We speak to Oliver McMillen about the SSE Virtual Power Plant and why the requirement for energy flexibility is set to grow in the next few years. Plus, find out what he’d do first if he ruled the world.
At its simplest, flexibility is the ability to turn something that uses or generates electricity up or down. The quicker you can do this, and the longer you can maintain the adjustment for, the more flexible you are.
Flexibility already has value – there are a number of ways to earn additional revenue through being flexible – and we think the requirement for flexibility within the energy system is going to grow over the coming years.
With the SSE VPP, we find ways of monetising our customers’ flexibility, without compromising their core operations. In practice, this means looking at what type of flexibility a customer has and working out which revenue streams are available to them, then managing the customer’s flexibility in a way that allows them to achieve the highest possible return.
Crucially, we don’t just use the flexibility however we want – rather, we base everything on the operating restrictions agreed with the customer.
Our customers range from Industrial & Commercial customers, to energy asset owners and developers. For our I&C customers it provides them with an additional revenue stream, without impacting their core operations or compromising the integrity of their infrastructure. For asset owners and developers, we can provide them with a route to market, allowing them to generate as much revenue as possible from their assets.
We’re seeing increasing volumes of low carbon generation, including those from the first Contract for Difference offshore wind projects, come online. This should increase the requirement for flexibility, just as older thermal power stations – which have historically provided this through the traditional network – are closing. As a result, we’d expect to see the requirement for flexibility solidifying and, over time, growing.
Also, the changes in the way National Grid procures its services are partly designed to encourage a greater range of flexible assets to participate in these schemes. And the move from Distributed Network Operators (DNOs) to Distributed System Operators (DSOs) should start to create local opportunities for flexibility. All this suggests we will continue to see opportunities over the next few years.
It’s pretty varied so I wouldn’t say there’s a typical day. However, most weeks will involve sales, operations – which includes how we deliver a positive VPP customer experience – commercial analysis, product development, and looking at new ways the VPP can be used within different parts of our business.
I listen to The Economist’s news podcast most days – great insight into, and interesting angles on, what’s happening at home and around the world.
Probably the obvious answer, but a workable solution to climate change would have to be the first thing on the to-do-list.
A six-month sabbatical trip through South America.
Take more risks and don’t sweat the small stuff too much.
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