Can a flexible energy system lead us to net zero?
A recent project launched by Carbon Trust and Imperial College will explore the potential for a flexible energy system and its future role in decarbonisation. EIC looks at what a flexible energy system is and how it can reduce the cost of reaching net zero carbon emissions in the UK by 2050.
What is a flexible energy system?
New technology has the potential to turn our passive energy system into a smarter, more sustainable one in the very near future. This means modifying generation and/or consumption patterns in reaction to change in demand or price.
There are three main ways to achieve flexibility in the energy system:
- Interconnection: purchasing power from neighbouring markets at times of peak demand.
- Storage: storing excess energy and using it at times of peak demand.
- Flexibility on the demand side: consumers cut their discretionary power use at times of peak demand for financial incentive.
Until now, flexibility in the energy industry has typically been provided on the supply-side. Now it’s becoming clear that demand flexibility will be crucial for balancing the system in order to reduce costs and decrease carbon emissions. With smart meters that can reduce consumption at peak times and financial incentives, demand flexibility could be an easy and rewarding energy option for consumers and energy operators alike. A report from the National Infrastructure Commission says that £200 million a year could be shaved off the UK’s grid operating costs if just 5% of the current peak demand were met through demand-side solutions.
There are also smaller scale assets that could prove just as effective at balancing the grid, like distributed energy resources (DERs) such as nearby or on-site solar panels, wind turbines, heat pumps or batteries. By reducing demand on the system, there’s less reliance on non-sustainable energy sources during peak demand periods. These smart solutions are becoming increasingly cost effective and in-demand, evidenced by their sustained fall in price and rising investment interest.
Why the UK should lead the world in smart power
Greener policies have seen increased support in recent years, with an emphasis on renewable energy. A strategy set out in another NIC report for 2020 – 2050 recommended 50% of all generation should be supplied by renewable power by 2030, and an entirely zero-carbon electricity supply by 2050.
The question is, how can this level of renewable integration be implemented in a consistent and cost-effective way?
One of the current issues with renewable generation is it is fairly inflexible, so finding more flexibility through demand, interconnection, and storage is key. It could also be the most cost-efficient way to reach net zero. According to an NIC report, Smart Power, a more flexible power system could save consumers as much as £8 billion a year by 2030.
Finding flexibility with EIC
Achieving more flexibility in the energy system is an integral part of EIC’s client commitment. Through a variety of services, including flexible procurement, smart metering, and many years of experience working with carbon monitoring and compliance, EIC goes to great lengths to offer consumers freedom and flexibility. Our goal is to find the bespoke energy package that best suits your business or property, while simultaneously lowering your costs and carbon emissions.
Find out more about our energy management services.
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