Energy trading, as if people mattered

Posted on Oct 18, 2018
Energy trading, as if people mattered

Swanbarton has its own distinctive vision of how electricity trading could be. What if people could trade energy between their homes (for example from their solar panels), and do it at prices that they agree between them, with no interference from central control? People are allowed to trade pretty much everything else like that, so why not electricity?

It sounds great, but can it be done? What sort of prices will people settle at? Will the electricity still flow? In a truly free market, who will be the winners? We’ve been finding out, and appropriately some early results have become available in Green GB Week.

Swanbarton’s radical re-imagining of electricity trading has become reality on the Hebridean island of Iona. Thirty homes are taking part in a trial led by Scene Connect and Swanbarton. Using real time consumption data gathered by Scene Connect, Swanbarton’s Real Time Trading Platform provides each home with a smart agent to negotiate electricity prices on its behalf, in real time.

In a typical week, the agents representing the 23 active participants make 150,000 deals, trading 1.95 MWh. Consumers save typically £3.57 per week over conventional suppliers’ prices, while prosumers benefit by £5.97. Market forces cause prices to respond rapidly to changes in the local availability of energy, so they encourage use of locally generated energy, in a very natural way.

 “But where’s the energy storage in this?”, we hear you say. Well, we’ve given a battery to one of the participants. Its trading agent exploits the highly dynamic local prices, buying when electricity’s cheapest and avoiding buying when the prices are higher. A new way to trade electricity that’s fairer to everybody, and a new way for battery technology to benefit households.

The project has been awarded co-funding by the UK’s innovation agency Innovate UK. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by UK government. Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base.

Swanbarton is working with power companies, energy suppliers and storage manufacturers to bring its patented vision of real-time local trading to the world.