Whalley Community Hydro, a Lancashire-based community benefit society led by a team of local volunteers, is taking part in a peer-to-peer energy trading trial that may alter the way in which electricity is distributed and sold in future.
The six month trial, named Piclo, has been sponsored by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and aims to test software that lets commercial consumers and renewable generators trade electricity through an online marketplace.
This ‘eBay for energy’ has been developed by energy startup Open Utility. During the trial, it will be working with 100% renewable electricity supplier, Good Energy, the utility that Whalley Hydro sells its power to. Together they hope to show that systems such as Piclo could offer more transparency and control over energy supply and purchase than ever before.
During the trial, businesses will be able to buy renewable electricity directly from specific sites and renewable generators can sell their electricity directly to their neighbours, local businesses or schools for the best price. This is part of a wider development that is sometimes known as a ‘smart grid’.
“If the electricity you use could be generated just round the corner from your house or business, it puts far less load on the grid and costs are reduced,” said Chris Gathercole, director at Whalley Hydro.
“Smart grids are becoming possible with far more power being generated locally from small solar, wind and hydro plants distributed around the country. Ultimately it could mean that much of the huge cost of upgrading the national grid could be avoided.”
At present Piclo is only available to larger organisations that employ half-hourly metering, but eventually it could be rolled out to many more consumers. The initial trial features around 25 generators and ten consumers – the largest of which is the Eden Project in Cornwall. In time Whalley Hydro hopes to be able to supply power to local customers at a cheaper rate.
“We are proud to be taking part in the first ever trial of a ‘smart grid’ scheme in the UK that could become an integral part of the energy market in future,” added Mr Gathercole.
“We will gain experience for if and when such schemes to create local energy markets become more widespread.”