In 2015, the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, awarded £472k under the Localised Energy Systems competition to a consortium led by Upside Energy Ltd to build a cloud service that will help reduce the cost of energy in the UK while also reducing the environmental impact of energy generation.
The Innovate UK funding enabled the consortium, which included Upside Energy, Sharp Laboratories of Europe, The Schools of Mathematics and Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Manchester and Enlight, to successfully develop a cloud service that coordinates energy stored in existing assets including uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), solar PV systems and electric vehicles. This creates a Virtual Energy Store™ (VES) that will be used to sell a range of balancing services to National Grid, initially via National Grid’s Firm Frequency Response scheme in early 2017. In the longer term, it will also be used to sell similar services to distribution network operators and energy suppliers.
Such services will enable Upside to reduce the cost of energy in the UK, while also reducing the environmental impacts of energy generation and increasing the reliability of supply: a win against all three arms of the “energy trilemma”.
The 18-month project was completed in September 2016. The original consortium partners are currently planning follow-on activities and partnerships, including ongoing participation in the revenue generating cloud service.
Rob Saunders, Head of Energy at Innovate UK, said:
“Upside is a great example of the kind of project Innovate UK wants to support in accelerating innovation and unlocking new opportunities for businesses. It has created a novel and exciting solution that addresses a real need in our energy system. And it’s done this by bringing together a team that combines the disruptive ideas of innovative, fast-growing SMEs with the depth and experience of a large corporation and the research excellence of a major university. That team has collaborated seamlessly and delivered great results that should fuel future business success.”
Dr Graham Oakes, Founder and CEO of Upside Energy, said:
“Innovate UK’s funding has been vital to Upside. It’s helped us prove the viability of our concept, building from the support we gained during the Nesta Dynamic Demand Challenge and EU Climate-KIC acceleration programme. We’re now well on the way to delivering a commercial service that can provide significant benefits to energy users across the UK.”
Dr Stephen Day, Energy Solutions Deputy Manager of Sharp Laboratories of Europe (SLE), said
“In partnership with Upside, SLE has developed solutions to connect Sharp’s home energy management and domestic battery storage systems to Upside’s Virtual Energy Store. We see enormous potential to enhance the customer value proposition of our products from new smart grid services like those offered by Upside.”
The project’s focus was on the development of the software‑only cloud service, a highly scalable, flexible & secure platform to aggregate large numbers of small energy storage systems, along with the development of a hardware interface ‘gateway’. These will be used to help balance supply and demand on the grid, starting with frequency regulation services to National Grid.
National Grid currently spends £850m p.a. on balancing services. Providing such services from demand side, e.g. reducing demand at peak times, will enable existing generation to run more efficiently, while also making it easier to integrate high proportions of renewable generation onto the grid. Thus it will result in both a cheaper and less polluting solution.
Trends such as growth of renewable generation, plus electrification of heating and transport, are creating dramatic changes on the grid. This creates an £8bn p.a. UK opportunity for storage and Demand Side Response (DSR), as identified by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) in March 2016.
The software platform the Upside project has developed will help address the £2bn p.a. opportunity to provide balancing services to National Grid, DNOs and Energy Suppliers (based on analysis completed during Innovate UK funded project). The Global markets for similar services is a c.$50bn opportunity as identified by Transparency Market Research.
Note for editors:
About Upside Energy – Upside Energy is an innovative energy start-up based in the UK. Their aim is to reduce greenhouse gases and to generate an income for people by enabling them to make smart choices about when to use energy. Upside are driven by a belief that they can address some of the fundamental quandaries the UK’s traditional, asset heavy energy infrastructure faces, as it grapples with the trilemma of affordability, sustainability and security of supply.
Upside smooths the flow of energy across the grid. They have developed a flexible and scalable cloud service that enables tens of thousands of households and business sites to participate in schemes for ‘demand response’, where grid operators and energy suppliers pay people to shift their electricity usage from peak to off-peak times.
By orchestrating the energy stored in devices people already own e.g. uninterruptible power supplies UPS), batteries attached to solar PV systems, electric vehicles and their charge points, heating systems, etc. Upside creates a Virtual Energy Store™ (VES). The VES is then used to sell services to balance supply and demand on the grid. Upside then redistributes this service revenue back to the original device owners.
About Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency – Innovate UK is the new name for the Technology Strategy Board – the UK’s innovation agency. Taking a new idea to market is a challenge. Innovate UK funds, supports and connects innovative businesses through a unique mix of people and programmes to accelerate sustainable economic growth. For further information visit
About Sharp Laboratories of Europe Ltd – Sharp Laboratories of Europe, Oxford has played a prominent role in the development of technology for Sharp products since its formation 1990. Recent examples include no glasses 3D dual view displays and variable viewing angle displays.
Active research themes cover a broad range of technologies that will be a benefit to society such as health and medical devices, and energy and environmental solutions. SLEs activities addressing the energy arena include next generation energy storage, advanced solar solutions for combined heat and power, and technologies that deliver opportunities for fresh business models and services.
As a company SLE believes in maximising its impact through collaborative and open innovation to find solutions to problems. SLE are active participants in many collaborative projects supported by organisations like Innovate UK.
About the University of Manchester – The University of Manchester lies in the heart of Manchester and has been created by bringing together the Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST, two of Britain’s most distinguished universities, to create a powerful new force in higher education.
The School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering has over 70 academic staff, split across three research Divisions (one of which is the Energy and Power Division), and is one of the largest schools of this type in the country, a particular strength of the School being power engineering. In the last Research Excellence Framework, REF2014, (an independent assessment of university research covering the period 2009-14) the School was ranked fourth for research power in the UK. The School of Mathematics has 90 academic staff, split across eleven research groups covering a broad range of modern and traditional mathematics.
About Enlight / Select Innovations Ltd – EnLight is a World’s leading IoT technology provider. Their award winning hardware and software, based around the humble streetlight, provides the perfect environment for ‘Smart City’ and ‘Connected Communities’ to flourish. Its low power, self-healing, wireless mesh networks are used to monitor and control street lights plus other IoT sensors and systems remotely using mobile and PC based Apps.
As well as the ability to easily and quickly set up a IoT community, EnLight’s award winning lighting control for HID and LED lanterns can provide customers with up to 50% cost savings, with equivalent reductions in CO2, whilst keeping the lights on! Once operational a return on investment can be achieved in less than 3 years.