A note on our smart energy trials

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Innovation in energy technology has never been more important than it is right now as we race to fight climate change.

We’re at the forefront of this mission, and as one of the UK’s “green unicorns” we’re experimenting and creating to power the global transition to renewable energy. As part of this, we’re constantly testing and trialling new stuff with the help of other energy innovators, and with enthusiastic customers.

That could be anything from a BEIS-backed trial into ways of electrifying heat with smart boilers, to a fun challenge to switch off during Earth Hour - using smart meters to help increase the focus on energy’s impact on climate.

We’re always testing new ideas – Octopus Tracker, which takes the hassle out of energy tariffs by always reflecting the market price, agileOctopus - designed to bring you super cheap energy when it’s abundant (and more expensive energy when it’s in short supply) (the cheap periods correlate very well with the greenest). OctopusGo for Electric Vehicle drivers, Go Faster to flatten demand from the highest users and enable the green revolution to be delivered with minimal extra infrastructure. outgoingOctopus to offer a 'smart' export solution for people with home micro-generation like solar PV, allowing them to get paid dynamically based on wholesale energy pricing and grid need. And so on.

Occasionally, our tests and trials get noticed – and one that we’re testing at the moment is an initiative to accelerate the UK’s adoption of green power and prevent blackouts this Bank Holiday weekend by testing paying a small sample of half-hourly enabled smart meter customers for their energy usage over certain periods.

To give a little context to this particular trial, we’re offering to pay a limited number of half hourly-enabled smart meter customers for their energy on Sunday. It’s an investigation into the viability of a consumer role in demand side response (i.e., whether domestic properties could be part of a ‘turn up’ solution to balancing the grid in a world with a large % of embedded renewable generation). We’re testing different factors, like price, length of paid period, and time of day, to determine how these inspire different levels of uptake from participants.

We run tests like this all the time to try and learn as much as we can. As with any tests, we run different variables, controls, etc. which is why you may see some people receiving things you don’t - or vice versa.

We’re also often asked if we’ll share the methodology and results of these trials.

The answer to that is not straightforward, but we’ll be very upfront about it!

First, we have to work reactively and adapt fast, get our research going quickly, and spread our investment into tons of different avenues. In the instance of this one, we thought up the trial on Tuesday following news over the previous weekend about potential blackouts, and had emailed participants by Thursday morning.

Second, we invest millions into building technology, communications, etc to enable us to accelerate the change needed for renewables to be adopted faster and cheaper in the UK and globally.

Retail energy has previously been low on innovation compared to other sectors, because companies have waited for the regulator to tell them what to do, rather than risking their own funds on research, development and innovation. But to make the green revolution faster and cheaper, we as a sector need to do more, faster. This means companies investing in R&D etc, which, like in other sectors, delivers a combination of proprietary and open learnings. That means finding the right balance between protecting the proprietary tech and IP developed in these trials, and sharing our results and methodologies with the world (which of course, includes competitors).

Of course, we share what we can, and when we develop usable, scaleable and significant results from our trials, we share our findings with the government and our industry to drive wider change.

We’re excited to share that we’re creating the Future Energy Research Centre to foster more research, development and innovation in energy.

FERC will bring together climate experts, data scientists, economists and policy specialists to devise plans and models to achieve ‘net zero’ more quickly and more affordably. Following our recent exciting investment deal with Origin Energy, we’ll be investing millions of pounds into FERC and freely contributing our data and technology expertise to give these experts unique insight into how customers, networks and grids can contribute to a faster, more affordable transition to renewables.

Published on 7th May 2020 by:

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Greg Jackson


Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!