Research from our flexibility team conceptualises and measures flexibility and assesses the impact of flexibility-related interventions. A distinctive and original feature of our approach is that it conceptualised the introduction of flexible technologies, new pricing regimes and the transformation of social-temporal orders within a single frame.

How flexibility is conceptualised is important

Current conceptualisations of flexibility ‘fix’ a particular interpretation of normality, supposing that certain needs exist and should be met. Instead, we treat flexibility as a feature of how multiple practices hang together, and of changing relations between them. Flexibility in organisations is made at the intersection of organisational and institutional processes, which define the scope for adaptation.

Flexibility interventions are not a win-win for everyone

Estimations of the distributional effects of Time of Use tariffs (ToU) differ based on income and location, with high-income groups in London benefiting and high-income groups in Scotland paying more because peak electricity demand period for an average residential household in the Greater London area takes place 60-90 minutes later compared to the North-East England area. This research was cited by Ofgem’s final Impact Assessment on ‘Electricity Retail Market-wide Half-hourly Settlement’ and used as input for Ofgem’s Electricity Network Access and Forward-Looking Charging Review. It has been estimated these reforms will save UK residential customers GBP2-5bn up to 2045.

Histories of supply and demand balancing matter when it comes to flexibility

Infrastructural legacies and previous methods of balancing supply and demand are layered over time and influence contemporary connections between social practices, the timing of energy demand, and flexibility. Flexibility is positioned at the intersection of supply and demand and is a feature of service provision which changes over time.

Modelling spatial and temporal variability

A model was developed to try and overcome limitations in spatial and temporal disaggregation of national and regional energy demand data. Our model provides accurate simulations of the spatial and temporal variability of anthropogenic heat emissions (as a proxy to energy use) across London.

New flexibility metrics

New metrics for analysing the time of day variability of both price and non-price elasticity of energy demand. These metrics can provide more granular insights into the changing degree of flexibility throughout a given day and more accurate estimates of total flexibility potential. Our work has provided evidence for a new demand side flexibility service to be launched later in 2022 by National Grid ESO.

We have also reached out to audiences using novel means, such as our reading rooms, photo essay, planned ‘Gallery’, and data visualisation to illustrate some of our key findings around timing of energy demand and everyday life.

Findings report

Banner photo credit: monsitj on Adobe Stock