Northern Powergrid

Northern Powergrid



  • ACE - woman with tablet- for web version.jpgLargest flexibility trial to date shows how games can help energy companies manage consumer power demand.
  • Activating Community Engagement (ACE) project reports show gamification will be a powerful tool to improving the network for customers.
  • Reports launched as ACE project is shortlisted for two industry awards.
  • Learning being further developed as a powerful smart charging tool for electric vehicles.

As widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), home power generation and domestic battery storage gets closer, Northern Powergrid is offering gas and electricity network operators across the UK, and beyond, the opportunity to learn from its game-changing ACE project with the public release of its final report and findings.

In excess of 2,000 customers actively competed for cash prizes by turning off washing machines, televisions, lights and other home devices, in the first ever trial to show how a mobile game can incentivise households to reduce their consumption at times of high demand. The unique project demonstrated that using gamification could be a win:win for households and power networks, with mobile games unlocking an important tool to manage power demand and keep costs down for customers.

Last year Northern Powergrid revealed initial findings on how the three-year ACE project generated valuable insights into ways to incentivise consumer behaviour change. All this at a time when energy companies are planning how best to manage demand from rapid take-up of electric vehicles and other sources.

The publication of the full reports this month marks a significant milestone in industry collaboration around gamification. “While it may have been households in the North of England that took part in this cutting-edge trial, it could lead to benefits stretching well beyond the UK,” said Andrew Webster, Northern Powergrid’s Innovation Project Manager. “By making comprehensive findings widely available – including our trials, errors and triumphs – we hope to jump start other gamification programmes for operator colleagues and play our part in benefitting energy customers across the whole country, not just our patch.”

Northern Powergrid, which distributes electricity to 8 million customers across 3.9 million homes and businesses in the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, collaborated with Newcastle University and gamification experts GenGame to develop the mobile game that sat at the heart of the ACE project. At periods of high demand, players received an alert saying “It’s GenGame time”. The more they reduced their power consumption the more points they earned, increasing chances to win cash prizes online. With £350 available each month, players reduced their electricity consumption by an average of 11%. Although the average was 305 Watts, some cut as much as 4.9kW, turning off appliances such as EVs, caravans, hot tubs and tropical fish tank heaters for short periods of time.

“We know we have developed some very important trial data and learning for the industry,” added Iain Miller, Northern Powergrid’s Head of Innovation. “We wanted to be as transparent and helpful as possible in sharing this, so we have created a dedicated website to host the reports and broken them down into bite-size chunks for our industry colleagues and other interested parties.”

Building on the exciting findings of the project, Northern Powergrid, GenGame and Newcastle University have gone one step further to aid industry-wide review and potential adoption of DSR gamification by producing an outline for a valuable Assessment Tool as part of the final reports. If adopted, the tool would predict GenGame’s uptake and performance across the whole of Northern Powergrid’s region and be adapted for prediction of uptake across any region in the UK.

The lessons of GenGame are also being developed via a follow-up GenDrive project, which will explore how mobile games can incentivise EV drivers to use their vehicles to support the UK energy grid.

Northern Powergrid, Newcastle University and GenGame are partnering with green energy company Ecotricity and energy monitoring specialists EnAppSys in the £400,000 project, which is part of the Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) competition funded by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), in partnership with Innovate UK.

The reports were published as the ACE project’s cutting edge approach was recognised with shortlisting for two respected Network awards: Innovation Project of the Year and Electricity and Partnership Initiative of the Year.

The following reports are now available at: 

  • Recruitment: Analysis of the various recruitment methods used during the course of the ACE project.
  • Gamification: Outline of the various uses of gamification within the ACE Project.
  • Trial Analysis: A technical assessment of the demand response and engagement data gathered during the project carried out by Newcastle University.
  • Assessment Tool Functional Spec: Outline for a specification for a tool that would predict GenGame’s uptake and performance across Northern Powergrid’s region.
  • DNO / DSO Gain: Potential areas of theoretical DSO operation in which GenGame could provide input.  
  • Technology Readiness Level: Discussion report on the lessons learned with regards to use of smart home technologies for DSR.