Asda signs up its fridges to keep the UK warm this winter


Hundreds of Asda supermarket stores will help power the UK’s electricity system this winter by using their fridges as a virtual battery pack for the energy grid.

Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain has signed up 300 stores and 18 distribution depots to schemes which can earn the grocery giant extra revenue while helping to balance the electricity grid.

Under the long-term deal with National Grid the supermarket’s nationwide networks of freezer aisles and storage fridges will make up a 13-megawatt power source – enough energy to power about 8,500 homes.

Asda has also signed up to a trial which could mean its fridges are called on at only 10 minutes’ notice to act as a safety net if there is an unexpected power station outage.

National Grid pays out about £1bn worth of contracts through its energy capacity market. Most are awarded to power plants so they are ready to ramp up their generation but they can also be given to companies which can cut their electricity use to help reduce overall demand on the grid.

Peter Smith, Asda’s energy manager, said the deals were a “no-brainer” for the supermarket, which can easily cut the electricity to its fridges and air conditioning when needed while keeping the temperature of its stores stable.

All industrial fridges are turned off at least once a day as part of a standard defrost cycle but new technology means supermarkets can earn extra revenue by matching the downtime to Britain’s energy needs.

The supermarket is working with Flexitricity, a specialist Edinburgh-based energy firm, which uses technology to aggregate the energy potential of companies across the country.

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Flexitricity hopes that by creating a virtual battery across its portfolio of clients it can bid for National Grid contracts which would earn the companies extra revenue while cutting carbon emissions.

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Smith said: “Reducing energy consumption makes both environmental and business sense.

“While we are a large company, our individual sites are relatively small, so the [Flexitricity] model provides an innovative and collaborative way for us to manage our consumption better, reduce our carbon footprint and provide a benefit back to the National Grid. It really is a no-brainer for us,” he said.

Tesco is also undertaking trials to test whether cold food could prove to be Britain’s largest battery by using mini-power cuts to its freezer aisles to help balance the grid.

If Tesco harnessed all its fridges across the UK it could create a virtual battery of between 25MW and 50MW, which is on a par with the batteries attracting interest from major energy companies.



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