UK government and Ofgem have this week published their smart systems and energy flexibility plans to help consumers become more energy efficient and provide greater flexibility for our energy network.
Smart and flexible energy systems will be needed if the UK is to meet its climate change ambitions by 2050. Meeting an increasing demand for electricity, as fossil fuels are phased out, will require a system which ensures the supply of clean energy from renewable sources is guaranteed, regardless of weather conditions.
The Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan aims to help develop innovative new systems that could allow renewable power to be stored at large scale and over longer periods, as we transition to Net Zero, including pumped hydro storage, compressed air energy storage and the conversion of power to hydrogen so it can be used to generate electricity.
In addition, the plan looks at how electricity interconnectors with other countries can help balance the system and decarbonise at least cost.
Alongside the plan the government have launched 2 calls for evidence; one concerning the barriers to the deployment of large scale storage systems, and the other the deployment of technologies that allow electric vehicles to export electricity from their batteries back on to the grid or to homes during times of higher demand. These consultations close on 28th September and 12th October respectively.
Energy and Climate Change Minister, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said:
“We need to ensure our energy system can cope with the demands of the future. Smart technologies will help us to tackle climate change while making sure that the lights stay on and bills stay low.
“The possibilities opened by a smart and flexible system are clear to see. They will not only allow households to take control of their energy use and save money but will ensure power is available when and where it’s needed while creating jobs and investment opportunities long into the future.”
Smart systems and energy flexibility projects already in development in the UK include:
- heat network projects in Gateshead and Milton Keynes that are supplying residents with affordable, low-carbon heat and electricity by pairing with battery storage to offer excess electricity back to the grid when needed
- a trial in the south-east of England, demonstrating how electric car owners can combine the use of smart meters, a vehicle charger and electricity from renewable sources to save money on their bills so its charge can provide electricity to the grid at periods of peak demand
- new battery technologies being trialed in Oxford, Orkney and Perth in the UK, as well as in Australia, that are helping the transition from fossil fuels to green sources by delivering low-cost, low-carbon energy on demand in a reliable, safe and economic way
- a community of 6,500 plus residential customers across the UK where domestic solar energy is being combined with battery technology and using data to forecast energy generation and demand in the wider electricity system to enable customers to trade excess energy to the grid and giving average savings of 70% on bills
The government, Ofgem and Innovate UK have also published the UK’s first Energy Digitalisation Strategy, examining how energy system data is used so that the full potential of cutting-edge technologies can be realised and consumers can gain maximum benefit from new digital products and services.
Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, said:
“This plan is essential to hitting the UK’s net zero climate goal while keeping energy bills affordable for everyone. It requires a revolution in how and when we use electricity and will allow millions of electric cars, smart appliances and other new green technologies to digitally connect to the energy system.
“As energy regulator, Ofgem will work with government and industry, to help consumers make the changes needed and ensure the transition to net zero is affordable, fair and inclusive for all.”
Frank Gordon, Head of Policy at the REA, said:
“It is particularly positive to see the strategy recognise the urgency with which market barriers now need to be addressed in order to see a full range of flexible and clean power solutions deployed. We hope that both the Government and the regulator will be in a position to act quickly to implement these changes following consultation, releasing not only decarbonisation, but cost savings for consumers and delivering a substantial amount of new jobs in the renewable energy and clean tech industry.
“It is also pleasing to see publication of the longer duration energy storage call for evidence, as called for by the REA in an influential report earlier this year. It is good to see the Government recognise the lack of a route to market for long term flexible power storage, which is fundamental to successfully delivering a resilient decarbonised power grid. However, attention also needs to be given to smaller scale storage systems, including within the home, in order to truly democratise the UKs transition to a clean energy system.
“The REA and its members stand ready to work with the Government and Ofgem to see this strategy refined and delivered as soon as practically possible.”
The new strategies and accompanying consultations can be accessed through the government’s website.