How to Deal with Low Carbon Tech in UK
By Anne Lewis-Schneider
The Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR), the largest UK smart grid project is investigating the accommodation of increasing low carbon technologies more cost-effectively. The project part-funded by Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund, aims to discover how usage of low carbon technologies impacts on the current electricity grid network, and involves trials for smart grid solutions on the network, and smart-enabled homes with flexibility in generation and usage of electricity.
One aim of this project is to gauge flexibility levels with customers, thus implementing ‘smart’ technology on existing electricity networks. Findings will allow the deployment of smart grid technologies and establish the UK’s energy needs to help ensure that electricity networks are prepared for mass low carbon technologies. Dr Liz Sidebotham, communications manager for CLNR, has asked whether there is enough generation, as discussion has centred on infrastructure rather than the role that can be played by the customer balancing supply and demand. She says that demand solutions are part of the picture, and the decision to invest in infrastructure or customer solutions is relevant at national and regional levels.
Many large energy consumers have implemented system balancing and the movement of non-essential load to off peak times. Dave Roberts of EA technology adds that there is activity in this sector and smart grid projects like CLNR are looking to understand the flexibility of customers across the spectrum. Consumer usage behaviour modification will take time, as recycling and incentives are making things change, it is already changing as fast acting generation plants respond to loads.
Exploring the flexibility of both domestic and business usage, an option worth considering is Time of Use tariffs encouraging customers to change their usage from peak high rate usage to off peak hours, with a saving on their bill for doing so in reduced rates charged during less congested demand periods. Dr Sidebotham says that already indications are positive, with customers reducing demand at peak times, and saving money. If this could be rolled out more widely, she believes that customers could assist in the management of local electricity networks, balancing supply and demand at peak times, and reducing energy bills.
Old generation plants are being decommissioned with no immediate replacement. The wider use of low carbon electric vehicles, solar panels, electrical energy storage and heat pumps presents fresh challenges, as the UK endeavours to meet carbon reduction targets.
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