A new electric car charging trial has been jointly launched by Pod Point and Centrica, the parent company of British Gas and a leading provider of energy and services to over 10 million UK homes and businesses.

The trial follows the strategic agreement between Centrica and Pod Point announced in November 2023 which was the first step of a planned roadmap of activity for Pod Point’s expansion into the management of flexible energy resources.

Woman using a wall-mounted electric vehicle charger

Over 2,000 joint British Gas and Pod Point customers were recruited for the trial, which went live at the end of February 2024. The initial six month pilot focuses on delivering flexibility services to customers using Centrica’s Demand Side Response (DSR) platform, which encourages customers to move their electricity use out of peak times to give them access to cheaper and more sustainable electricity. If they participate in every event over the course of the trial, these customers could be rewarded credit on their British Gas bill in the amounts of £30 and £50.

Centrica operates one of the UK’s largest virtual power plants (VPP), aggregating energy flexibility across a number of sources to provide a dynamic approach to managing the grid’s electricity supply and demand. By onboarding Pod Point and British Gas’s 2,000+ trial customers onto their DSR’s VPP, Centrica has the opportunity to increase their flexibility capabilities and help balance the UK’s energy system.

A small cohort of participating customers will be using their EVs to help support balancing the grid. This was made possible by a previous and successful trial led by the Power Responsive Programme at the Electricity System Operator (ESO), which ran between September 2023 and January 2024. This trial demonstrated that households with EV chargers were willing to optimise their charging in response to instructions sent from the ESO.

Following this trial, the ESO opened up the Balancing Mechanism to up to 300MW of aggregated assets, comprising electric cars and other technologies, to participate in the Balancing Mechanism on an ongoing basis. This means that during periods of high energy usage, EV drivers can postpone their charging until demand subsides, whilst still meeting their charging schedules.

This latest six-month trial looks to demonstrate how electric car charging can be used as a valuable flexibility source in the Balancing Mechanism, which shows the huge potential for EVs to contribute positively to both the ESO and the customers involved. In the transport sector alone, the ESO estimates that by 2030, there could be as much as 6GW of DSR from smart charging.

The joint trial between Pod Point and Centrica will play an important role in enhancing the market’s understanding of how these assets interact with the energy system, as well as the flexibility they can provide and what value this offers for customers.

As well as enabling British Gas and Pod Point to help their customers make charging cheaper and greener, the trial’s findings are also expected to support the ESO in establishing new rules which open up the Balancing Mechanism to EV charging flexibility more widely.

Pilgrim Beart, VP, Grid Business Unit, Pod Point, said:

The partnership with Centrica aligns with Pod Point's goal to continue driving innovation in EV charging. This trial forms part of our commitment to energy flexibility and we believe it will showcase the immense potential of EV charging as a significant source of flexibility in the market. We also believe flexibility will play a pivotal role in supporting the widespread adoption of EVs and renewables in the longer term.

Stavros Sachinis, Demand Side Response Director from Centrica, said:

EV uptake is a key part of the UK’s drive to Net Zero. Our partnership with Pod Point supports this and represents a strategic step towards a more sustainable and flexible energy future. By optimising EV charging we’re aiming to provide our customers with greater control over their energy usage and costs while also accelerating the journey towards a greener future. This is in addition to our recently launched market-leading SmartCharge service that charges EV’s when energy is at its cheapest during that charging session offering customers the chance to access a cheap charging rate while also helping to manage demand on the grid.

In addition to enabling British Gas and Pod Point to help their customers make charging cheaper and greener, the findings from the trial are also expected to support the ESO in establishing new rules which open-up the Balancing Mechanism to EV charging flexibility more widely.

This article was originally published by Pod Point.


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