Flex Assure - ensuring customers continue to trust DSR

Published by Helle Taylor 03 / 02 / 20

Pictured: Neil O'Loughlin (IT & Engineering Manager at Flexitricity), Lisa Perrin (Account Manager at Flexitricity), Caroline Sejer Damgaard (Scheme Administrator at Flex Assure) and Claire Addison (Head of Regulation at Flexitricity)

Q &A with Lisa Perrin –  Account Manager at Flexitricity and Flex Assure Oversight Committee Member 

1) What is Flex Assure?

    Flex Assure is a voluntary code of conduct scheme, developed by the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), the UK Government and other key stakeholders, to set an industry code of practice for demand side response (DSR) suppliers and aggregators.  One of those key stakeholders was Flexitricity, having always been vocal about the need for a set of industry standards and common practice.

    It is important that the industry experts speak a common language, whereby aggregators and suppliers can be compared, and any claims regarding the potential benefits of DSR participation and revenue illustrations are clearly backed up with evidence.

    2) What’s your role in Flex Assure?

      Flex Assure Ltd is governed by a Board of Directors and an Oversight Committee. The Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing the Articles of Association, Company policy and finance.  The independent Oversight Committee is responsible for reviewing the activities of the Scheme Administrator and proposing or considering modifications to the DSR Code of Conduct and Scheme Byelaws. Committee members have been appointed either by election through industry peers or invited to join as a key stakeholder. The Oversight Committee is comprised of representatives from a wide range of stakeholder organisations, including flexibility customers, DSR providers, trade associations, and non-voting members including National Grid, Ofgem and BEIS.

      I was elected to represent DSR aggregators on the Oversight Committee, alongside two other DSR suppliers. Before each committee meeting, a quorum must be identified to ensure there is at least an equal number of customer representatives to Scheme Members. This makes sure equal input can be offered from the point of view of both sides, generating fairness in making decisions concerning the Scheme.

      The Oversight Committee meets a minimum of twice per year but corresponds periodically on all urgent matters that require consultation, including examining proposed changes to the Code of Conduct or Scheme and Company Byelaws, to strengthen Flex Assure’s objectives.

      3) How does Flex Assure benefit DSR customers?

        The shift towards renewable energy and electrification of heat and transport has created a huge opportunity for DSR. In the four years I have worked in this sector I have witnessed a significant increase in awareness of DSR as well as participation. National Grid has a huge role to play in that, having set an aspiration to meet 30-50% of balancing capability from demand response in 2020.  As more DSR providers move into this marketplace, finding your perfect partner can be a difficult decision.

        Flex Assure helps make that decision easier by setting minimum standards that Scheme Members must adhere to. This will give you confidence in making an informed decision about who you work with.

        One thing the Scheme isn’t trying to do is become a battleground for aggregators to discredit each other.  However, membership to the Scheme is voluntary, which means that not all aggregators or suppliers have to join. You can find out which DSR providers are accredited Scheme Members on the Flex Assure website.

        Are you a domestic customer? While the Scheme currently only covers business to business activities, ongoing discussions often get deliberated at committee meetings regarding domestic DSR activities. I am sure that as this sector of DSR grows over the next decade, then the Scheme (or a new comparable scheme) will be developed.

        4) What are the requirements for an aggregator to be accepted into the Scheme?

          A Scheme Member must meet the standards outlined in the Code of Conduct, and accompanying Scheme and Company Byelaws, in order to join Flex Assure. All membership applications to become an accredited Flex Assure Scheme Member will undergo an audit process to ensure compliance.

          The Code of Conduct includes minimum standards on sales and marketing materials; making sure that any financial figures an aggregator is suggesting to potential customers are realistic and can be evidenced against a reliable source. There are also standards around communication, record-keeping, cyber security (which continues to develop as we future proof the scheme to new technologies), contracts and complaints. 

          Flex Assure members will be audited periodically to ensure ongoing compliance to the Scheme. If risk factors are reported or identified against a particular Scheme Member, audits may be conducted more frequently to investigate issues that may have caused concerns for their DSR customers.

          5) What are the origins of the Code of Conduct – who was involved in developing, why was it needed, how long did it take, what were some of the key considerations?

            The development of the DSR Code of Conduct began in 2016. It was developed by the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) with support from the Government and key industry stakeholders.

            From the get-go, Flexitricity was eager to be involved as we have always felt there is a requirement for a standardised set of rules for the demand response sector.

            One of the key discussion points during working group meetings was to ensure the Code of Conduct is “future-proofed”. The DSR industry has developed and grown at extraordinary speed. It was important for all stakeholders that a code of conduct was developed that enables inclusive expansion of new technologies, new types of DSR customers, regulatory or market developments and new National Grid and DNO services. The Oversight Committee continues to work with the Scheme Administrator to guarantee that the Code of Conduct meets the requirements of the DSR industry, and any changes that are required will be done so through the official process outlined in the Scheme Byelaws.

            6) Are there any plans to expand the Scheme in the future?

              As mentioned above, there may be requirements in the near future to expand the Scheme to cover the rapid growth in domestic DSR participation. The Oversight Committee is planning a number of “Customer Guidance” documents, which will include helpful commentaries on completing tenders for DSR service provision, cyber-security risks, the Scheme auditing process and general information on DSR for those who are new to the industry.

              Last year marked some great developments for Flex Assure, with the Scheme officially launching in May. By September, Flex Assure had appointed their first Scheme Administrator and in late 2019 Flex Assure welcomed its seventh Scheme Member. I am sure this momentum will continue in 2020, with focus continuing to be on growth of scheme membership and promoting the benefits of Flex Assure for DSR customers. Flexitricity, as always, will be a passionate advocate and supporter of this. 

              For more information and current Scheme Members, please visit: www.flexassure.org

              Helle Taylor

              Helle Taylor Marketing Manager

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