21st August 2020

A groundbreaking smart energy trial with Powervault and AgileOctopus

Phil Steele, Future Technologies Evangelist

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Powervault’s smart home batteries charge and discharge intelligently to allow users to power their households in the most sustainable, cost-effective way.

So what do you get when you combine this awesome tech with AgileOctopus, our one-of-a-kind smart tariff offering super cheap pricing whenever there’s tons of green energy flowing through the wires?

A blueprint for the future smart energy system.

We’re teaming up with Powervault to give AgileOctopus customers an exclusive opportunity to get paid to help solve one of renewable energy’s biggest challenges.

The challenge

As we move towards an energy system where more of our power is generated ‘intermittently’ (AKA only when the wind blows, or the sun shines), we have to find new ways to make the most of those times when energy production is highest. We need to change our energy consumption habits to be more in line with when renewable generation is high, and find better ways of storing extra energy to use later when generation is low.

Our grid isn’t set up to do this – in fact, it was built to support a system powered by dirty fossil fuel sources that can be fired up and burnt all the time. We need a flexible, smart energy grid capable of maximising the potential of clean energy while keeping the grid balanced.

The trial

Customers with smart home batteries like Powervault have the unique ability to charge up from the electrical grid whenever renewables are abundant and the energy in our cables is at its very greenest. They can then take their homes ‘off-grid’ - running on those stored green electrons when demand is high and the national grid is under massive amounts of strain (and so more reliant on fossil fuel power).

But we’ve long said that the best way to drive global demand for green energy is to make sure the greenest electrons are also the cheapest. That’s where AgileOctopus comes in.

An image of a powervault battery

AgileOctopus’ pricing changes every half-hour, and is calculated on the moment-to-moment wholesale cost of energy (which varies based on national demand and fuel makeup). When the wind is blowing, or the sun is shining, and demand is low, AgileOctopus customers can use energy for incredibly low prices, and sometimes, even negative prices – yep, that’s right, we’ll literally pay you to use energy.

Together, AgileOctopus and Powervault allow you to stock up ludicrously cheap ‘off-peak’ energy for use later on - maximising your savings and minimising your carbon footprint!

But that’s not all! Powervault have also optimised their batteries with AgileOctopus to develop a groundbreaking trial in consumer-powered ‘demand-side response’ – basically, bringing hundreds of UK households together to intelligently ‘turn up’ and ‘turn down’ their home energy use to help balance the grid and make the most of renewable generation.

Join Powervault’s GridFLEX trial

  • Get £500 off your Powervault 3 battery
  • Get £10 per month credited to your Octopus Energy account
  • All you have to do is opt-in – and Powervault will do the rest. Their GridFLEX technology will automatically charge up and discharge your battery based on what’s most helpful for the grid, what gives you the greenest power, and what makes your energy bill cheapest.
  • You’ll be part of a cutting-edge cohort of other customers around the UK – smartly using your home’s energy demand to support the grid.
  • Customers who optimise Powervault with AgileOctopus generally save between £270 to £580 a year compared to an average UK household’s energy bill.

How to get started

Either email hello@powervault.co.uk to enquire about getting your Powervault system installed. Quote ‘Agile’ receive your discount. OR, head to the Powervault website and quote ‘Agile’ during signup.

Interested in being part of the trial? First make sure...

  • You're an Octopus Energy customer (Not yet a customer? Get a quote here)
  • You're on our AgileOctopus tariff (If you're already with Octopus and want to switch to AgileOctopus, get your tariff move started here)
  • You have a smart meter we can take half-hourly readings from (either a SMETS2, or Secure SMETS1 model meter). If you don't have one, we can install one for you after you've switched to Octopus, but availability of appointments is a bit limited due to Covid-19 (our CEO has blogged about this here). Depending on where you live, there may be a delay getting you an installation appointment, but you can register your interest here and we'll contact you when there's slots available near you.

Please note that you're joining a beta trial, which means some things may not work perfectly the first time. Installations and processes may also take a little longer than usual, some third party products (like smart meter in-home device screens) might not be advanced enough to work perfectly with us, and that on occasion data issues can take some time to fix.

How does GridFLEX work?

The UK grid always has to balance energy generation (or ‘supply’) with demand (from houses and businesses using power). An unbalanced grid is at risk of surges or blackouts. As more and more renewables are brought to the grid, ensuring that this ‘intermittent’ supply can meet consumer demand becomes increasingly difficult. GridFLEX works because when the UK grid is slightly unbalanced, the electricity supply frequency starts to deviate from the standard 50Hz. Powervault’s smart battery systems can recognise this deviation and react by charging up or discharging to help rebalance the grid. With GridFLEX and Agile, a large enough group of Powervault customers could work together to quickly help restore normal grid frequency.

