In parnership with the clever software from Axle Energy, GivBack allows you to export your stored energy for cash as part of a nationwide National Grid scheme. Naturally, you’ll have lots of questions for us about how this all works. And what better way to answer your questions than a live Q&A?
Our new series of Instagram Live events is designed to create opportunities to chat to you and establish an open dialogue. This time, that dialogue centred on GivBack. Our CIO, Rob Taylor, and Axle Energy CEO, Karl Bach, hosted a joint Insta Live to answer your community GivBack questions.
Here’s the transcript of that GivBack Q&A.
We’re here today to talk about GivBack and our partnership with Axle Energy.
I’m Rob Taylor, I’m the CIO of GivEnergy. GivBack is our window into the National Grid Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) scheme. So, we’re partnering with Axle Energy and we’ve recently launched this new programme with them.
There’s a bunch of questions on GivBack that people have. We’ve covered off the recurring ones in our online FAQ, but we also wanted to give some time so that we can answer the live questions that have been coming in. (As well as some of the queries we’ve seen asked on socials.)
So, we can give you a little more clarity on GivBack today.
I’m Karl Bach, the co-founder and CEO of Axle Energy. Axle is a technology company – a software business – that helps companies like GivEnergy to enable their customers like you to participate in flexibility markets.
More and more people are getting solar on the roof, batteries in the home, EV chargers – these products that GivEnergy supplies and sells. At the same time, the grid is having more requirements to help keep it in balance to make sure supply and demand equals each other.
So, what we do is work with companies like Giv to make sure that people like you are able to use your batteries to participate in programmes like the Demand Flexibility Service.
GivBack is a programme that behind the scenes is a demand flexibility service. What that is attempting is to reduce the peaks of the highest electricity consumption across the year. In the UK, this usually happens on the coldest days of winter. Typically, in the evening when people come home and turn on their TV, start cooking, etc.
So, by exporting your batteries during those hours, you’re lowering the amount of electricity consumption during peak period, which can help keep the pull of the grid.
I think, before we begin the GivBack Q&A, the other thing worth mentioning here is that it also pays quite well. So there’s an environmental reason to do it, there’s a grid reason to do it, and there’s a selfish reason – to get some money!
We wanted to make sure we offer this programme as simply as possible for our customers. It was run as a scheme last year but we wanted to do things slightly differently – which we’ll explain some of today.
So, let’s dive straight into the questions. I think some of these are going to immediately make GivBack make more sense.
Q: How is GivBack different to other flexibility services?
The key difference that we wanted to offer with GivBack and the partnership with Axle was automation. So, these services are available, and there are many common ones through various providers.
However, we wanted to give something that was fully automated so that you didn’t need to think about it. Which, in turn, would increase the accessibility of these services for people.
So, the idea is that you don’t need to be a technical user to benefit from GivBack and to give into this scheme. You don’t need to remember that an event is happening – it will happen automatically, and we get things nice and slick.
Essentially, that’s really what we’re trying to offer with GivBack partnering with Axle.
Q: How does GivBack impact my current tariff or export programme?
Well this is a really easy one – it doesn’t, at all. So, the DFS scheme, in any format, whether it’s accessed through us or another provider, is entirely independent from your tariff.
You’re not moving tariff, you’re not changing anything, and you’ll still be paid to export under your tariff. This is an additional scheme on top of that.
Q: How does the scheme work with Octopus tariffs?
In general, as Rob says, this doesn’t impact your tariff. Anything you got paid from this is an addition to what you’re currently getting paid from any existing tariffs.
However, Octopus does have some tariffs that include control of your battery (such as Intelligent Octopus Flux). There could be some conflict there because Octopus could send a schedule to your battery saying to do X, and then we send a schedule to do Y.
During signup, we ask you about those tariffs. You’re still able to participate if you do have that, but there could be some conflicts. So, we just want to flag that upfront.
Q: How and when do I get paid?
