Engaging Customers in the transition to a Low Carbon Future

 

The Challenge

A key part of the transition to a low carbon future is engaging and encouraging customers to become active energy citizens. This will enable them to participate in the energy transition by generating their own electricity using solar PV installed on their roofs and storing this energy in their homes using residential batteries. Through aggregation, any excess generation can be used as a virtual power plant to provide distributed generation to the electricity network and potentially system services to maintain stability of the distribution network at low voltage. For many customers while they are aware of some of the technologies involved, they are reluctant to take the first step to install such technologies because they are not commonplace and there is a fear of the unknown particularly given the capital costs involved.

The Solution

The StoreNET project was designed to showcase such technologies in order to demonstrate them to a wider audience to enable greater adoption of these renewable technologies. StoreNet is a consortium project involving Electric Ireland, Solo Energy, ESB Networks and the IERC, based in Ballyferriter, Co. Kerry.  It involved the installation of battery storage systems and solar PV systems in 20 homes and the aggregation of these into a Virtual Power Plant.  The project aim is to reduce costs for residents as well as relieving pressure on the grid during peak times and contributing to the transition to a sustainable future.

This project demonstrated how battery storage and solar PV can help customers to be more sustainable and to cut their energy bills. The customers who participated in the project saw these impacts, with customers who also shifted their load patterns to avail of night rate making the largest saving. These StoreNET customers regularly compare notes and have developed their own “energy community” providing us with feedback and the experience from a customer's point of view.  This information will help us to understand how we can deliver the same positive impact to our whole customer base in the future.

The Benefits

The project is helping ESB understand our customer’s needs and to develop future business models and customer propositions.  The Virtual Power Plant highlights the possibilities created by these technologies and to showcase the project digital content was created to explain how solar PV and battery storage works. The centrepiece of the series was a video in which members of the community explained what the project was about and how they used the new renewable technologies in their homes. The video series created to tell this story was viewed more than 450k times with relevant content seen more than 1.3m times across our social media channels (See above).

The Future

While the project involved just 20 homes, it enables a future business model and customer proposition that could impact our entire customer base.  This is where battery storage systems in customer homes are aggregated and controlled remotely to optimise self-consumption of local renewable generation but also to alleviate pressure on the local network, as well as taking advantage of fluctuating power prices, due to high levels of wind.  These use cases combined will mean customers can save money on their energy bills as well as being more sustainable.