The 2018 Impax Ashden Award for Energy Innovation has been awarded to Upside Energy for its approach to balancing the grid. Its Virtual Energy Store shifts electricity use in line with demand by aggregating flexibility from a variety of devices and systems. This reduces stress on the grid and increases opportunity for renewable energy capacity, thereby reducing reliance on power from fossil energy.
Upside Energy was one of ten companies to receive the award at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Christiana Figueres, former UN Climate Chief and key architect of the Paris Climate Agreement, was the keynote speaker.
The Ashden judges said: “Upside Energy’s innovative approach to flexibility has the potential to revolutionise the energy sector, making it practical to involve millions of devices in homes and businesses in keeping the grid stable.”
Graham Oakes, Upside Energy founder and Chief Scientist stated: “This award recognises the hard work and commitment of our talented team here at Upside. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to humanity that demands highly innovative solutions and a collaborative approach. This is why we are working closely with the National Grid as well as utilities and commercial and industrial companies to try to reduce greenhouses gases.”
Upside Energy’s Virtual Energy Store connects to devices and energy storage systems that do not need constant power, and turns them on or off, temporarily. Currently Upside Energy’s flexibility suppliers are large business and commercial sites with battery storage and Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS). These devices do not need to be kept at 100% as long as they have sufficient charge to carry out their job, so there is scope to charge and discharge to help balance the grid.
Traditionally, the UK’s electricity system has been stabilised by running gas and coal power plants below full power and turning them up or down in response to the amount of energy required. This strategy is no longer acceptable given the high carbon output of fossil ‘peaking plants’ and the proliferation of renewable technologies that can provide low-carbon electricity such as from the wind and sun.
The UK’s changing energy landscape is reflected in the electricity generation figures for 2017: renewable energy, comprising wind, solar, hydro and biomass, accounted for just over 29% of electricity generation last year, up from a quarter in 2016, with a further 21% coming from nuclear power.