Insights / How your organisation can support decarbonisation

Flex your assets: How your organisation can support decarbonisation

27th January 2022

Flexing your electric assets can cut costs and even generate revenue for your organisation – particularly when energy prices spike.

But flexibility also delivers environmental benefits. Altering the demand of your operations can help decarbonise the whole UK energy system.

Flex your assets: How your organisation can support decarbonisation

Electricity supply must always meet demand. Turning your electricity demand down keeps fossil fuels off the system.

When demand for electricity peaks and renewable sources aren’t sufficient to satisfy demand, the grid must turn to fossil fuels. However, if demand is flexed to avoid peak times, fossil fuels wouldn’t be needed to support the system.

The less fossil fuel on the system, the lower the country’s carbon emission.

Defining flexible assets

Achieving this ideal scenario requires flexible electric assets.

Electric assets are flexible when they’re able to ‘respond to market signals’. If there’s a time when prices are low, then assets can ramp up. If there’s a time when prices are more expensive, they can turn down.

Flexible electric assets can include:

  • Ventilation systems
  • Air conditioning
  • Heating
  • Lighting
  • Pumps
  • Batteries/electric storage
  • Industrial and manufacturing processes

These assets can all be turned up, down or on and off. Because they can be controlled, organisations can identify and avoid unnecessary or inefficient usage.

This means lower bills but also less demand on the grid at peak times and ultimately less dependency on fossil-fuel generated power.

Flexible generation

Flexible electric assets aren’t just systems that can reduce or increase their demand. They can also include electricity generation assets.

Organisations with their own sources of generation (such as wind turbines, solar panels, or other systems) can reduce demand on the grid by using their own power sources at peak times.

They can also help support the grid and prevent fossil fuels being used by exporting renewable power when demand is high.

Net zero ambition

Flexibility is crucial to helping the UK reach its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Companies and industries will continue to move away from fossil fuels, while the number of electric vehicles on our road multiply. Electricity system flexibility must increase to ensure a safe and reliable supply of power.

The Carbon Trust estimates that enhancing the flexibility of the energy system could reduce the cost of the UK’s transition to net zero by up to £16.7bn a year.

By optimising the flexibility of their electric assets, businesses can play a part in readying the energy system for a net zero future.

ESG credibility

As more people take the environmental impacts of their consumption and purchases into consideration, helping to support a net zero UK offers additional brand benefits.

Investors are also increasingly considering businesses’ Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials, making electric asset flexibility an attractive proposition.

How to flex your assets

A wide range of industries use flexible electric assets – from food processing and refrigeration, to airports, water treatment plants, and data centres.

In each instance the starting point is to analyse electric machinery, equipment, and other assets used by a company. By reviewing all operations, it’s then possible to look at ways to optimise energy usage.

Flexibility in action

Take a water company for example. Site engineers can suggest that electricity usage is decreased at certain times during the day to avoid peak costs. The decision is taken to control usage accordingly.

It may be that control systems on your assets are installed so they can be managed in a way that works best for both your business and the grid. An asset’s controls might be automated or might require phone call or email sign off.

Either way the result is the same – smart planning lowers electricity usage, taking pressure off the grid and reducing the need for fossil fuel sources.

How Drax can help

The route to energy flexibility will look different for every organisation. Drax’s Electric Assets team has the knowledge and expertise to help you finding the right option.

Building flexibility into your operations not only has the potential to improve efficiency and reduce costs, but also contribute to essential climate targets. It’s a win-win.

Get in touch to start building flexibility into your assets

Related articles