These grid events last about half an hour (and usually only take a couple of minutes). So, the vast majority of the time customers will not notice much happening. (Very occasionally it will look as though your Powervault charges or discharges that deviate from the regular schedule, according to the best Agile import/export prices). Applying for a Powervault and quoting ‘Agile’ for the discount (as mentioned above) will automatically opt you into the GridFLEX service.

Now, hear from Powervault founders Joe Warren and Jack Peck on how this incredible trial gives customers a chance to play a huge role in helping renewables work on a larger scale.


Powervault: powering the future of energy today

Smart Powervault batteries running with AgileOctopus are helping to balance our renewable energy grid

Throughout April and May 2020, we caught a glimpse of the future, and it caused quite a stir across the energy world.

Energy prices went negative. In other words, at certain points energy buyers and consumers have actually been being paid to use energy. Events that flip the energy market on its head like this are becoming increasingly common, but why do they happen?

Negative energy prices

It’s all down to the way different technologies work together to generate our energy. Many solar and wind farms operate with financial support based on how much they generate (so they don’t like to shut down), and it can be awkward and expensive for nuclear and large thermal power stations to turn off for short periods too. This means that on particularly sunny and windy days where electricity demand is low (take a hot lazy Sunday afternoon, for example), asking generators to turn off to keep the grid balanced can be more expensive than asking users to help to use up that excess energy. This means prices go negative, encouraging those who do “turn up” their energy usage to be paid for soaking up all that excess power from the grid.

That’s where Powervault comes into its own!

Powervault and AgileOctopus

Over the past 12 months Powervault batteries have been running on the AgileOctopus tariff. With this revolutionary tariff, customers receive a new price for electricity every half an hour, all year round, depending on what’s happening in the energy market. If the cost of supplying power goes up, the price you pay goes up (with a cap just in case), and if the cost goes down, the price you pay goes down. And if the price goes negative, Octopus will pay you to take that excess energy.

Before the AgileOctopus Smart Schedule I was setting manual charging schedules for my Powervault at 5 pm every day for the day ahead. Now, with the smart API there is no need. “I love being able to see the forecasted schedules on the Powervault portal, especially in plunge pricing events! During lockdown I’ve been paid as much as 11p/kW to take clean energy off of the grid.

Paul Bendall, a Powervault customer on the AgileOctopus tariff

The Powervault 3 uses clever demand prediction and weather forecasting to learn about your personal power usage. Coupled with AgileOctopus it works out the best charge / discharge schedule for the Powervault every day - a ‘Smart Schedule’ – which allows our customers to get the very lowest prices for electricity available on the market, and avoid expensive periods in the evening.

For the first time the Smart Schedule allows customers both with and without solar save on their energy bills. Modelling based on an ‘average’ customer’s usage without solar suggests savings of up to £270 to 580 per year* are possible by switching to AgileOctopus and installing a Powervault.

What’s more, for customers like Paul, Octopus also has an AgileOctopus tariff for exports to the grid. This means that any power sent out to the grid from the solar or Powervault also has a new price every half an hour. On weekends like those in April & May 2020 when electricity prices went negative but export prices stayed positive, the algorithm goes to town. Powervault batteries across the country kick into action, charging and discharging to balance the energy markets while reducing our customer’s bills.

As Paul explains: “It has been great learning about how the grid operates through the AgileOctopus tariff and watching my Powervault respond to the peaks and troughs of electricity demand has been fascinating. It’s enabled me to control my consumption in a way that is better for the environment.”

The future of energy today

To avoid dangerous climate change and make the most of a clean energy revolution and sustainable economy, we quickly need to change to a 100% clean energy system. As the amount of solar and wind generation increases, days where the price of energy goes negative are becoming more common.

Until today, the traditional use for a battery has been capturing any excess solar power you can’t use now and storing it for later: reducing your dependence on the grid. Powervault’s vision is maximising interaction with the grid to benefit the system as whole, and rewarding our customers in the process.

A powervault battery and an electric vehicle

Instead of thousands of homes using and generating energy in isolation, we see an interconnected network of smart batteries, electric heat, electric vehicles, and renewable energy working together to provide 100% clean energy at a more affordable price. And the data shows this isn’t as futuristic as it sounds - it’s happening right now!

We are now offering an exclusive £500 discount to all new Powervault 3 customers with AgileOctopus, in addition to the opportunity to take part in the GridFlex scheme for a £10per month discount. To find out more, get in touch! We’re here to help and would love to hear from you.

*The precise performance of a battery is difficult to predict with certainty given that every home is different. Powervault’s battery models use industry standard demand profiles used by Ofgem to simulate an average domestic customer (PC1). The range £270 to £580 is based on modelling of customer profiles without solar and with demand of 3,100 to 8,000kWh per year. The savings calculate the savings of switching from a standard £0.16p/kWh single rate tariff to AgileOctopus, as well as the modeled benefit of charging and discharging the battery using Powervault’s AgileOctopus optimisation algorithm.

image of Phil Steele

Phil Steele

Future Technologies Evangelist

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!

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