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Will the smart charger app accommodate other ALCS devices?

  • 19 June 2019
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Feedback for @Hari_OVO and @Giuseppe_OVO

I very much enjoyed hearing what each of you shared with us on Monday. I noted that this was very much oriented towards the two new OVO[/color] EV Chargers and the corresponding requirements for the matching App.

Now, that puzzles me a bit.
Let me take a step backwards and ask what is the target you are aiming for.

I don't (yet) have a EV, so I'm approaching this subject from a different viewpoint.
I'm also going to keep this post over-simplified so that others from the VIP day can follow and join in.

As I understand it, these two EV Chargers are important devices which take us a long way forward in the overall strategy for Demand Side Response. Currently you are sending them commands via the internet, so Question-1 is:

1. Are you able to say when/whether you intend moving from internet-routed commands to commands via a SMETS2 meter once more of these are fitted?

SMETS2 has inbuilt technology to turn on/off at least five other in-home devices using Auxiliary Load Control Switches (ALCS). The following diagram is my own design, showing a number of possible ALCS devices, grouped according to three different types of functionality.



This isn't a "finished diagram", but I was already preparing it for uploading to a more public position on the Forum.

So the second question I have is this:

2a. Are you building now an App which will later be expanded to accommodate other ALCS devices as and when they are available?

2b. Or are you building an EV-charger-only App which is to be completely replaced when the wider range of ALCS devices are ready for market?


I'll pause there and adjust my further feedback according your responses.
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Best answer by Hari_OVO 20 June 2019, 11:56

Hi @Transparent -

In response to question 1, it's not something that there are any immediate plans for.

I guess the response to question 2 kind of feeds off the back of the above, the app isn't necessarily being developed with ALCS devices in mind, but it's also not an EV Charger only app. It could work with another Kaluza connected device, whether that was a home storage battery, a storage heater, or anything else that Kaluza integrates with.

Hope that helps.

Hari
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Hi @Transparent -

In response to question 1, it's not something that there are any immediate plans for.

I guess the response to question 2 kind of feeds off the back of the above, the app isn't necessarily being developed with ALCS devices in mind, but it's also not an EV Charger only app. It could work with another Kaluza connected device, whether that was a home storage battery, a storage heater, or anything else that Kaluza integrates with.

Hope that helps.

Hari
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Yes @Hari_OVO , it certainly helps me to understand where @Giuseppe_OVO is heading with his App design!

So am I correct in these two observations?

A. Vcharge as a piece of software is no longer being mentioned, but still remains the company name. I noticed that everyone on Monday was mentioning "the Kaluza platform" which seems to be a term to describe a range of products utilising Vcharge algorithms beneath them.

B. The Kaluza connected devices you've just referred to are the equivalent of Hive items which use Centrica's software behind them.


I'm puzzled as to why Kaluza-linked devices are intended to have their control commands sent across the internet. This flies in the face of UK Energy Security guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre (GCHQ).

Cyber attacks on UK Energy supplies are growing, but DCC's Smart Meter Network has passed rigorous testing and redesign to ensure that it cannot be infiltrated by a hostile 3rd party, particularly a "state actor".

Hive products tend to be designed for "ease of use" by consumers. If they were compromised, then it would be annoying, but the UK energy industry would be unaffected.

In contrast, V2G, Smart chargers and Home Storage batteries are destined to become intrinsically embedded in the electricity supply chain. They will allow the UK electricity generation network to progressively lower its stand-by capacity because there is a reduced need to allow for the peaks of demand.

So I don't see why the Kaluza platform would wish to remain internet-based beyond the initial testing phase. After all, unlike the Hive product range, the Kaluza devices are commencing their roll out at a time when the ALCS facilities of SMETS2 meters are also becoming available. OVO/Kaluza do have a secure option which Hive did not.
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Feedback for @Hari_OVO

Last Monday we learned that Kalusa had opened discussions with the German Firm, Sonnen, regarding their range of Home Storage Batteries.

The Sonnen Batterie range starts at 5kWh capacity and expands in modules up to a maximum 15kWh. The Hybrid variant has an inbuilt DC-AC Inverter, enabling the direct connection of a PV Solar array.

