The future is here: 24 UK families take part in smart home trial

A new smart home tech trial is creating the UK’s first automated smart home energy systems, proving people can save money, cut carbon emissions and use less energy from the grid, at the same time.

The project, led by geo, with EDF, UK Power Networks, The Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust, Cambridge Energy, Everoze and Upside Energy, sees geo’s ‘Core’ energy brain fitted in houses already equipped with solar panels and electric vehicle chargers, and has added smart meters and batteries to complete the set of modern energy technology.

’Core’ is geo’s energy co-ordinator device, a microcomputer that integrates all of the different technology in the homes to run as a whole system, optimising the different devices, reducing households’ carbon footprints and cutting energy costs.

In the first three months of the trial, total energy cost savings in the Core trial amounted to enough energy to boil a kettle for 88,000 cups of tea (3,000kWh).

Depending on the technology in each home, Core makes complex, instant decisions such as charging the battery at off-peak hours (when energy is cheaper), or charging the battery using the solar panels but storing the power for another time. It can even charge users’ electric vehicles straight from their domestic battery to reduce the amount of energy used from the grid.

The system also responds to signals to balance supply and demand, helping to free up capacity on the electricity network. Taking a market-led approach, Core decides how and when each home should use its energy, depending on software signals from trial partners Upside Energy. The Core4Grid project is also trialing ways to use the in-home devices to free up more capacity on the network in a service known as Demand Side Response (DSR).

Ian Cameron, head of customer service and innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “We are incredibly excited by further developing Demand Side Response because it’s a win for customers, a win for the environment, and a win for the network.”

“‘Homes of the future’ may sound a bit clichéd, and this project is demonstrating that the future is here already. We are developing the technology to run the network more efficiently, and save money for our customers while lowering carbon emissions. That’s our mission.”

Patrick Caiger-Smith, geo CEO, said: “We’re delighted that Core4Grid is demonstrating how smart technology can reduce household energy cost and carbon footprint without households having to think about it. It means that householders, whether they’re overwhelmed by their energy bills or they love to optimise their home energy use, are all able to benefit. Through collaboration with housing associations Gentoo and Worthing Homes we’re starting to showcase this value.”

Devrim Celal, CEO of Upside Energy, said “Trials like this with multiple partners across a range of skills prove just how innovative and forward thinking the UK energy industry is. We believe the power of new technology will play a key part in delivering the UK’s net zero ambitions and it’s projects like this, bringing together some of the brightest minds in the industry, that will accelerate that transition”.

The trial runs until February 2021, including a number of different DSR trials underway. It is funded by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and is being delivered by a world-leading consortium including geo, The Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust, researchers Cambridge Energy and energy consultancy Everoze, in addition to UK Power Networks, EDF and Upside Energy.

The consortium aims to better understand how these modern technologies, optimising various markets, can be used in different scenarios to create the most value for customers.