ASK ME ANYTHING

Ask Me Anything with Rebecca Heaton - submit your questions ahead of our October event

  • 10 September 2021
  • 42 replies
  • 587 views
Ask Me Anything with Rebecca Heaton - submit your questions ahead of our October event
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Get your questions in!

 

I’m delighted to announce our upcoming ‘Ask My Anything’ event with OVO Energy’s Director of Sustainability, Rebecca Heaton. RSVP to this event here:

 

 

Here’s a little bit about Rebecca:

 

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What did you do before OVO and how did you get where you are today?

 

“My whole career has been about climate change – making choices on where I could make the most impact. For example, I sat on the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC), setting the framework for the UK’s net zero target and advising the government on how to get there. 

 

“I’m also a forester by training – I’m a forestry graduate and a fellow of the institute of chartered foresters. Most of my roles have been focused on how land use, trees and climate change interact from a business perspective. A big attraction for joining OVO was that the company is already doing things in that space and using trees to help meet our objectives.”

 

Can you tell us a bit about your role at OVO and what you’ll be doing? 

 

“I’m the Director of Sustainability at OVO. So, I inherited the fantastic Plan Zero, which is embedded across everything the company does. My job is to look at how we’re going to deliver Plan Zero, meet those targets and embed it even further into the company.”

 

What sort of subjects are you hoping to discuss in the Forum AMA event?

 

“I’m still very new to OVO, having joined in August of this year, so I won’t be best placed to discuss specifics around OVO’s products, services or historic strategy. 

 

As I mentioned earlier my career has been dedicated to issues around climate change, so I’m well placed to share my experience and opinions around this. COP 26, Plan Zero, the UKs energy transition plans, climate solutions and carbon reduction. I’ll happily discuss these important subjects and answer any questions as best I can. I’m looking forward to it!”


 

We’re really excited to have Rebecca joining us for this one. Not to be missed!

 

Please submit some questions that you have for Rebecca in the comments section below, and we can use these as a template to structure the event. 

 

See you all there at 16:30 on October the 13th


42 replies

Userlevel 7

Heads up, to everyone that attended our last online event in August, we’ve got another one booked in for the end of this month, with another special guest!

 

@Jeffus @Blastoise186 @sylm_2000 @ArundaleP @Transparent @EverythingNeedsAUserName @jason.lewis @James_N @juliamc @nealmurphy @PeterR1947 @Gingernut49 

 

Post your question in the comments below, and RSVP here:

 

 

Looking forward to seeing you there and hearing your questions!

Userlevel 7

A shout out to other carbon cutters who weren’t able to attend last time, get this in your calendar:

 

 

@Jequinlan @NinjaGeek @hydrosam @Simon1D @MrPuds @jenthomson @MikeE @mrmojorisin04 @tesla_model_3 @hecate @jp1 @Rob Whitney @knight 

Userlevel 7

Well let’s get the ball rolling on the questions then! My question to Rebecca is:

 

‘How do you remain positive and optimistic when faced with the often dire climate news?’

 

Anyone else got any burning (pun intended!) questions to ask our sustainability expert? - These could be related to the changes a lot of you have already made to your homes or the way you get around, or the biggest challenges/changes she’d like to see as a result of COP26?

 

No question too big or small - we’re keen to get the conversation started! :slight_smile:

 

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I see you previously worked for DRAX with responsibility for the sustainability of the global forest supply chains used to deliver sustainable biomass to its power station. 

I wonder what are your current thoughts on the role of wood burning/biomass now and in the future for both electricity generation and heating at a local and national level? 

Userlevel 7

And we’re off, with two good questions!

 

I’d also like to draw on Rebecca’s knowledge and experience with forestry:

 

What’s your opinion on tree planting vs re-wilding? More broadly, what things are important to consider when planting new trees on a large scale? Are newly planted trees protected from being cut down if they’re associated with carbon offsetting?

 

OK I’ve snuck in a few questions there, but couldn’t resist! 

 

Get your questions in to Rebecca ASAP, we’ll pass them on to her at the end of next week so don’t miss out! 

Userlevel 7
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Well, I’m gonna throw a Blastoise Speciale or two into the mix, but I want to keep those a surprise, so I’ll fire them off to Tim later via PM.

But my “serious” question to Rebecca would be this…

What was the inspiration behind creating OVO Greenlight (along with the previous incarnations such as Energy Spotlights) and where do you see it going in the future?

