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  • Frequency response from new technologies

    National Grid has conducted a Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) project working with partner Element Energy to assess the potential of electric vehicles and heat pumps to provide Frequency Response.

    System frequency is constantly changing and is determined by the real-time balance of electricity supply and demand. It’s an important factor in operating a stable, reliable transmission network. National Grid has a responsibility to keep system frequency within set limits. One of the ways we do this is buying Frequency Response services, whereby providers respond to changes in system frequency. Depending on the type of provider, they may either change how much electricity they’re generating or how much electricity they’re consuming.

    Historically, electricity generation has flexed to meet our electricity demand in order to control system frequency. However, this dynamic is likely to change in the future. Currently, renewable sources of electricity are less flexible than traditional sources and new demand technologies are changing how we consume electricity.

    These changes mean that we need to find new and innovative ways to manage system frequency; this is where electric vehicles and heat pumps could have a role to play.

    Our NIA project found that:

    • the potential for Frequency Response from these technologies increases strongly after 2020 with increased uptake of electric vehicles and heat pumps.
    • by 2030, electric vehicles and heat pumps could contribute 1200 MW of Frequency Response, equivalent to 82% of GB’s requirements.
    • flexibility is provided as electric vehicles are typically plugged in for 8 hours a day but need only 3 hours for charging. Battery charging can be slowed or interrupted without significant adverse effects.
    • heat pumps, which use electricity to heat the home rather than gas, could switch off for a short time in response to frequency requirements with no impact on the household.
    • Deploying such a service would require further investments in metering and communications.
    • the large number of assets involved, potentially millions nationwide, means that the benefits to an individual consumer could be quite modest. Strong commercial models are required to deliver sufficient benefits to incentivise consumers to engage with this opportunity.

    Further information on the project findings is available in our project summary document and full report.

    On 22 September 2015 we held a dissemination event to present the findings of the NIA project and seek views from the industry on commercial and technical barriers and how such a service could be realised. The presentation from the event is available to download.

    For more information, please email us at or you can leave your comments on our National Grid Connecting article.