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14 July, 2006 - 16:30 By Staff Reporter

Energy ‘revolution’ sparked by grid deal

Eversheds has acted for Cambridge company ResponsiveLoad Limited on a major new inward venture capital investment.

The business owns patents to technology which could save the electricity industry the equivalent of one power station’s worth of electricity and promises to make the grid more responsive to the needs of the nation.

The concept, known as responsive load, was developed by David Hirst who is now the technical director of the company.

The new investment will help the company commercialise the product. If managed correctly, the responsive load technology has the potential to transform the UK energy industry.

With this investment on board and the backing of its investor – Low Carbon Accelerator – the company can now take its concepts and present them to the major energy players and large white goods manufacturers.

The Eversheds team, led by Cambridge based partner Glynne Stanfield with support from Poppy Robinson and Charles Fletcher, completed the work for the investment on short notice, enabling the relevant documents to be agreed within a very tight timescale.

Robinson said: “Though the value of this investment is relatively small, the impact it could have on the energy sector is quite staggering. The potential of the ResponsiveLoad concept is very significant and this new investment will help that potential be realised.”

David Hirst added: “The company faces many challenges and with this investment complete and with the team of David Richards (CEO), and David Slater (chairman) fully on board we can now approach our target markets with confidence.”

The use of ResponsiveLoad technologies reduces the need for central control of small and unpredictable generators (such as wind power), and thus makes small gas CHP generation more economic. A patent has been granted on several sophisticated aspects necessary to ensure the overall stability of the network under different circumstances.

ResponsiveLoad harnesses the collective power of large numbers of consuming devices, such as fridges, to support the electricity system as a whole.

It can do this because devices such as fridges operate to a duty cycle. When they are running, they are replenishing an internal store of energy and aim to top it up to a maximum level. When the maximum limit is reached, it stops running, but the device continues to use energy (it leaks through to sides, or the door is opened, or water is used), and so the internal store of energy becomes depleted. When it reaches a lower limit, it runs again, and so the cycle continues.

Normally, the duty cycle is driven by the limits set, so the device runs when it chooses. But it would not matter if the device switched off a bit sooner, before the maximum limit was reached, or switched on before the lower limit was reached. It would still meet its primary purpose although it would switch a bit more often.

ResponsiveLoad uses this flexibility to change the timing of these duty cycles so that each contributes its little bit to the overall stability of the grid.

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