A new research project is to examine the feasibility of introducing peer-to-peer (P2P) ‘free trade’ of excess energy in the UK.
This would allow households and businesses that generate their own electricity through small-scale renewables, such as solar panels and wind turbines, to decide how to distribute their extra energy.
At present, excess electricity must be sold back to the national grid at a set price but computer scientists at the University of Bristol are using a £460,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to explore the technology needed for ‘free trade’ between micro-generators. In a P2P energy market, any two individuals/households could directly buy from and sell to each other, without inter-mediating utilities or other third parties.
Project leader Dr Ruzanna Chitchyan, an expert in sofware engineering from the University of Bristol, said: “Perhaps you have installed some solar panels and you would much rather contribute your excess generation free of charge to the nearby homeless shelter instead of selling it back to the utility provider. Or sell it to someone else at a better price or give it to your neighbour. The households that produce the energy should have the power to decide on what to do with it. Similarly, consumers should be able to decide whose energy and at what price they want to buy. The HoSEM (Household-Supplier Energy Market) trading platform will support this freedom of choice.
“Similar ‘sharing’ platforms are already in place in other markets, for example via Airbnb in the hotel industry, or Uber in taxi hire (though both of these still impose substantial centralisation and intermediation charges).”
As well as establishing whether the infrastructure for P2P energy trading is technically feasible, the research will consider the role of the existing major power producers in such a market, whether supply continuity can be ensured under the fluctuating generation of renewable energy sources, and the regulatory changes that would be necessary.
EDF Energy, a partner in the project, is currently testing the concept of P2P trading between households as part of a trial within a block of flats in London.