables and energy storage, therefore driving down costs.

Key beneficiaries from the AGILE research include innovators in energy retail and, through these, consumers will benefit through potential savings in unit energy costs with higher resolution measurement and settlement, providing the trust and transparency that many consumer champions believe is missing from the existing energy business model. ESCos (energy service companies) who facilitate groups of customer demand or energy prosumers who provide demand response services will equally have new shared information of the technical considerations to support novel energy delivery practices.

Additional beneficiaries will include Distribution Network Operators (DNO), small generation providers and rural communities served by networks with minimal capacity who will see benefits such as deferred infrastructure investment costs, increased return on investment and improved system resilience. The work will also validate the architecting of the envisaged Distribution System Operator (DSO) role, where closer management and operation of distributed areas of networks will be established at the lower voltage levels.
Our impact areas include:

Flexibility and environmental: This new form of aggregator presents an opportunity for consumers to offer flexibility to the system while reducing the amount of fossil fuel required to meet their electricity demands, resulting in less GHG emissions and aiding grid decarbonisation. This of direct benefit for the environment and society. The digital aggregator presents a further opportunity for demand side response (DSR) and enabling Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) to participate in meeting and levelling demand, domestic consumers, through smart contracts and locally available information. The aggregate of many micro pro-active participants in the energy system creates flexibility of a scale not previously envisaged, to enable widespread balancing of generation and supply, reducing dependence on imports, and reliance on fossil fuels and improving efficiency.
Competition and equity: Market participation of digital aggregators will also improve competitive pricing of energy services to consumer markets, particularly when multiple aggregators can operate with alternative business models, attracting customers to those aggregators who can best meet their priorities. Improved competition and equity through transparency helps regulation of the domestic energy market.

Resilience and Security: The ability to offer variable DERs which will be digitally and optimally balanced through resources across the network, strengthens energy system resilience and security of supply, minimising risk of blackouts on the grid to end customers, which are disruptive on a social level as well as effecting productivity at an industry/economic level.

Economic: Economic activities related to smart energy demand, data management and providing smartness to the network will create significant job opportunities over the next two decades, with likely continued expansion thereafter. These positions would result from: the adoption of smart grid technology; energy efficiency and DSR programs; integration of renewable energy resources; electricity storage; and electric vehicle charging support and optimisation. AGILE aligns with the UK Government's digital strategy.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have confirmed the need for aggregation of distributed energy resources (DERs) in order that collectively they may participate in energy markets.
The approaches we have developed facilitate the inclusive and diverse range of DERs, including electric vehicles, solar panels, and even micro hydrogen, which require consideration of a range of sizes and types of technologies, each of which can be specifically defined for a household.
We are beginning to demonstrate the ability to integrate digital technologies with legacy infrastructure (electricity grid) data, that has the potential to improve energy market performance by considering network constraints together with household energy needs, and energy market needs.
We are validating and feasibility checking proposed configurations of DERs against realistic network scenarios and power flow architectures.
We have looked at alternative Blockchain technologies (DLTs) which can record transactions related to smart contracts between households and aggregators.
We are starting to show the ability for market settlement of large volumes of micro energy services to provide the first scalable mechanism for transactional Demand Side Response services at the consumer end of the network.
Exploitation Route The outputs will contribute to discussions on how transparent pricing needs to be: not all DER owners should receive the same price for their service, since the value of DER assets may be different (based on urgency of the service, reliability, and location in the network). Reverse auction and locational marginal pricing (LMP) are possible mechanisms to vary flexibility prices paid to DER owners.

The randomness of DER owners' actions will create uncertainty for aggregators limiting the predictability of DER availability. Different types of DER owner contract could apply and could work back-to-back with distribution network operator penalties for non-performance. Some services may have higher tolerances for uncertainty than others: e.g. fast frequency response may have low tolerance, for instance, since it requires immediate response and is critical for system security.

