USER project - balancing supply and demand with AI


18 February 2021

The government's carbon reduction strategies drive both the increased use of renewable technologies and renewable sources from which we obtain our energy.  Existing energy grids are centralised and quite controllable to delivery varying power requirements at any time of the day.  The UK's building stock, both domestic and commercial, are moving towards electrifying their heating methods. How will the national grids manage its electricity network as we move to a decentralised system, with a complex control strategy of energy production and an increased demand?

The Ubiquitous Storage Empowering Response (USER) project is a government-backed investigation for demand-side response technology that will allow a comprehensive interaction of technologies, energy grids and energy sources - leading to 'smart' product operation and a balance of supply and demand

The trial, aimed at involving 350 homes, is now underway, with smart hubs installed to monitor and control hot water cylinders via Levelise artificial intelligence optimisation and Baxi Heating hardware.

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The homes taking part in the trial have now been confirmed and include participants from a mix of private lettings, housing associations and student accommodation. With one-third of the installations completed, the project has reached over 60% of its 1MW capacity target. Next focus is to commercially provide ancillary services to help accommodate fluctuations in the supply and demand for electricity, which becomes more complex as the UK's renewable energy output increases.
Households taking part in the trial will be rewarded for balancing services to the grid and access off-peak energy prices. This is achieved due to the 'smart hubs' ability to switch the hot water cylinders immersion heater on when there are grid balancing requirements or surplus energy available where prices can be lower. The hot water can then be stored for use later in the day.

Ivan Castro, Co-founder of Levelise and consortium member of the USER project, said: "This is an exciting and important time to access the untapped potential of existing and future hot water cylinders in UK homes. Six hundred thousand heat pumps co-located cylinders are set to be deployed each year from 2028, and all new homes will be built zero carbon ready from 2025. The USER technology is creating a pathway for decarbonising heat from UK homes whilst ensuring energy bills are also considerably reduced."
The USER project combines the complementary expertise of six organisations, including Levelise, Baxi Heating, Ecuity, Energy Systems Catapult, Project Solar UK, and Durham University

The USER project