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Building energy resilience – and generating revenue into the bargain

Wayne Mitchell

Wayne Mitchell is Director of Markets & Innovation for npower Business Solutions, responsible for overseeing the development of energy products, services, and solutions for some of Britain's largest businesses.

Building energy resilience – and generating revenue into the bargain

Rainton House, our largest customer contact centre in Sunderland, recently became a participant in National Grid’s Short-Term Operating Reserve (STOR) market. It joins two other sites – our head office in Swindon and an administrative centre in Worcester – which are now geared up to switch to onsite generation and export excess power to the Grid at times of system stress.

We already work with customers to provide access to the STOR market via our SmartSTOR product. So this is just us tapping into the same benefits for ourselves.

The STOR market has become competitive over recent years, but payments for STOR market contributors can still be attractive. And for business participants, the benefits go beyond revenue income.

Exercise your assets
Like any piece of mechanical equipment, back-up generators need to run regularly to remain efficient. SmartSTOR participants that use standby diesel generators – which many, including npower, do – are able to regularly exercise their machines on load as part of a normal maintenance programme.

This improves reliability of your generation assets, which also provides greater site resilience should a power cut occur (and parts of the UK experienced quite a few of those last winter). So you know if for any reason, the power goes down, you can crank up your own generators and remain operational.

There’s also the added benefit of Triad management – that is, taking steps to avoid consumption at peak times of demand over the winter season. This has a double whammy of potential benefits – on the one hand, avoiding the very large network charges which are based on your consumption during these periods, and on the other, generating revenue when prices are at their highest if you are called upon to export.

Automated management
Now, you may think this all sounds a bit complicated. How on earth do you know when to switch on or off your generation? That’s the beauty of SmartSTOR. Our partner, Flextricity, does all this for you. They operate Britain’s most advanced smart grid, and once connected, can communicate directly with your generation assets to manage how your consumption requirements are met.

It’s certainly working at npower. Our diesel generation capacity of around 3MW across our three participating sites is likely to net us a little under £80,000 a year in STOR revenue and Triad avoidance savings, as well as equipping us with greater resilience should we experience power loss. This is especially key at our Rainton House site, as from here, 2000 staff are the primary contact for all our domestic customers. Being without power simply isn’t an option.

But then, being without power is simply not an option for any business.

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