However, all but the smallest in the range has a maximum output of just 3.3kW.

Compare this with the spec of the OVO/Indra Home Storage Battery which Hari allowed me to share on the Forum 14 months ago:

Capacity: 4.2 kWh to 10 kWh

Power: 5 kW continuous, 10 kW peak

At this stage we don't know if the Indra product is still being actively developed. However, the figures suggest a change in strategy towards being able to supply just the one house (Sonnen) as opposed to selling back to the grid at times of peak demand (Indra).

Is this deliberate or coincidental?

This will obviously affect the customer's view of whether a Home Battery is viable for them to install. Once TOU Tariffs are available, the opportunity to sell back to the grid could turn out to be a dominant factor in evaluating cost-per-kWh against the lifetime-capacity of the batteries themselves.

This seems to me that this a subject which would benefit from some Forum Focus Group discussion between OVO and "interested customers". There's little point in pursuing the development of a product which us customers wouldn't find attractive.
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@falklandkid @UC Bear @Gum168 you might find this interesting ^^^^^
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I've just received the email generated by @Nancy_OVO asking if I agree that @Hari_OVO has answered this question.

So, firstly, many thanks to the Moderator Team who have been sorting through our (private) feedback from last week's VIP Day and splitting them into separate Topics for others to see. ☺

And I agree that Hari has indeed answered the original question... but as @Tim_OVO observes, this is opening up some technical insights which I think need further airing on the open Forum here.
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There was another highly relevant post which @Hari_OVO wrote here on another Topic last week.

It explains the basics behind the grid-connection algorithm of the two EV chargers, and I'm going to break normal convention and re-post it here on this thread (sorry @Tim_OVO !)

On 19jun19, Hari wrote:
Hey @Leo Moran - good to meet you (and everyone else!) on Monday.

It might be easier if I step through how the charger - and the Kaluza software - will operate while you're on the trial...

When you have your charger installed you'll also get access to the Kaluza app - through this you'll be able to set a 'minimum charge level' and a 'ready by' time.

The minimum charge level is the % of charge that you want in the battery at all times. So if you set it to 40%, we'll be sure to never export so that your state of charge falls below 40%. The ready by time is the time of day, each day, that you will need the car fully charged by. We'll be sure to stick to this.

Then, within those parameters, on a daily basis we will either be exporting, charging, or doing nothing. In export - we will be sending power back to your house and to the grid.

So, the first thing to note here is - while you're on holiday, as long as you've got a 'ready by' time set for the day you're due back - we'll make sure your car is fully charged for when you've told us you need it.

Secondly, the charger won't always be matching your house load. The car will only power your home when it is exporting. This is a tricky one to explain in message form but I'll do my best... The charger exports based on signals that we are getting from the grid. So if the grid is under pressure, we'll be exporting. If your house happens to be using power at this time, we'll use up a proportion of your car exports to power your home, and send the rest back to the grid.

However, this doesn't mean that for all the time your house is using power, your car battery will be discharging. If your house is using power when the grid is under low demand, it's likely that your house will be taking power from the grid, and your car may even be charging up too.

Hope that makes sense - think the key point that I'd be keen to emphasis here is that there are things in place that you can control to make sure your car battery is at the level you need it to be, when you need it.

Hari
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hi @Transparent I'll reply to your first set of questions first

a. The VCharge platform has been renamed to Kaluza, and Kaluza as a brand now encompasses more than the platform, it also houses the field services teams that install our chargers and smart meters - they're part of the OVO Group but their relationship with OVO Energy is not necessarily exclusive, so they may work with other energy suppliers in the future. You can read more about Kaluza here.

b. The chargers have been developed adopting security best practices, based on the NIS directive. The ALCS functionality you mention is some way off being something that we can actually work with in practice - and so I believe the team in Kaluza are fairly comfortable with the current communications method.

Re. batteries

At the minute, the production focus is very much on Vehicle-to-grid and Smart Chargers. In the future there's a possibility that the battery you mention may gain more focus. As you mention, Kaluza have just announced a partnership with Sonnen - one of the largest Home Storage Battery brands in Europe.

