Posted: 15 October 2015

Co-operation that counts

East of England Co-op, National Grid, Dynamic Demand, Open Energi, Demand Side Response
front of wp (East of England Co-op’s Wherstead Park HQ)_550x250

The East of England Co-op’s Wherstead Park HQ, one of more than 130 sites the organisation has in the region


With everything from a distribution centre to convenience stores spread across three counties, the East of England Co-operative has switched on to the Demand Side Response campaign. The organisation’s Energy Manager, Glyn Lee, explains how.

We have over 130 food stores, from small convenience shops to supermarkets, our own distribution centre at Ipswich and a head office just outside Ipswich, at Wherstead. Our operations stretch from King’s Lynn in Norfolk down to Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, including a major presence around Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich.

Going back quite a number of years I was aware of Dynamic Demand, the technology Open Energi had developed. I’m an engineer, so I was looking at what Open Energi were doing from an engineering point of view and it made enormous sense. Responding to the National Grid frequency to turn electrical equipment on or off where spare capacity exists to achieve load shifting was a simple but effective idea.

Speedy response

When National Grid has a period of stress, we are required to respond within two seconds and deliver within 10, so we are very fast. One of the base loads we have is a 600kw electric boiler at our head office, which can be turned off almost instantly.

National Grid knows that, at the end of Eastenders for example, thousands of kettles will be switched on and toilets will be flushed. To help cope with the additional electricity demand National Grid can call on hydro-electric (pumped storage) stations, but they also have to run up extra power stations, ready to meet that demand, which might only last for three to five minutes.

If the East of England Co-op, and lots of businesses like us, are available to turn loads off, National Grid can avoid calling upon their reserve capacity power stations which can take up to four hours to run up (and a further four hours to run back down again). Likewise, if National Grid has an excess of electricity – for example, if a steelworks goes off-line unplanned – we can turn our heating on so we’re using up the spare capacity.

It all adds up

There are two solid benefits to Demand Side Response. Instead of paying power stations for spare availability to supply, National Grid can pay us to turn off equipment. We’re a virtual power station. Combine ourselves with others doing the same that adds up to a lot of energy and at a cheaper price than a power station. It also reduces UK carbon emissions by providing a clean and efficient alternative to peaking power stations.

From our point of view, it’s a useful financial income stream and we hope it’s going to generate more income as time goes on. This is because stable power generation methods such as coal or gas are increasingly being supplemented and replaced by solar or wind power, which are subject to unpredictable peaks and troughs in power generation.

Dynamic Demand rapidly fills the power generation gap created by fluctuations in renewable energy production. That speed of response is able to provide a useful service to National Grid and an income to the East of England Co-op.

Gas innovation in full flow
"When National Grid has a period of stress, we are required to respond within two seconds and deliver within 10, so we are very fast."

Glyn Lee, Energy Manager, East of England Co-op.