Building a virtual energy market in Cornwall

November 2020

The Centrica DSR platform builds on the same technology that connected over 200 homes and businesses to build the innovative Cornwall Local Energy Market (LEM).

The £16.7 million project is the largest trial of energy flexibility so far in the UK. It’s seen 310MWh of power traded over three years – and it’s achieved greenhouse gas savings of nearly 10,000 tonnes per year.

At the start of the trial, homes and businesses were given new tech including solar panels and wall-mounted battery storage. The batteries were aggregated using software now incorporated into the Centrica DSR platform, with the combined storage capacity creating a Virtual Power Plant that could trade autonomously with the grid operators.

As well as paving the way for a smarter, greener, more flexible grid, the project also delivered very real benefits to participants. Some businesses were able to make 35% savings on energy costs by aligning their operations to the best times for grid capacity.

The technology behind the project

The success of the project was built on our pioneering auction-based marketplace that matches buyers and sellers of energy on an easy-to-use tech platform.

The Cornwall LEM was the first time anywhere in the world that a local Distribution System Operator (Western Power Distribution) and the Transmission System Operator (National Grid ESO) were able to procure flexibility simultaneously – a crucial step towards a smarter, more flexible grid that’s better able to manage renewable energy.

What is energy flexibility?

In simple terms, energy flexibility means paying businesses and homes to increase, decrease or shift the times that they use or produce power in response to the needs of the grid.

It also means harnessing the storage capacity of the country’s growing number of electric vehicles, smart hot water tanks and home batteries – and enabling the trading of energy stored by consumers back to the grid.

Renewable sources of energy inevitably create peaks and troughs in supply as weather conditions change. But allowing homes and businesses to trade their stored energy can help to balance the grid – and play a key role in reaching the UK’s net zero goals.

In fact, in order to accommodate the UK government’s plans to power every home with offshore wind, as much as 25TWh of electricity will need to be traded flexibly every year. That’s almost double the annual electricity demand of Wales.

What the experts say

The trial in Cornwall has proved that homes and small businesses can play a role, alongside larger industry, in market-based procurement of flexibility – a genuinely new tool in our low-carbon energy system toolbox.


Smarter energy means greener energy and cheaper bills, which is why this successful trial in Cornwall is such good news. With even more renewable electricity on the way, projects like this will be crucial as we work towards net zero emissions by 2050.


The electrification of heating and transport will greatly increase demand at peak times and flexibility will be absolutely vital to cope with this. The insights from projects like this alongside the right policy framework from government will help us to deliver flexibility at the large scale needed.

If you'd like to find out more about this project – or about how Centrica DSR can help you – get in touch to speak with one of our experts.

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In a nutshell

The Centrica DSR platform builds on the same technology that connected over 200 homes and businesses to build the innovative Cornwall Local Energy Market (LEM).


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The Company

Centrica plc is an international energy services and solutions business.

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