Pixie Energy enjoys second anniversary

Pixie Energy hosted its 2018 annual conference at Norwich Cathedral on 10 September. Members of the Pixie team gave briefings on the progress of a range of its local energy innovation projects, and we also welcomed key external speakers on the theme of market transformation. The event was organised with support from Pixie Energy sponsors UK Power Networks, Cooperative Energy, Shell, Haven Power and Green Star Energy, and we attracted over 60 attendees.

The event came after Pixie Energy’s first public event last summer, which first introduced the East Anglian Energy Market Innovation Project. This overarching project is building on sister company Cornwall Insight’s deep national knowledge and relationships by scoping and establishing innovation projects with local partners to yield “learning by doing” in smarter, low-carbon solutions.

Much progress has been made over the past year, and this event focused on Pixie Energy’s flagship project: the Norwich Virtual Energy Community (NVEC).

A key objective of this transformative project is to capture better value for locally produced solar and other low-carbon power. It will utilise Elexon’s innovation sandbox to secure derogations addressing restrictions that presently arise from the so-called supplier hub, which requires each meter to be registered and settled by a single supplier. This project aims to split supply from solar panels, batteries and electric vehicle charge points behind the meter between multiple suppliers. It will also incentivise smarter usage through application of time-of-use and time-of-export tariffs, which will be provided by balancing supplier Green Star Energy.

The NVEC project will initially deploy around 50-100kW of domestic solar panels and 30kW of domestic batteries on 10-15 sites in Norwich and North Norfolk. Energy generated by the solar arrays will be used by the host households or stored in the batteries. Other participants in the scheme will have the chance to purchase excess power produced or stored by project participants for their own use.

The initial project will be set in place by the end of the year, doubling in size by April 2019 as part of phase two, with the project growing in scale from there. An important aim is to demonstrate that viable local markets can develop around new small-scale low-carbon generators in a subsidy-free world.

Future routes to market for these generators is an even hotter topic now, with the government announcement in July that it intends to close the Feed-in Tariff scheme – including the export tariff – to new applicants post March 2019. This leaves no viable route to market for generators under 250kW.

Our insight paper in response to this consultation – UnFiT for Purpose – A Call for Intervention to Support Small-scale Low-carbon Generation Post March 2019 was previewed at the conference. It recommends a Transitional Offtake Tariff to support continued support of deployment of small generators from April 2019 until new local markets can be shown to work. This could be achieved at no cost to consumers by tying export rates to system values. It advocates a continuing obligation on suppliers to purchase surplus energy from solar sites below 250kW. It also proposes retention of guaranteed market access for community energy schemes at a higher threshold of 500kW given their reliance on certain export payments.

Nigel Cornwall commented: “large parts of the potential small-scale generation market have no revenue certainty but increased search costs from finding counter-parties. There needs to be a safety net for the smallest players.”

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