Smart energy revolution could help UK save GBP 8bn, finds report

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A primarily positive report from the U.K. government’s recently established National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has highlighted the extent that the country could benefit from practical updates to its energy infrastructure to the tune of £8 billion ($11.35bn). The NIC’s first report, Smart Power, states that the ‘smart energy revolution’ would help the U.K. meet its carbon targets, reduce costs, and secure the country’s energy supply by balancing supply and demand more effectively.

It made the case for adopting new policies to start taking advantage of the innovations within the market. Lord Adonis, chairman of the commission, said: “The U.K. is uniquely placed to benefit from three exciting innovations set to transform the global electricity market – interconnection, storage and demand flexibility.”

Adding interconnections with the U.K.’s European neighbors who already have networks made up of cheap, green power supplies could bring down bills and balance the U.K.’s network. The same can be said for new electricity storage technologies, with the report arguing that the “U.K. could become a world leader in making use of these technologies,” although this would require updating regulation.

Demand flexibility

Demand flexibility is the phrase on everybody’s lips when discussing smarter energy, and this report is no different. Applying demand flexibility to energy infrastructure is an effective way of cutting emissions and saving money. There are already hi-tech systems and frameworks developed and poised to help energy networks make use of demand flexibility; however, once again, regulations need to be updated for them to be put in place. Smart Power also suggests that the public should be fully informed of its benefits, to encourage governments to update their policies.

Lord Adonis added: “To radically improve, we have to do more than simply adapt to a changing world – we must shape that change to our advantage. The U.K. can lead the world in harnessing these innovations, bringing jobs and investment into the country and cutting bills for consumers.”

What is perhaps most positive about the report is that it proposes practical recommendations rather than new subsidies or substantial public spending. It forecasts that the U.K. could save £8 billion per year by 2030, should the recommendations be followed. “The findings of this report are very welcome,” said Frank Gordon, Senior Policy Analyst at the Renewable Energy Association (REA). “Energy storage is ready to deliver a huge range of benefits to the U.K. as the findings make clear. What’s really exciting is that no one is calling for a new subsidy for energy storage, only common-sense changes to existing policies.”

It is now in the hands of the government to update outdated policies and regulations, to encourage the modernization of the country’s infrastructure to complement the new technologies. As the report pointed out, the U.K.’s energy infrastructure was designed for a post-war world, when the energy supply came from fossil fuel generators, and failing to take advantage of smart power ‘would be an expensive mistake.’