Govt. consultation on smart energy systems (which could save UK consumers up to £40bn) is welcomed by renewable energy chiefs

smart-meters-house-of-commons-photoThe British Government is seeking views on the development of a smarter, more flexible and user-friendly energy system which could save UK consumers between £17-40 billion by 2050.

The government’s flagship public consultation focuses on interactive digital household energy-use meters – which, in turn, have significant potential to positively influence large-scale consumption and, consequently, ‘smarter’ grid-management and electricity supply.

This consultation is open until 12 January 2017 – which is just when the Scot-Government plans to launch its flagship consultation on the new Scottish Energy Strategy (see at foot).

There is opportunity for potentially considerable overlap and/or continuity between the two consultations, although in practice both governments in Holyrood and Westminster will inevitably almost complete ignore the outcomes of each other’s.

See also:  EXCLUSIVE: New Scottish Energy Strategy will de-carbonise heating and transport sectors

The long-awaited and Brexit delayed Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Call for evidence a smart, flexible energy system outlines a future where the energy system is cheaper and where homes, power stations, businesses, vehicles, and other facilities actively balance their energy needs.

The British government has identified a number of policy barriers that currently exist to the establishment of this smart system, including how storage systems connect to the grid, the need for a definition of energy storage in legislation, the double counting of storage, and the role of the capacity market in helping drive deployment of these new systems. 

It also requesting evidence on the future role of BPVs (battery powered vehicles) in this ‘smart’ system. The mass roll-out of BPVs could shift peaks in electricity demand and function as a substantial energy storage system. 

A report released in July 2016 by the Carbon Trust and Imperial College London, commissioned suggests that between now and 2050 the UK could save £17-40 billion across the electricity system by supporting the deployment of technologies such as batteries and Demand-Side Response.

Launching the consultation, British energy Minister Greg Clark, said: “New technology is changing the way that we generate, distribute and consume energy. In particular, the application of information and communication technology is transforming our old passive energy networks into an increasingly smart energy system.

“For instance, the Government is committed to rolling out around 53 million smart meters (together with the supporting infrastructure) by the end of 2020. Smart metering on this scale will provide the backbone of a transformed energy system in which we can produce and consume energy more flexibly and efficiently than ever before.

“New demands on our energy system – for instance from BPVs and the need to manage renewable energy sources – mean that these enhanced capabilities aren’t just advantageous, but essential.

“As well as meeting new challenges, we must seize the opportunities enabled by a smart system – including active demand-side response to price incentives, and the use of advanced energy storage technology.

“The age of exclusive control by big energy companies and central government is over; we must maximise the ability of consumers to play an active role in managing their energy needs.

“With a smart system we can go further and faster in breaking down barriers to competition – allowing the widest possible range of innovative products and services to prove themselves in the market place.

“To make the most of a smart system we need smart policy and smart regulation. Our ultimate objective – clean, secure and affordable energy – is clear, but a number of possible pathways lie before us.”

Dr. Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive, the UK Renewable Energy Association, said: “The Government’s call for evidence could be the foundation of the flexible, decentralised energy system that reduces energy bills for every one of us.

“This document clearly shows that the Government is aware of the revolution taking place in the energy sector right now, and sees that the shift to a more decentralised, flexible system could feel as radical as the emergence of mobile phones. 

“The right questions are being asked but it’s now about the speed in which policy change can take place. Storage and DSR technologies are evolving very rapidly and the Government risks being in a position where it is not leading but playing catch up or worse, by standing in the way.”

Paul Barwell, Chief Executive, Solar Trade Association, also welcomed the call for evidence and commented: “Opening both energy markets and networks to the clean and clever technologies available today will be hugely beneficial for consumers.

“Smart power allows greater volumes of the cheapest forms of clean power – like solar – to be integrated effectively into the energy system. It also means demand will more efficiently match supply, rather than wasteful business as usual, where generation simply follows demand peaks.

“Smart power will benefit consumers with more affordable, clean and secure power – which it will be easier to own themselves. It will also encourage huge investment into UK plc.”

One of the key new system flexibility tools identified in the Smart Energy proposals is battery storage. Earlier this year an independent report from Aurora Energy Research, commissioned by the STA, found that integrating solar into a decentralized, flexible, smarter power system, including storage, delivers a net benefit to the system of £3.70 per MWh.

This is because solar combined with battery storage allows output to match demand requirements exceptionally closely, and requires only a small amount of backup. The STA report “Solar + Storage = Opportunities”3 confirms that storage is a long-term game changer, rather than a short-term market bubble.

Barwell added: “The STA will be submitting its analyses to the smart power call for evidence. Meanwhile, we are now looking to work in partnership with the diverse industries that make up a smart power system and will be making further announcements in due course.”

The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy’s Call for evidence a smart, flexible energy system can be found here


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