SSE Networks (SSEN) has joined together with key local and industry partners to launch Project LEO (Local Energy Oxfordshire), one of the most wide-ranging and holistic smart grid trials ever conducted in the UK.
The launch follows confirmation that the £40 million project, which will test electricity network flexibility models and markets across Oxfordshire, has received an award of £13.8m from the UK Government Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
An industry-first, Project LEO will explore how the growth in local renewables, electric vehicles (EVs), battery storage, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology and demand side response can be supported by a local, flexible, and responsive electricity grid to ensure value for consumers and opportunities for communities and market providers.
The project aims to replicate and trial aspects of the Distribution System Operator (DSO) models being explored by industry, government and the energy regulator. It will balance local demand with local supply in a real-world environment, helping to test markets, inform investment models and, ultimately, assess the benefits of flexibility to the energy system.
The £13.8m of funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge fund, managed by Innovate UK, is supported by £26m of private funding from the project partners. This includes SSEN’s Project TRANSITION, which received funding from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition (NIC) Fund, the objectives of which are closely aligned to Project LEO.
Project LEO will bring together significant local, academic and industry experience and expertise, with partners including:
- Leading social enterprise, the Low Carbon Hub, to manage and develop a portfolio of local energy generation and demand projects, informing investment models;
- Leading academics from the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University, who will collect and analyse data sources to deliver a model for future local energy ‘whole system’ mapping and planning;
- Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council will provide key infrastructure and local investment projects, including intelligent street lighting, EV infrastructure and responsive heat networks.
- Marketplace Operators Origami and Piclo, piloting new business models, via innovative market platforms, to deliver local energy trading, flexibility and aggregation;
- Nuvve Corporation, a global green energy technology company, will provide V2G technology, smart charging and bidirectional EV charging stations; and
- Energy supplier, EDF Energy bringing customer focused innovations and energy services to residential, industrial and public customers.
The project is expected to run for three years and is seen by SSEN, its partners and wider industry as one of the most critical developments to date in the transition to Distribution System Operators. Its findings will be shared collaboratively across industry, academia and with policy makers and regulators, helping inform and influence the energy system of the future.
The then Energy and Clean Growth Minister, and COP26 President Claire Perry O’Neill MP said: “Oxford is set for a smart energy overhaul with these projects aiming to meet the city’s energy needs through greener, low carbon technologies. Backed by government funding, this has the potential to completely change the way people go about their daily lives – from going to work on an electric bus to using the heat rising from the earth to heat your home without gas. These projects are an example of our modern Industrial Strategy in action, helping companies and consumers seize the opportunity of the global shift to a cleaner, greener, more flexible energy system.”
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