The long-awaited report into the country’s infrastructure has firmly advocated radical change energy policy with a focus on demand reduction.
That’s very welcome news and reinforces what we and many others have advocated for a long time – smart ways to cut energy consumption takes the strain of the National Grid and reduces the need for more power stations, whether nuclear or gas.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) report – ‘Smart Power’ – advises that the country could save up to £8 billion a year through more efficient electricity use.
Better management of demand has been trialled in business settings with some success and the introduction of smart meters and appliances is seen as the smart way to cut consumption.
Reduce energy use
Along with that, we have long advocated the wholesale adoption of technologies like LED lighting, smart pumps and smart controls, for example to reduce energy use by up to 85%.
In our experience, energy use can be reduced easily and immediately by adopting these solutions, and others.
The report was commissioned by the Government last October, as the challenges to energy supply and demand became highly visible.
It is challenging as it firmly backs policy that would affect the long-term interests of the Big Six energy companies.
The NIC advocates an energy infrastructure strategy that harnesses three innovations – interconnection, storage, and demand flexibility to not only help consumers make huge savings but also meet carbon emissions reduction target and also secure energy supply for the long-term.
Lord Adonis heads the commission and he says:
“Quality infrastructure is fundamental to our quality of life. Better decision making, clearer planning, and more efficient and timely delivery can help create the world class infrastructure this country needs to succeed.
“To radically improve, we have to do more than simply adapt to a changing world – we must shape that change to our advantage. The developments in our electricity sector are a case in point.
“Our existing power stations are closing down and their replacements will be radically different as we decarbonise supply to reduce emissions. This represents an enormous challenge, but it also leaves the UK uniquely placed to benefit from three exciting innovations set to transform the global electricity market – interconnection, storage and demand flexibility.
“We do not call for new subsidies or significant public spending but rather a level playing field through fairer regulation and a better-managed network, to allow these exciting new technologies to compete.”
Smart energy revolution
The NIC’s smart energy revolution would be achieved through the addition of more cable interconnectors with other European countries.
At the same time, the UK needs to develop as a world leader in electricity storage systems, aided by the rapid removal of obsolete regulatory and legal barriers and encouragement by Ofgem for network owners to use storage technologies.
The Government should boost demand flexibility by improving regulation and increasing public awareness while also running business pilots. Given that demand flexibility is currently below 1%, there seems ample scope for wholesale improvement.
Smart energy is a relatively uncomplicated goal and chimes with the idea of the Internet of Things where smart appliances and devices are networked to provide agile means of control.
Peak demand control
There are big gains to be made in both business and the home. Hotels have taken part in pilots where electricity demand has been reduced by allowing energy providers to turn off services like air conditioning at times of peak demand.
The downtime is managed so that hotel guests do not notice any change in the environment.
In the home, appliances can also be managed more effectively. When the National Grid is under pressure at peak times, the householder’s energy supplier would have the ability to turn off appliances for short periods throughout the day.
Efficient freezers and fridges would not be compromised in their ability to keep consumables chilled or frozen. Clearly, the homeowner would give permission and the appliance itself would check its optimum status to ensure no problems.
In return for the “power-down” facility, customers would get credits on their bills.
Conversely, when there is high availability of cheap electricity, the customer’s dishwasher or washing machine could be alerted to start work.
A combination of smart appliances and smart energy-saving solutions seems like a savvy solution to the very big challenges facing our energy network.