Flexible electricity: get the power of control
9th November 2022
As demand side flexibility for electricity moves beyond theory and into practice in the UK, how can we make it happen more quickly?
National Grid is calling upon energy consumers across the country (not just a few power stations) to change how they use or generate electricity. Having multiple consumers involved - through the Demand Flexibility Scheme – provides more opportunities for the system operator to balance demand and supply. Businesses, other organisations and households with smart meters will earn rewards for changing the way they use electricity.
What we’re facing now is nothing less than a new industrial revolution
Distant power stations burning fossil fuels will soon stop providing the electricity – and flexibility – the grid requires. Instead, electric vehicles parked at charging stations, solar panels on rooftops and consumers changing their usage (informed, perhaps, by the data from their smart meter) will deliver what’s needed.
So the flexible future’s here. But to accelerate it, we need to speed up the move from the ‘old’ grid to the new. But this is a massive challenge. In addition to unprecedented volatility in the wholesale markets (exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine), there’s an urgent need to decarbonise power generation and help avoid catastrophic climate change.
What’s more, the UK is going to require a massive increase in electric power to drive the electrification of transport and heating.
At the moment there’s around 50GW of flexibility on the grid - most of it comes from thermal generation plants.
By 2050, according to every one of National Grid ESO’s Future Energy Scenarios that figure will at least triple to 150-200GW of flexibility. Up to 100GW will come from demand side response (DSR), vehicle to grid charging, electrolysis in the creation of hydrogen and the like.
And the flexibility we need won’t result from the flick of a switch at a few giant power stations. Instead, it’s going to depend on the actions of millions of businesses, organisations and individuals.
So what will it take to encourage these actions?
More immediate incentives.
Even the promise of a carbon-free future as early as 2050 is still too distant a prospect to motivate the scale of change that the UK energy system needs.
To make that happen, significant rewards need to be available now for those prepared to change or shift their demand. These rewards might include locational pricing and a more nuanced demand side response strategy.
As National Grid put it themselves “By the end of this decade we won’t be dispatching generation to meet demand as we have done for the last 40, 50, 100 years. We’ll be dispatching demand to meet the generation” Julian Leslie, NGESO at COP26.
This revolutionary change potentially offers enormous opportunities for organisations and individuals alike. But the change will only occur if we make it happen. It’s time to take control.
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