After each event — typically the day after each event — you’ll receive an email from Axle. That will tell you how much energy you exported to the grid, compared to how much energy you normally export or import at the time. The difference between those two values is your additional export.
We’ll tell you what your earnings are, and there’ll also be a link to cash out your payments. You’ll click on that link and then you’ll have the ability to put in your bank information and get paid.
Just as an FYI, there’s a minimum of a £10 balance for withdrawal. If you have less than that at the end of the programme — which will be at the end of winter — you’ll be able to cash out whatever the remainder is.
Q: Who decides how much I get paid?
We’ve set payment at £2.10 per kWh for the first 6 events. After that, the exact payment will be variable. We’ll let you know before each event what the payment will be for that event, and it will be at least £1 per kWh. So, it’ll still be profitable based on your tariff.
In terms of who pays and who decides, the ESO (Electricity Service Operator, who is the grid operator in the UK), administers and funds this programme behind the scenes. Once we get through these initial events, there’ll be bidding and there’ll be market prices based on supply and demand.
We’re hoping that we’ll be to continue to offer prices in the £2 range, but it could go down to £1. (Again, all based on supply and demand).
Q: Can I sign up to the GivBack scheme if I’m on a plant system with multiple inverters and batteries?
Yes! The only proviso to that is there a handful of people out there with a prototype EMS. For those very small number of people, it won’t be compatible.
Q: Can you specify how much stored electricity is taken to ensure we do not end up with an empty battery?
We’ll know ahead of time how long the event will be. They’ll typically be an hour, but could be shorter or longer. What we’ll try to do is make sure you have enough electricity in your battery to export during that event.
But, we don’t want to needlessly charge your battery. We don’t want to pay for electricity to charge up your battery that you won’t then need.
So, we’ll try to charge your battery just the right amount. If you normally have your battery highly charged at that point (to be able to use that to power your house afterwards), we’ll try to take that into account.
Then, when the event is over, we’ll revert your schedule to whatever you normally have. Your battery will go back into its normal operation. (And then stay that way until the next event.)
Q: How much profit will I make if I’m “topping up” before an event on a peak rate?
It’s hard to say exactly, because the values you get paid for DFS will change for the later events. So, the exact amount of profit we can’t say right now. We can say that the size of the payment that you’ll get is always higher than what you would pay for the import.
So, you will always make a profit. We won’t be doing the event unless we think that you’re going to make a sizeable profit.
We will aim to charge at the cheapest rates, but even if we were to charge at peak, you’d still be making a good profit. It’s a win-win, really.
Q: Will the extra cycling of my system affect my battery warranty?
Because of the volume and the type of these events, it’s going to make absolutely negligible effect to your battery warranty. We’re talking about, say, 12 events this winter. That’s 12 – at worst – partial cycles of your battery.
It’s an absolutely insignificant amount compared to your warranty – even if you’ve got a limited cycle warranty.
It’s obviously up to you to make the individual call. For me though, the benefit is much higher than the amount of wear and tear on your battery.
Q: Can I opt out of events, and out of the whole scheme if I want to?
If you see a setting that you’re not happy with that’s been set by GivBack, you can just change it for the individual event. Or, if you think you can see a better way to optimise than what we’ve done automatically, you can change that as well.
If you want to opt out completely, you can email Axle and they will drop you out of the scheme as soon as is practical.
So, you can opt out at both an individual event level manually, and you can opt out of the whole scheme at any time.
Q: Can I still participate if my smart meter has poor signal?
We do have to access your smart meter data to participate. (This is a requirement from the ESO.)
As long as we’re able to get smart meter data on both import and export, you can participate. Sometimes, that data can be a bit spotty, but we’ll continue to retry.
If we retry enough and we’re able to get that data, that’s fine. If we’re never able to get your smart meter data, then unfortunately you won’t be able to participate.
Q: Is there a risk to having the programme manage my battery?
You could tackle this question from a number of different angles.
