Smart Hot Water: UK consumers to help balance the electricity grid every-time they turn on the hot tap

British households are trialing a new device which can help them save money and use energy more efficiently. The USER Project is adopting the energy storage potential of the everyday hot water cylinder installed in millions of UK homes to help balance the energy system. Funding from the Government is enabling the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to optimise a virtual community of 350 homes across the country. These will allow for transforming traditional hot water cylinders into grid-interactive water heaters that are context aware. They coordinate their operation in real time by switching on their immersion heating elements according to what is most beneficial for each home, taking into account wholesale prices whilst also supporting the grid.

With a significant 9 million hot water cylinders in the UK, the USER Project seeks to tap into the combined thermal storage capacity hidden in homes. At almost 100GWh, this capacity is equivalent to 6 million Tesla Powerwall units. This potential is particularly important as we transition away from high carbon fossil fuels and towards low-carbon power generation such as wind which is intermittent in nature. Homes participating in the USER trial will demonstrate the role that the typical household can play in the clean energy transition, without having to change their own behaviour.

The USER Project is unique in the sense that it is compatible with almost any hot water cylinder with an immersion heater.

Dr Iván Castro is one of the Founders of Levelise, the technology start-up company behind the AI technology. On the latest developments, Iván commented:

“Unlocking the demand side potential of hot water heating is a game changer for balancing the energy system, allowing for more renewables and helping millions of homes to use energy more intelligently. Using AI, we are enabling hot water cylinders to autonomously learn how much each household uses at what time, and to decide which is the best action to take in order to produce lower bills whilst ensuring energy isn’t wasted.”

The USER Project will roll out devices into the homes of 50 Social Energy customers this month with Project Better Energy as its installation partner. A further 300 installations will take placebefore the end of the year. As well as generating a revenue for providing DSR services, these 350 homes will have the opportunity to benefit from daily fluctuation in energy prices. Jeff House from Baxi Heating (manufacturer of Heatrae Sadia Megaflo cylinders) commented:

‘’Over time we expect energy efficiency improvements to reduce the amount of space heating needed to keep our homes warm and hot water will become a larger element of the household energy bill. We are extremely proud to be working on this project which contributes to our vision on the Future of Heat whilst bringing real benefits to consumers and the energy system.

The USER Project is a demonstration project being undertaken by a group of organisations within the low carbon energy sector, including: Levelise, Baxi Heating, Ecuity Consulting, Heatrae Sadia, Energy Systems Catapult and Durham University. The project will be used to collect technical data and consumer insights to inform the technology’s commercial proposition and the UK’s trajectory towards a smart energy system.

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