Network operators commit to electricity system flexibility

Electricity network operators in Britain have pledged to help deliver £17bn back to the economy by 2050 through the creation of a smarter, more flexible energy system.

The aim is to make it easier to integrate local power generation and enable wider use of demand-side response to manage the level of demand.

The Energy Networks Association said that electricity network companies operating across England, Scotland and Wales have made a joint commitment to “create new markets to enable flexibility services that will compete alongside traditional investment”. Network operators in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are also providing an indication of broad intent to use the services in the future.

‘Flexibility services’ include businesses and consumers increasing electricity generation, or choosing to adjust their electricity consumption up or down to support a balancing of supply and demand in real-time in response to a financial incentive provided under an agreement with their network operator. They include:

– Selling power generated by new technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines;

– Businesses adjusting their electricity use at the times of day when they least need it; and

– Using new smart energy-efficiency technology to adjust consumption remotely and buying electricity from battery storage.

Research by Imperial College London and the Carbon Trust shows that the use of smart grids and flexibility services could create between £17bn and £40bn of energy system benefits by the middle of the current century.

Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan welcomed the commitment by network companies to create new markets for flexibility services.

“Flexibility is key to the transition to a smarter energy system which saves consumers money on their energy bills,” he said. “We will work with the energy industry, Government and consumer groups to make sure that these new services are delivered in whatever way works best for consumers.”

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