The warranty risk, we’ve already covered. (There isn’t really one – but it’s up to the individual to decide if they’re comfortable.)
In terms of risk for the event, you’re always going to come out on top in terms of money and profitability. Whether you’re maximising that profitability is ultimately dependent on how you want to use your home energy management ecosystem.
I think there is an argument that, if you personally manage your battery, you could potentially get a better fee out of a DFS. The aim that we’re trying to do is to make this accessible to people who are not necessarily going to want to – or be able to – manage their batteries in that way.
Again, it’s a user choice about whether you’re comfortable with that. At the end of the day, it’s still a profit that’s going to come out. So, for me, I don’t think there are many risks coming out of this system at all. (Which is why we’re so keen to offer it!)
Q: Do I still have control on when to charge at a low rate at night?
Yes. So, when you sign up to the scheme, you get asked which type of rate you’re on, and you get some options to configure that. If you disagree with what’s set via the scheme, you can just edit those directly in the portal or the app.
So you’re always in control of the system (if you want to be). But, there will be some default behaviour we apply which we think is going to be the best way to get a good result out of the event.
Q: Which specifics settings / registers will Axle change as a part of this service? Is everything else left as-is?
Effectively, we change only the settings we need to charge up your battery beforehand, and discharge your battery during an event.
Specifically, what that means for both AC and DC is the charge start time and end time. We also enable AC and DC charging and discharging. We will adjust the upper charge limit to make sure we can charge your battery, and in some cases, we might need to adjust Eco Mode to make sure we can export back to the grid.
Everything else is left as-is. We record all of your setting before the event, so that afterwards, we can leave your system exactly as it was.
Q: Are there any scenarios that could make me ineligible for this scheme?
There are some specific requirements that we try to screen out upfront that can make you ineligible.
- If you’re signed up for the Demand Flexibility Service with another provider, you can’t sign up with both that and GivBack.
- If you’re participating in any other flexibility or balancing service. There are a number of different flexibility services to help manage the UK grid. If you’re already participating in one of those, you can’t participate here. There is a chance you could be participating in one of these without maybe knowing explicitly. (In some cases, this is included in your tariff – certain tariffs will take your meter and participate on your behalf.) If either of these is the case, we’ll send you an email letting you know what’s happened, and why that’s the case.
Then, there are a couple of other situations – one I’ve already talked about.
- If we’re not able to access your import and export smart meter data.
- We also have to be able to access your actual system – your battery and inverter. If that’s gone offline for whatever reason, then you won’t be able to participate.
Q: Last year Octopus paid £2.25, often more; will GivBack be higher value, if there is a short notice session?
We touched on this one a little earlier. There’s a set price of £2.10/kWh for the first 6 events. After that, earnings will vary – and could be higher or could be lower based on market pricing – with a floor above £1/kWh.
Most events will have notice about a day ahead of time. In some cases, we may only have notice on the same day. (This is again decided by the ESO.) Pricing is independent from that notice period, but will be in that general ball park.
Q: If on Octopus Intelligent Flux, can we also do GivBack?
The only area where we think you’re going to clash is (potentially) if you’re on an intelligent tariff like Intelligent Flux, with the export plans.
If Octopus – or whoever it may be – are trying to control the battery state of charge or export/import in a different way to Axle at the same time, you might end up with different commands landing on the inverter. (And so, some unpredictable behaviour.)
There’s nothing inherently incompatible with the tariff, but the behaviour might be unpredictable. So, we wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s possible in theory.
Q: Will GivBack interfere with other export tariffs, such as 15p Intelligent Octopus export?
The DFS is entirely independent from export rate. So, whatever your export rate is at the time will be available to you on top of DFS.
It’s control of your battery state of charge where things might start to get more complex. So, if you’re in a tariff where there is control applied by your supplier, you may need to think about whether you want to use an automated DFS service like GivBack. For most other scenarios, I don’t see any issues with it at all.
Q: How do we charge batteries, and how do we make sure we charge at off-peak?
