Artificial intelligence is helping a UK water utility to manage energy demand and generation across its sites.
United Utilities already generates 21% of its electricity requirements through its own renewable resources, including solar panels, biogas and hydroelectric generation, and plans to install a further 30MW by 2020.
However, to make the best use of variable sources of power, the company needs to be flexible about when and how it uses electricity, energy tech provider Open Energi explained.
The utility is using a platform from Open Energi which continuously monitors and manages electricity demand and generation, learning what an optimal strategy looks like and adjusting it second-by-second according to various control parameters and signals.
This fully automated solution shifts United Utilities’ demand so that its operations consume more when it is generating high levels of electricity and less during expensive peak periods. It also responds to fluctuations on the grid to help balance electricity supply and demand at a network level.
United Utilities expects the platform to increase its use of self-generated renewable power and cut electricity costs at its water and wastewater treatment sites by 10% a year, which will be used to reduce water bills for customers.
Open Energi’s commercial director, David Hill, commented: “The UK’s energy system is undergoing a quiet revolution. Renewable uptake has surpassed all expectations and coal is disappearing from our grid, but we are now faced with the perverse situation where wind is likely to be turned off during summer months so that gas-fired power stations can be kept online to balance the system.”
The platform adopted by United Utilities enables greater flexibility in demand, allowing the utility to operate in a more environmentally friendly way while also cutting costs.
“It shows how sustainably driven energy decisions can boost productivity,” Hill added.