At this stage, we're looking to prove the technology can provide a benefit to customers, and to DNOs, and Kaluza partnering with a company like Sonnen gives the perfect opportunity to do this, on a very small scale. It also gives us the opportunity to gain a trial group of customers who will be able to provide feedback and help develop the future proposition. Of course, as and when the time comes to develop commercial propositions for the wider market, we will be engaging potential customers in advance to understand where there are needs that are not currently being met.

Thanks,

Hari
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Very exciting to hear about this Sonnen partnership! Thanks for this update Hari!
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Thanks @Hari_OVO. This is useful. So the "Kaluza platform" is the way forward...

Auxilliary Load Control Switches: I think the opportunity to embrace ALCS is more important than the security aspects.

a. We need to avoid the complexity which would arise if every manufacturer of devices capable of using TOU Tariffs to schedule electricity usage were to deliver their own SmartPhone App.

If I buy a (yet to be released) Bosch Smart-TOU washing machine, a Zanussi Smart-TOU dishwasher, a Tesla Power Wall and a Kaluza EV Smart-charger, the whole strategy of Demand Side Response falls apart.

Even if I decide to juggle the four different Apps (aagh!), none of them is aware of the effects of the others in its scheduling.

I had fully expected Kaluza to take the lead forward and establish its presence as the first available DSR scheduling system with ALCS capability. That would enable other manufacturers to license their access to the Kaluza Platform rather than attempt to set up their own bespoke rival.

Why would Kaluza throw away such a dominant position and turn its back on the long-term revenue stream from licensing?

Are you possibly suggesting that the currently-approved electricity meters from Aclara and EDMI are being released without the mandatory ALCS support enabled within them?!


b. In the passage you wrote which I re-quoted above you said:
The charger exports based on signals that we are getting from the grid. So if the grid is under pressure, we'll be exporting.

Now I had always seen the unique selling point of Vcharge as being a coordinator for mass-distributed energy storage and Demand-led devices.

And yet here you are stating that it is making decisions based on "signals... from the grid". Are you here referring to the National Electricity Grid - the system of pylons which operate at 132kV and above?

If so, then I can see a problem.

That current status of the National Grid is a pretty coarse guideline to what might actually be occurring at the local "Primary" sub-station to which my town/city is connected.

For simplicity, let me select a major city which has a single connection path to the 132kV National Grid. I'm going to choose Truro, the capital city of Cornwall (and no, I don't live there!).

The Distribution Network Operator for Cornwall is Western Power. From their website I can obtain a map of the area showing the four levels of electricity supply points:


The GRID Supply Points (GSP) are in blue, and I've added the interconnecting blue lines and named the final three which make the link down towards Truro.

Beyond the GSPs are the Bulk Supply Points, depicted here with a symbol of two transformers, and then the Primary Supply points which drop the voltage down to 11kV to send to the local substations.

Apart from the St Austell area, all the Cornish BSPs and PSPs are shown in red. This is because I asked WPD's website to build a map of where I could connect in a generation plant (solar or wind). Red Supply Points occur where there is no available capacity for further electricity generation to be added.

Let's zoom in on the area fed from Truro's BSP (32kV)


The Truro BSP itself is slightly north of the city. It connects upstream to the Grid at Indian Queens, and downstream to six Primaries.

I can now look at the statistics for this BSP:


This clearly shows that it already has over 36MW over-provision of local generation ("reverse power"). Thank goodness we don't experience full sun and strong winds simultaneously...

...Oh, hang on ~ that's exactly what happened on 4 days last week!

So let's now zoom in further to the Primary Station which supplies the City of Truro itself. But this time I've reselected the parameters to show what happens if I wish to add small/local generation which has inbuilt energy storage:


And a miracle has occurred. Even in the middle of Truro there's still over 16MV capacity available if I combine storage within the generation-mix.

That's what happens when you cease thinking at the level of the UK Transmission Grid, and instead focus on the possibilities for local community-based storage and Demand-led devices.

That's why it's so important to know at what level of the electricity network the Kaluza Platform is obtaining its data.

There's no point in Kaluza preventing an EV in Truro from being charged during the early-evening National demand-peak, when Western Power are desperate for storage devices to kick-in and absorb the over-generation occurring throughout the SW Peninsular.

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