Typically we’ll know ahead of time that there’s an event the next day. When you sign up, we ask what your off-peak tariff information is. (What hours you have a cheaper window, if you have that.)
If you fill that out, we’ll use that information to charge your battery during the cheaper window. So, for example, if you have a cheaper window from 2-5am – we’ll attempt to charge your battery from 2-5am.
We don’t want to charge your battery too much, because then you might be paying for electricity you don’t need. We also don’t want to charge it too little, because then you don’t have enough. So, we try to estimate how much we need to charge your battery for the event.
Before the event, we’ll look at the state of charge of your battery and say: do we need to top up the battery to be able to export to the event? That top-up may be during your more expensive tariff period, but you should still more than get covered for that from your payment.
So, if you’re paying 30-40p to charge your battery at 2pm, that’ll get covered by the £2.10 you’ll get paid to export.
In short, we try to charge as much as we can – but not too much – overnight, but then we’ll make some adjustments later on as need be.
Q: How long does sign up take, if I haven’t already got any export metering (MPAN)?
The MPAN is the number associated with your import and export. So, you’ll have an import MPAN and an export MPAN. We need both of these, but this is how we get your import and export data.
Typically we can take one of those numbers, connect that to the other, get all the data, and it’s easy – no problem.
There are some cases where you might not have an export MPAN or we’re not able to retrieve that. If you don’t have an export MPAN, you’ll need to ask your supplier to create one for you. That can take a bit of time – from a couple of days, to a couple of weeks. Once that’s done, you can let us know and you’ll be able to participate.
I think it’s also worth mentioning here that there’s really not any loss in applying for an export MPAN. (Unless you’re on a feed in tariff, in which case it’s a slightly more complex decision.)
But if you’ve had a GivEnergy system installed, there’s no reason not to have – in most cases – an export MPAN. So, we’d encourage you from GivEnergy to get that sorted anyway – whether that’s due to this scheme or something else.
Q: How do you decide how much energy you’ll charge for my battery?
So, we’ve partially covered this one. We look at how much you normally charge, and we look at how much energy you need in your battery to export during the event. Then, we try to put those two together.
So, if you normally charge a little bit and you need a lot to export – we’ll charge a lot. If you’re already charging, we’ll effectively try to keep it close to what you’re already doing. The aim here is to charge your battery just the right amount so you can export during the event.
Of course, we don’t know how much energy you’ll use during the day from the battery and all the rest – we do have some solar forecasting built in – but we’re working to get that as accurate as possible. If you have any feedback, please let us know.
Q: I’m on an old feed-in-tariff scheme with no export MPAN, does this exclude me?
If you’re on a very old FIT scheme where you have deemed export – so the payments you get aren’t based on how much electricity you produce, but based on an estimated number – that typically does exclude you.
That means most likely that we’re not able to access your hourly export meter reads. And if we’re not, then you’re not able to participate.
We’re working with the ESO to see if we can find a solution where we’re able to get people like you to participate as well. As of today, unfortunately, you can’t participate.
Q: For those of us on Agile, what time approximately can we expect the battery to top up before the demand period?
During signup, we do flag that we’re not optimised perfectly for Agile, but you’re still welcome to sign up. What we’ve done for Agile is we’ve tried to charge your battery during the cheapest overnight period. (Which is typically in the 2-5am range.)
So, your battery should have charged overnight around then – but we will top it up in the afternoon if need be. (Like we would with other systems.)
Q: If we have questions after this live Instagram, is there a particular email we should use?
Both of our support teams would be the right place to go for this:
I think that takes us to the end of the live GivBack Q&A.
As a final note: we’re doing this because we think it’s a total win-win for our customers. We really hope that it’s valuable . If there’s anything you think we’re not doing optimally, please let us know and we’ll try and iterate on it and improve the service.
So, I hope it’s valuable, and we’ll continue to work on this really exciting service. I’m hoping this can be the start of a really useful service for our customers!