Userlevel 6
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Interesting on your thoughts on energy transition as you mentioned that, and the current challenge with low wind generation recently. This is perhaps the extreme with more coal than wind generation. 

Is the plan to be able to cope with weeks of low wind and solar when fossil fuels are turned off? 

 

 

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And we are reminded today that it’s not just wind and solar that can suddenly let us down:

 

This is when the Flex Platform should be taking up the slack. Theoretically it should be able to manage the available energy resources in the DNO regions such that it reduces the requirement from the IFA1 interconnector to France.

At a moment like this, National Grid would pay handsomely for the service!

But Kaluza has yet to demonstrate that it can monitor anything but national Demand & Supply. Where’s Flex when we need it?

 

Here’s the (renewable) generation map for my region this month. We could easily produce more electricity, but cannot do so without energy control management to overcome the capacity constraints on the Distribution Grid transformers.

©️ Western Power Distribution; published with permission

OVO has the capability to resolve this issue, increase the proportion of renewables in the energy-mix and reduce our reliance on fossil-fuels and interconnectors to mainland Europe.

We need the company to step up its efforts to counter Climate Change. Give us customers the tools to take real action instead of just telling us we’re getting 100% renewable electricity.

We urgently need

  • genuine Time Of Use tariffs with preferences for Energy-mix, not just pence per kWh
  • the Flex Platform utilising the local grid data rather than using National Grid demand statistics to facilitate trade on the wholesale market

These are ethical issues, not just matters of commercial profitability.

Userlevel 6
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And we are reminded today that it’s not just wind and solar that can suddenly let us down:

 

This is when the Flex Platform should be taking up the slack. Theoretically it should be able to manage the available energy resources in the DNO regions such that it reduces the requirement from the IFA1 interconnector to France.

At a moment like this, National Grid would pay handsomely for the service!

But Kaluza has yet to demonstrate that it can monitor anything but national Demand & Supply. Where’s Flex when we need it?

 

Here’s the (renewable) generation map for my region this month. We could easily produce more electricity, but cannot do so without energy control management to overcome the capacity constraints on the Distribution Grid transformers.

OVO has the capability to resolve this issue, increase the proportion of renewables in the energy-mix and reduce our reliance on fossil-fuels and interconnectors to mainland Europe.

We need the company to step up its efforts to counter Climate Change. Give us customers the tools to take real action instead of just telling us we’re getting 100% renewable electricity.

We urgently need

  • genuine Time Of Use tariffs with preferences for Energy-mix, not just pence per kWh
  • the Flex Platform utilising the local grid data rather than using National Grid demand statistics to facilitate trade on the wholesale market

These are ethical issues, not just matters of commercial profitability.

 

Are there alternatives to the flex platform being developed by other companies that are further ahead in terms of capabilities? 

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… Not that we’re aware of in the public domain @Jeffus 

The crunch issue comes when you realise that there’s only room for one electricity management system to control our domestic usage.

You can’t buy a VW Electric Vehicle and use the forthcoming VW proprietary App to set charge/discharge preferences for a VW-designed V2G charger

… and then turn to a Mitsubishi App to configure power demand preferences for your Heat pump, and a Tesla App for your Powerwall Storage Battery. :scream:

Having more than one electricity control system working within a home will create conflicts, which in turn will be reflected in surges and increased losses at the local substation.

Either the Flex Platform becomes that national control mechanism or it doesn’t. And yes, I’ve discussed this directly with Stephen Fitzpatrick.

I’m not sure that HMG yet understands the issue… hence my responses to your topic on Smart Electric Vehicle Charging legislation.

By the time we get to have this video dialogue with Rebecca Heaton, I’m hoping she’ll have realised the significance of Flex succeeding.

 

I can think of an alternative if Kaluza don’t develop the necessary tool-set within Flex - there could be an Open-Source initiative from the public at large. That’s why I’m investigating the (relatively mature) Open Energy Monitor hardware/software which @Simon1D introduced us to in the Energy Monitoring topic.

OEM.org already have members branching out into controls for Heat pumps and Storage Battery management.

Note:

1: Community groups are ahead of the curve in understanding how to manage electricity within their communities, and 8 of ‘us’ have hands-on experience of monitoring local substations.

