Britain’s flexibility market shows ‘incredible growth’

1.6GW of flexibility has been contracted by Britain’s distribution network operators during 2021 to date, up from the 1.1GW during 2020.

This figure is expected to increase in the coming months in continuation of the ongoing fast growth in the market since 2018 when 116MW of flexibility was contracted, followed by 256MW in 2019.

The potential and appetite for this growth is clearly reflected in the tender figures. To date, almost 2.9GW of flexibility has been tendered during 2021, compared with less than 2.1GW in the whole of 2020 and 1.3GW in 2019.

For comparison, the 1.6GW of flexibility capacity contracted is equivalent to connecting 32,000 rapid electric vehicle chargers.

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The Energy Networks Association (ENA) points to this growth through the adoption of a ‘flexibility first’ approach by network operators ahead of the traditional approaches to solving congestion on the grid. The driver is the Association’s Open Networks initiative in which the distribution operators are collaborating on the transformation of the country’s networks with the development of flexibility markets.

Image: ENA

“Local flexibility services are a relatively new market but one that has seen an incredible growth over the past three years alone in Britain,” comments Randolph Brazier, Director of Innovation and Electricity Systems at the ENA.

“Breaking the previous record for flexibility after only seven months of this year is great news for customers and great news for net zero.”

He adds that nevertheless, there is still plenty of room for growth. The recently released Smart Systems and Flexibility plan for Britain indicates the potential flexibility upwards of 13GW by 2030.

Moreover with Northern Ireland also joining the local DSO flexibility trials, the market should soon expand to the whole of the UK.

With the release of these figures the ENA also has launched a review of its flexibility developments to date.

Plans for the remainder of the current year include bringing more transparency and a standardisation of approaches to flexibility markets and addressing ongoing barriers and concerns such as revenue stacking across multiple markets.

A priority is to improve the availability of curtailment information for flexible connections with the intention to start implementation in January 2022.