Aggregators will need mechanisms to learn to give better or faster offers to the market, making the system more effective and efficient. AI can assist human decision making by automating smart contract production using data on past performance of the DER owner's assets. AI algorithms allow for a variety of objective functions based on multiple revenue (energy market) streams as well as other variables such as carbon emissions.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Transport

URL https://www.ucl.ac.uk/civil-environmental-geomatic-engineering/research-projects/2019/aug/agile
 
Description AGILE findings have been used with industry and commercial energy system providers to promote digital aggregation
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Organisation of AGILE first project workshop
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Title AGILE Agent based model of DER owners 
Description Given four agent characterisations, we have been able to model agents and quantify the certainty of electricity prosumption of each agent. When we join this quantification together with the 3-phase electricity network model (which represents a physical local grid) the digital aggregator combines knowledge to create an understanding of which agents provide the most value to the grid through their flexible DERs. The digital aggregator can target such agents with appropriate smart contracts to increase or decrease their power consumption, so that the local grid can operate within constraints and negotiate with different energy markets to offer bundled services. The result of the agent characterisation provides a model for the optimisation of the digital aggregator's DER portfolio. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Further development is required before public release and impact 
 
Title AGILE Electricity Network Model 
Description A 3-phase electricity network model to quantify the constraints that could occur on a real electricity network with different residential consumer (agent) electrical demands. The 3-phase electricity network model consists of two parts: firstly, a representation of a typical physical electricity network including grid supply points, distribution lines and phases, plus homes with different renewable distributed energy resources (DERs) such as electric vehicles (EV), solar/photo-voltaic (PV) panels, heat pumps, and battery storage. Each physical component is labelled with spatial (longitude and latitude) data as well as size data. Secondly, each component has data streams attached, representing supply and demand. In order to quantify the opportunities available from DERs to keep the physical network uncongested, we have modelled the effect of changing the times at which power is demanded or supplied by DERs (technically, this is called treating them as flexible assets). For testing, we have used a probabilistic approach which allows us to look at the results of using slightly different streams of supply and demand power flow to reflect different adoption levels of DERs and flexible loads (demands for electricity that can be adjusted when it is convenient for the network). 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The model is being integrated with other AGILE models and so has not yet had impact 
 
Description ELEXON 
Organisation Elexon
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution ESCos (energy service companies) who facilitate groups of customer demand or energy prosumers who provide demand response services will equally have new shared information of the technical considerations to support novel energy delivery practices.
Collaborator Contribution Participation of industrial partners: We will maintain and strengthen the relationship with industrial partners, encouraging them to promote our findings and methods to their networks, customers and industries. These extended networks will be invited to our dissemination events, and we will share with them our working papers tailored for a practitioner audience. Our partners, IBM and Electron, will host sector focused open workshops (see case for support). Government and regulation: We have good relationships with BEIS, National Grid and OFGEM and we will work with them to translate and implement our findings into practical policy briefs and regulation materials to encourage market development and adoption of digital, intelligent and automated technologies that have positive social, economic and environmental effects. Government partners have made commitments to attend our events and to help disseminate findings.
Impact ...
Start Year 2018
 
Description IBM 
Organisation IBM
Department IBM UK Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution ESCos (energy service companies) who facilitate groups of customer demand or energy prosumers who provide demand response services will equally have new shared information of the technical considerations to support novel energy delivery practices.
Collaborator Contribution Participation of industrial partners: We will maintain and strengthen the relationship with industrial partners, encouraging them to promote our findings and methods to their networks, customers and industries. These extended networks will be invited to our dissemination events, and we will share with them our working papers tailored for a practitioner audience. Our partners, IBM and Electron, will host sector focused open workshops (see case for support).
Impact ...
Start Year 2018
 
Description National Grid 
Organisation The National Grid Co plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution ESCos (energy service companies) who facilitate groups of customer demand or energy prosumers who provide demand response services will equally have new shared information of the technical considerations to support novel energy delivery practices.
Collaborator Contribution Participation of industrial partners: We will maintain and strengthen the relationship with industrial partners, encouraging them to promote our findings and methods to their networks, customers and industries. These extended networks will be invited to our dissemination events, and we will share with them our working papers tailored for a practitioner audience. Our partners, IBM and Electron, will host sector focused open workshops (see case for support). Government and regulation: We have good relationships with BEIS, National Grid and OFGEM and we will work with them to translate and implement our findings into practical policy briefs and regulation materials to encourage market development and adoption of digital, intelligent and automated technologies that have positive social, economic and environmental effects. Government partners have made commitments to attend our events and to help disseminate findings.
Impact ...
Start Year 2018
 