2: The tide of public opinion on the need to tackle Global Warming is rising unabated. If XR realised the possibility of developing such an electricity control system which could be ‘owned’ by the people of Britain, then I have no doubt they’d get behind it. They’re not short of highly-skilled and motivated members in the relevant fields of expertise!

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@Transparent 

Thanks, that is interesting.

I did wonder what Octopus was up to in this space given they generate so much press. 

Do you think any of the DNOs are more advanced then in their preparation or plans for a smarter setup? They seem critical? 

I agree with you, i can't help thinking that we really need a single national system. I assume at the moment it is simply not clear who should own and develop that.

 

 

Userlevel 7
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I need to insert a correction. Earlier I wrote:

But Kaluza has yet to demonstrate that it can monitor anything but national Demand & Supply.

There are two instances where Flex is being used for a more local electricity management.

1: Orkney Islands, which are energy-rich and isolated.

2: Storage Battery resources from Sönnen in an area SE of Lincoln. This is a partnership with Western Power to overcome constraints on both the 33kV and 11kV supplies into that area.

So these both show that Flex is capable of receiving live data inputs other than those from National Grid, and controlling storage devices appropriately.

 

As for Octopus, they have published the inputs used to manage the pricing on their Agile Tariff. It’s much simpler than we might at first suppose. The crucial point is that it is only a Time Of Use tariff. It has no functionality which controls devices in the home.

Userlevel 7

Some great discussion going on here over the possible future uses of our Flex platform, @Transparent and @Jeffus.

 

In light of this any questions you’d like to pose to Rebecca? (Bearing in mind the more technical aspects might not be her area of expertise!) 

Userlevel 7
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Oh… a question @Jess_OVO 

Do you mean one of those short sentences which somehow fails to deliver the underlying concept and ends with one of these ‘?’

Couldn’t we just take Rebecca to a Bristol hostelry and let her loose on the the ethics and responsibilities of OVO to attain the goals of Plan Zero?  :kissing:

Userlevel 6
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Interesting on your thoughts on energy transition as you mentioned that, and the current challenge with low wind generation recently. This is perhaps the extreme with more coal than wind generation. 

Is the plan to be able to cope with weeks of low wind and solar when fossil fuels are turned off?

Related to this question, do you have a view on the potential for using compressed CO2 as the basis for grid-scale storage, as an alternative to warehouses full of batteries?

More information about a pilot project here, but the technology is not remotely pushing-back-the-frontiers stuff. Once upon a time, our country was littered with gasometers, storing town gas. This is could be a kind of 21st century update.

Hi Rebecca, is OVO one of the companies that reportedly could be going bust due to the price crisis?

Thanks

Luke

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Hi Rebecca,

How do you think the current energy / natural gas supply issues affect the UK’s transition toward net zero?

What is your predicted energy mix for the UK in 2030 and how much will rely on imports from other countries (biomass, electricity interconnects etc)?

How much do you see micro grid and behind the meter generation and storage as part of the solution and do you think UK gov is doing enough to encourage growth in this area?

How much of a role do you see forestry and other carbon offset possibilities having in a long term future?

 

Thanks,

 

Paul 

Userlevel 7

Announcement: Date change

 

Please be advised, this event will now take place at 16:30 on the 13th of October, rather than the 29th of September as originally stated. FYI to all current attendees: @jason.lewis @Blastoise186 @hydrosam @sylm_2000 @ArundaleP @PeterR1947 @EverythingNeedsAUserName @hecate 

 

We hope we haven’t caused any inconvenience by this change, and we’re very keen to see you all there on the 13th of October! 

 

Speaking of which, thanks for your questions. Keep them coming...

 

@ArundaleP always has good ones and this time is no exception. 4 corkers above, we’ll do our best to get to every question on the day!

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Picking up the suggestion from @Jess_OVO above - here’s the question to Rebecca which comes from what @Jeffus and I discussed:

 

How do you feel about OVO taking a more open approach to reaching its Plan Zero objectives?

Would OVO be willing to engage in partnership projects with customers and community groups rather than attempt to develop its strategies as in-house initiatives?

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Be interesting to hear Rebecca's thoughts on the most efficient way to transition all of our  individual homes to net zero.

Wouldn't it be better to simply go street by street and remediate every home fully (obviously taking cost/benefit into account) ? Prioritising areas that would benefit from leveling up perhaps? Utilising government grants where appropriate. 

