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IN DEMAND Is UPS the solution to an ever-growing demand for energy? Leo Craig, general manager of Riello UPS, explores the benefits of adopting battery-centred demand side response.


ith the evolution of technology, more devices are connecting to the Grid than ever. If you start to factor in the development of electrical transport and decarbonising heat1, it’s no wonder that energy demand is set to double by 2050. Although that may seem a long way away, the pressure this is putting on demand side response is already rapidly increasing. Through demand side response, we can use electricity more intelligently, rather than simply generating more electricity to meet short periods of huge demand. So it is more vital than ever that electricity providers start to think of ways that they can help to balance the grid. The UK currently has more than 4GW of stored power in UPS units and this valuable, additional resource could and should be exploited by power providers to help avert a capacity crisis. There is a knowledge gap that needs to be plugged when it comes to demand side response and UPS battery solutions. This need for additional information exists across the commercial sector as a whole.

Understanding the issues Mostly associated with emergency situations and power failures, businesses have understandably been reluctant to use existing back-up generators as a demand side response mechanism. The harnessing of power from back-up generators is viewed as one of the more straightforward ways of providing demand response and yet it is not being widely implemented. So, taking things a step further by asking the mission control sector to consider investing in new UPS technology to support demand response is bound to meet with resistance. However, there are untapped benefits.

For instance, one of the key advantages of using a UPS battery storage for demand response purposes over the back-up generator option is the green credentials and power savings. The emissions produced by generators defeat one of the objects of demand side response – carbon footprint reduction. A UPS system cuts emissions and saves energy by reducing power surges and voltage drops. There are even solar versions available. Businesses can only consider UPS energy storage as a demand response option if their UPS is powered by lithiumion (Li-ion) batteries in the first place, and it is definitely worth considering switching as the industry needs to consider demand side response as part of its corporate social responsibility. There are also other benefits; Li-ion batteries as part of a UPS solution offer numerous advantages over their SLA (sealed lead acid) counterparts. For starters, Li-ion batteries have a much higher power density than SLA batteries. This means that twice as much battery autonomy can be located within the same amount of space as a traditional SLA battery space. They also have much faster charging times than SLA batteries, which can take six to eight hours to reach 80% charge, where a Li-ion battery takes 30 minutes. Also, Li-ion can be discharged and recharged up to 10,000 times. SLAs can only be charged/recharged 500 times.

Long-term goals

“The UK currently has more than 4GW of stored power in UPS units and this could and should be exploited by power providers to help avert a capacity crisis.”

Utilising the untapped potential of UPS battery power in demand response across the UK is a long-term goal. It will require a radical shift in the mindset of mission critical businesses if they are to be comfortable in using their UPS as an energy accumulator for use in this situation. Explaining the benefits, both in terms of financial reward and corporate responsibility achievement, is essential to winning businesses over. It is also important to alleviate fears around risks to operations when using a UPS beyond its primary back-up function. Combined efforts from UPS manufacturers, and those in the energy industry, to build awareness of the business drivers behind demand-side resource in a straightforward manner will help to boost buy-in. Demonstrating how the theory works, with examples of UPS batteries being successfully used for demand side response in a risk-free manner, is an effective way of communicating the benefits to a business. Industry seminars, workshops and conferences that explore demand side response are also opportune ways to communicate this. We also need to see increased incentive from the policy-makers. For some time now, we have heard positive noises from government around energy storage being a key part of the UK’s industrial strategy. It would be great to see this message developed further and a plan put into fruition. Demand side response is an integral part of the modern, flexible energy system evolving in the UK today. It offers a multitude of financial benefits to business by reducing energy bills, and providing revenue streams. From a long-term point of view, demand side response will help to reduce carbon emissions, supporting responsible business practice and protect the environment. It will also enhance the security of our electricity supply – reducing the potential for disruptive power outages and price hikes that we all want to avoid. All of these issues align with the benefits of UPS systems, so the two working alongside seems like a natural answer to a potential capacity crisis. Riello, [1] National Grid, Future Energy Scenarios;

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