Ecotricity from Great Britain is the first green electricity company providing green energy solutions since 1996. For their future projects, the Stroud based company turned to Next Kraftwerke for setting up a Virtual Power Plant based on its software-as-a-solution NEMOCS. We asked Mark Meyrick, Head of Trading and Smart Grids at Ecotricity, and Tobias Weghorn, NEMOCS product specialist at Next Kraftwerke, about the first steps in setting up a VPP of their own.
Hi Mark. You were the first to use our NEMOCS solution. Please tell me why you decided on setting up a VPP yourself instead of joining another aggregator’s pool?
Mark: Well, initially I wanted Next Kraftwerke to do the VPP in the UK. At first, the idea was met with enthusiasm from Next, but a market entry in the UK was not planned. Therefore, I spent a good amount of time at Ecotricity trying to show them how a VPP could benefit their plans for flexibility and battery deployment. Ecotricity was enthusiastic in setting up a VPP here in Britain. As an energy supplier, Ecotricity can access more of the market than an aggregator and we have watched as several aggregators have merged with suppliers in order to survive.
What were the reasons for choosing Next Kraftwerke?
Mark: With Ecotricity, we first looked around at some so-called software vendors in this area, but we didn’t really see anything that convinced us. I had visited Next and I had been very impressed with what the company was doing. When I learned about NEMOCS, I was intrigued. The fact that Next Kraftwerke uses NEMOCS themselves and don’t just sell the software was a major factor in giving us confidence in the solution. In addition, developing our specific solution together in a ‘partnership’-like approach together with Next was very appealing. Especially in such complex business cases, this is a lot more fitting to us than an off-the-shelf-solution.
What kind of advantages are you expecting?
Mark: We hope to establish additional income streams with setting up a VPP. We expect to attract more business customers, especially with the opportunity that we can now offer our customers the possibility to market their asset through our Virtual Power Plant and gain access to power markets. Additionally, we intend to introduce flexibility into our power management portfolio. We think Next Kraftwerke is able to provide us with the technology needed. Last, but definitively not least, we want to expand our technological possibilities: We want to develop the ability for domestic customer propositions to monitor and dispatch fleets of household-scale storage and we believe that Next Kraftwerke is the right partner to do so.
How was the process of starting a VPP? Give us a glimpse into how setting up a VPP works?
Mark: Setting up a VPP was quite organic; we all sat down in a collaborative way and discussed what we hoped to achieve. Next Kraftwerke explained what they could bring to the table and how they could support our idea and what their vision for the product is. We then developed detailed schedules and plans for establishing such a project. After this was finished, we put together the contracts and started setting this project in motion. At the moment, we are in the phase of adding assets and connecting them to the VPP. Such a complex endeavor always needs a lot of engagement, pragmatism and intelligence from all sides involved. With Tobias, we got a helpful partner on Next’s side, who is dedicated and supportive in every way. In general, we really do like the people we are working with at Next Kraftwerke, so that helps a lot.
How do we approach setting up NEMOCS? Is there a fixed timeline for development and predefined goals or is our development discussed with Ecotricity for each next step?
Tobias: When setting up NEMOCS for Ecotricity – which was the first time for a third-party user –, we co-created the project structure. Other NEMOCS projects follow a similar pattern for their basic setup – with individual adjustments to reflect their unique requirements for setting up a VPP. This structure aims at providing specific goals and milestones while at the same time allowing for the flexibility a new VPP business needs. We start with a 1-2 days long kick-off workshop where both market experts and engineers from both sides come together to prioritize different use cases for the VPP ranging from pure monitoring to complex ancillary service products. Furthermore, we discuss technical topics like the implementation of interfaces: how the communication between assets and the VPP is implemented and how the VPP connects to a system operator. Guided through such considerations, the plan and priorities of a young VPP business might still evolve – and we strive for a model to accommodate for this. Therefore, the following pilot phase allows for continuous exchange and further developing the use cases, to set a basis for implementing more complex features and interfaces for a longer-term operational phase.
Is it possible for a NEMOCS user to add feature requests?
Tobias: NEMOCS in its basic form covers different kinds of monitoring and control functions, such as visualizing operational asset data, grid frequency or also imported external information as well as dispatching assets based on manual instructions or imported schedules. This is what a user starts with to get a feeling of how the system works and to realize first use cases, like a price-based asset dispatch. Building on this experience, further features like visualizations within the NEMOCS Control Center, automated interfaces to existing software as well as system operators can be realized by Next Kraftwerke's NEMOCS team.
What is the status of NEMOCS at Ecotricity? What has already been established?
Mark: So far, we have integrated some wind power into our system, selling energy on the spot market and for ancillary services. We are receiving live data from the wind farms and are able to remote control the power output through NEMOCS. It is also interfaced with our flexibility platform.
What are your next steps / plans for the future?
Mark: The next main objective is to add clients to our pool and get them and us access to the relevant income streams as quickly as we can.