Description Ofgem 
Organisation Ofgem Office of Gas and Electricity Markets
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution ESCos (energy service companies) who facilitate groups of customer demand or energy prosumers who provide demand response services will equally have new shared information of the technical considerations to support novel energy delivery practices.
Collaborator Contribution £1500.00 towards Advisory Board and Workshops Government and regulation: We have good relationships with BEIS, National Grid and OFGEM and we will work with them to translate and implement our findings into practical policy briefs and regulation materials to encourage market development and adoption of digital, intelligent and automated technologies that have positive social, economic and environmental effects. Government partners have made commitments to attend our events and to help disseminate findings. Advisory board: We will encourage our advisory board to make introductions, promote our findings, algorithms and models, and generally raise the profile of AGILE work. A dialogue will be maintained with our DNO, technology and energy partners through advisory board meetings throughout the project so that we are updated with the issues, constraints and questions that concern them and can ensure the project deliverables are of value to them and will have impact. We will urge on our advisory board to help us spread impact and engagement with others.
Impact ...
Start Year 2018
 
Description Scottish Power UK 
Organisation Scottish Power Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution ESCos (energy service companies) who facilitate groups of customer demand or energy prosumers who provide demand response services will equally have new shared information of the technical considerations to support novel energy delivery practices.
Collaborator Contribution Participation of industrial partners: We will maintain and strengthen the relationship with industrial partners, encouraging them to promote our findings and methods to their networks, customers and industries. These extended networks will be invited to our dissemination events, and we will share with them our working papers tailored for a practitioner audience. Our partners, IBM and Electron, will host sector focused open workshops (see case for support).
Impact ...
Start Year 2018
 
Description UK Power Networks 
Organisation UK Power Networks
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution ESCos (energy service companies) who facilitate groups of customer demand or energy prosumers who provide demand response services will equally have new shared information of the technical considerations to support novel energy delivery practices.
Collaborator Contribution Participation of industrial partners: We will maintain and strengthen the relationship with industrial partners, encouraging them to promote our findings and methods to their networks, customers and industries. These extended networks will be invited to our dissemination events, and we will share with them our working papers tailored for a practitioner audience. Our partners, IBM and Electron, will host sector focused open workshops (see case for support). Government and regulation: We have good relationships with BEIS, National Grid and OFGEM and we will work with them to translate and implement our findings into practical policy briefs and regulation materials to encourage market development and adoption of digital, intelligent and automated technologies that have positive social, economic and environmental effects. Government partners have made commitments to attend our events and to help disseminate findings.
Impact ...
Start Year 2018
 
Description AGILE Mid-Term Workshop 12/06/2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Join us for this AGILE workshop to discuss three fundamental themes distributed energy resources
(DER) digital aggregation:
How much transparency is needed?
How will DER owners behave?
Who has control over DER assets?
How is non-performance of DER owners addressed and managed?
What impacts will digital aggregation have on society and norms?
How effective can AI and underlying algorithms be for digital aggregation?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description All-Energy, 15-16 May 2019 SEC, Glasgow 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meet, network and promote project to the renewable power industry from across the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description ClimateXChange, CESI Workshop: Interdisciplinary research for energy systems integration 
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 ClimateXChange, CESI Workshop: Interdisciplinary research for energy systems integration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Energy Networks Association, Energy network innovation strategies: Stakeholder engagement workshop. 16th January 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Energy Networks Association, Energy network innovation strategies: Stakeholder engagement workshop. 16th January 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Low Carbon Networks and Innovation Conference 2019, 30-31 October, SEC, Glasgow 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Low Carbon Networks and Innovation Conference 2019, 30-31 October, SEC, Glasgow
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Off Grid Islands in Scotland the EU Clean Islands Programme Workshop, 6th December, Glasgow, The Studio, Glasgow 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Off Grid Islands in Scotland the EU Clean Islands Programme Workshop, 6th December, Glasgow, The Studio, Glasgow
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Revolutionizing Energy Systems: AI and Blockchain 30 Jan 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The applications of block chain/AI and their implementation challenges for revolutionising energy systems were reviewed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/events/events-2020/revolutionizing-energy-systems
 
Description The Lighthouse Glasgow Scottish Government Energy Vision Summit, 13th February, 200 SVS, Glasgow 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Lighthouse Glasgow Scottish Government Energy Vision Summit, 13th February, 200 SVS, Glasgow
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020