Thomas Jennings on the evolution of flexibility in 2020

December 29, 2020

It’s been an interesting year for the UK’s energy system, and one in which a glimpse of a decarbonised future was seen. Demand patterns changed, new flexibility measures were introduced and renewables saw more records broken.

Thomas Jennings recently spoke to Alice Grundy about the most important flexibility developments to happen this year and what 2021 may shape up to look like. While the conversation is captured below, the full interview was published by Current± on 23rd December 2020.

With COVID-19 changing demand alongside new flexibility measures being brought in, 2020 has been a unique year for flexibility. What has it been like to navigate the situation?

One of the things it’s really demonstrated to me is just how important the flexibility that exists across the network is as we move towards a renewable net zero system. There was still this reliance on the centralised generation, but then COVID-19 came in and it just screwed the demand curve. Suddenly you’ve got this situation where National Grid is working on creating new markets, introducing Optional Downward Flexibility Management (ODFM), and looking at decentralised flexible generation across the network. From Kiwi Power’s point of view that’s really exciting because it just shows what a huge role we have to play in moving to net zero and meeting the UK’s sustainability goals.

We’ve seen the growth of FFR, we’ve seen the introduction of Dynamic Containment and we’ve got various other Dynamic services being rolled out. From that point of view, I think it’s extremely exciting to be able to increasingly offer access to those services. I tend to be quite bullish in how I see these things, but then that’s why I work in this sector – because I genuinely believe it’s going to be such a massive, massive growth area.

What do you think the last impacts of 2020 will be when it comes to flexibility?

It’s been a hugely positive year with regards to the power sector from the point of view of the learnings achieved. I think it’s been so, so useful to be able to sit here and go actually, I understand how the market’s going to change, how it’s going to evolve and so from that point of view, I think it’s been a hugely valuable year. We’ve grown that confidence that we can rely increasingly on the flexibility that’s embedded within the network and move away from the high emitting, centralised generation.

What are you most proud of Kiwi Power achieving in 2020?

It’s got to be going into the US. Let’s not beat around the bush; the US is the biggest market in the world when it comes to what we do and so moving into the US is absolutely huge for us.

A lot is going on in the UK and I genuinely believe that we are leaders globally when it comes to power markets. I’ve got to give credit to National Grid here – the fact that we are leading the market, the fact that we’re doing so many innovative things puts us on that basis for which we can expand. ODFM is one sort of great example of that with how quickly they developed and rolled that out. You’ve got all these great markets, and it’s really, really exciting to be able to take that knowledge and share it globally.

It’s been a great year. It’s been a year where we’ve had lots of new developments, we’ve grown in Europe and what I’m particularly pleased about is that COVID-19 hasn’t slowed us down.

How do you anticipate flexibility and the energy system evolving in 2021?

More and more flexibility is going to come to the market. I think it’s about empowering those that have got the generators sitting on their sites to deliver and provide that flexibility to the ESOs for the countries that they operate within. It’s about taking a distributed energy model and showing what it can do from a net zero and sustainability point of view, but also from the point of view of the fact that the power market isn’t this grossly complicated behemoth – there’s a simple route to market to monetise the assets that you have under your management. It’s really going to be an opening up and democratising of the power markets as more and more people engage and start increasing the flexibility that’s available.