UK power regulator opens dialogue on smarter energy system

“I am excited to see new ideas and technologies coming forward to help keep household bills down, boost our energy security and meet our climate change commitments,” said Greg Clark, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. “A smarter energy system is an important part of our work to build an economy that works for all.”

This news was warmly welcomed by the UK Solar Trade Association (STA), which recognized it as an opportunity for solar to effectively combine with smart grid technologies: “Opening energy networks to the clean and clever technologies available today will be hugely beneficial,” stated STA CEO Paul Barwell. “Smart power allows greater volumes of the cheapest forms of clean power – like solar – to be integrated effectively into the energy system,” he continued.

Electricity storage is expected to be a key technology featured in the call for evidence. The STA announced that it will submit a report to Ofgem, which it says "confirms that storage is a long term game changer, rather than a short term market bubble."

The potential for storage to create a more responsive energy system is key to the technology’s appeal. “It means demand will more efficiently match supply, rather than wasteful business as usual, where generation simply follows demand peaks,” says STA’s Barwell.

The announcement by Ofgem could provide a much needed boost for companies developing solar + storage applications, following a report earlier this week that few solar customers in the UK are even aware that storage products are available to them. A statement from the STA recognized that “Even modest rooftop solar schemes can face problems accessing the networks in parts of the country,” and said that today’s announcement is a move towards local networks being increasingly incentivised “to act like intelligent ‘mini grids’, with much more freedom to connect & manage complex power flows.”

Another idea that could be welcomed by Ofgem is voluntary demand side response, where companies receive payments for reducing their electricity use at peak times. “Having a smarter energy system will revolutionise how we interact with the energy market,” says Ofgem Chief Executive Dermot Nolan. To get there we must make sure that the regulatory regime is fit for the energy system of tomorrow.”