What will the UK’s energy system look like in the future?
Flexibility is key to ensuring that the system can provide a secure, affordable and low carbon supply of electricity while maintaining a balance between generation and demand. But it’s not yet clear what shape this will take.
Last week, the Energy Networks Association’s Open Networks Project launched a consultation seeking industry views on five different models — known as ‘Future Worlds’ — for delivering a smarter, more flexible and more decentralised energy system.
The Future Worlds range from a decentralised energy system where local electricity grids enable regional energy markets to balance supply and demand at a local level, to a more centralised system where co-ordinating local energy resources is the responsibility of the national system operator. They also include a world where new independent national or regional organisations co-ordinate flexibility services for the electricity networks.
In all five worlds, traditional forms of infrastructure such as pylons and substations will have to work alongside smart energy flexibility services to manage the electricity grid, incorporating new consumer technologies such as electric vehicles, smart meters, battery storage and solar panels.
“These Future Worlds represent a major change from the way our networks operate today, as they pioneer new ways to decarbonise our energy system to deliver new opportunities and reduced costs for households and businesses across the country,” said David Smith, chief executive of the Energy Networks Association.
“This consultation is key, not only to ensuring that we have considered the best options but also to ensure all stakeholders have their say in shaping the future of the electricity networks.”
Researchby Imperial College London and the Carbon Trust shows that flexibility technologies such as demand side response, storage and interconnectors could deliver up to £40bn of benefits across the energy system between now and 2050.