Surely economies of scale, optimization etc would be better rather than ad hoc, piecemeal work on individual solutions across the country undertaken by every household over the next 29 years? 

Could ovo pick an area of a town and attempt to support it? 

 

 

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To help the whole country attain Net Zero, OVO needs to develop the Flex Platform to receive localised inputs (eg from the Distribution Grid) and allow customers to set preferences for control of multiple devices.

 

The Trials approach by Kaluza is useful, but participants are barely involved beyond hosting the hardware.

Moreover the pace of R&D on Flex is far slower than the Net Zero targets require, for which OVO has set the timescale.

Most of Kaluza’s Trial equipment is spread far apart. I don’t know of any substations which hosted two or more V2G charger sites, for example. That results in the control algorithms taking no account of the system losses which affect the Distribution Network Operators (DNOs).

I don’t think it needs a project nearly as large as a whole town to enable these algorithms to be developed and tested. But it does need creative partnerships with those of us in the community who have the necessary local knowledge.

 

I’m on the PowerVault Storage Battery Trial with an 8kWh £7000 battery installed here. But it can’t be used as part of the intended trial for ‘grid support’ because of local conditions. At the moment that’s a wasted asset.

I do have ideas as to what experimental work can be done using this PowerVault battery, and yes, I have communicated that to the Smart Home Team. But it’s going to need partnership and dialogue for OVO to achieve anything here.

That’s one reason why I want to hear if Rebecca is prepared for the company to operate in partnership rather than try to do everything in-house.

 

The Zero Carbon Heating Trial is in a similar predicament. None of the 250 sites with Heat pumps has any storage for space-heating - only for Domestic Hot Water (DHW).

It’s already obvious that many of the participants can’t afford to heat their homes this winter now that their gas-boilers have been removed. There are solutions discussed in the Smart Home Treehouse, but it will require collaborative work with the participants and the two relevant DNOs to actually do something about it.

Without that the trial will surely fail to deliver the required statistics because so many home-owners will need to curtail Heat pump use in order to live within their financial means. Some will inevitably be forced to withdraw.

 

What about it Rebecca?

Can we work together to achieve some better success for Plan Zero?

Userlevel 7

Thanks for these comments and questions. 

 

Rebecca will be best placed to answer some of these questions more than others, but that’s OK. The ‘Ask me anything’ nature of these events means there’s a lot of scope for wide ranging questions. 

 

So to help with what questions to put to OVO Energy’s Director of Sustainability, and to learn a little bit more about her, have a look at OVO’s latest blog interview with Rebecca, here

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...

It’s already obvious that many of the participants can’t afford to heat their homes this winter now that their gas-boilers have been removed.

I’ve removed the context only so that @Transparent’s terse observation can be given the attention it deserves. I had sensed how things are in an online meet-up to discuss this trial some months back. (It was open to non-trialists, like me.) As someone remarked at the time “I feel like I dodged a bullet by not qualifying for this heat-pump trial”.

If Ovo are hoping that they can usefully(*) develop their ideas in collaboration with customers as voluntary participants in such trials then, I suggest, they need to be very careful how they present the “opportunity” to potential participants.

For some reason, various “miss-selling” cases come to mind.

(*) I nearly used the word “profitably” in the metaphorical sense, but chose not to, to avoid misinterpretation.

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Would it be possible for Rebecca to get an update on the OVO Heat Pump Trial that could be fed back to us?

What has worked well, what has not worked well, any remedial actions that have been done or are currently planned?

What has been the feedback, for example what is the range of running costs vs previous equipment? Has hot water and heating been sufficient? Reliability?

Be useful to get some feedback to inform anyone considering a heat pump in the future. I appreciate it is still early in the trial. 

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Since we’re talking about costs, would Ovo consider introducing what are effectively low user tariffs, where the standing charge is replaced by charging a different rate for units consumed below a fixed monthly threshold?

By spreading out the standing charge in this way, those who can get their consumption down to and below that threshold start to be rewarded by paying less than they would if the standing charge was a fixed amount.

It might seem like a discount for heavy use (which would be bad), but it’s actually an incentive to reduce energy consumption, but only if that threshold is set at a level where it creates a real incentive for consumers.

Whatever the temptations might be, it must not be a thought of as a wheeze whereby the utility company can sneak in disguised price rises.

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