Smart grids facilitate the deployment of electricity as and when it is needed by ‘communicating’ using two-way digital technology with smart tech in our homes and businesses and integrating with devices, automated systems and electricity storage.
As demands for electricity change throughout the day, smart grids can ‘tell’ energy suppliers how to respond. This automated response increases efficiencies whilst faults are also detected quickly.
Smart grids are also paving the way for more energy to be sourced from renewables such as solar and wind and even geothermal or combined heat and power generators.
Some industry commentators even think smart grids will have a similar impact as the arrival of the internet on our everyday lives.
The UK’s electricity system has always relied on large, centralised power stations to generate the electricity we need and ‘delivered’ to us via high-voltage transmission lines. The electricity is then transferred to local, low-voltage distribution networks from where most households and SMEs draw their power.
Today’s energy demands are complex which requires diverse and decentralised solutions. Indeed, many consumers are already producing their own electricity and storing energy locally such as through solar panels.
We are already moving to a new age of energy supply with renewable energy such as solar and wind replacing old coal-fired and nuclear power stations whilst new ways to store electricity are now becoming established.
Currently smart grids apply mainly to electricity supply but eventually it will encompass other energy usage such as transport and water as we move to a low carbon society.
Known as a Multi-Energy System (MES), it will deliver greater levels of flexibility and will be particularly relevant in urban areas as smart cities are developed.
Smart grid deployment is happening already with the first stage being the adoption of smart meters and monitoring technologies allowing consumers and businesses to measure their energy output and identify areas for improvement.
The government has committed to the rollout of smart meters for both electricity and gas in all homes and most small businesses by the end of 2020.
Smart grid solutions enable consumers and businesses to be smarter about their own energy use. And, you don’t need to be a big corporation to benefit. Simply fitting a smart meter and taking control of energy consumption puts bosses in the driving seat when it comes to reducing energy usage and thereby benefitting from lower bills.
The government estimates the national smart meter rollout will deliver £16.7bn benefits for the UK over the next 20 years.
By adopting smart metering in the first instance, businesses and consumers will be helping the UK become a global climate leader and dramatically reducing our carbon footprint as a nation.
Businesses incorporating smart meters can participate in what’s called grid-balancing services such as energy storage which helps maintain a consistent and reliable energy supply. In turn, businesses are likely to reduce energy wastage which saves money on energy bills.
A now established but yet to be widely adopted way for businesses to take part in these types of activities is by demand response http://energyrenewals.co.uk/demand-side- response-whats/where businesses are incentivised by the National Grid to scale energy use up or down.
Many commercial users have already adopted demand response solutions such as supermarkets which have implemented measures such as timing their refrigeration load to avoid peak times.
As electric vehicle (EV) ownership becomes more widespread, companies can take advantage of grants to install charge points http://energyrenewals.co.uk/company-install- electric-vehicle-chargers/ and will benefit from providing by meeting the motoring needs of their staff. Other technologies include ‘vehicle-to- grid (V2G)’ technology, which allows consumers to sell the energy
stored by their EV batteries back to the grid for a profit.
Smart grids will see businesses producing higher levels of data which if acted upon can provide insights into how behaviours can be changed further to further boost energy savings. Smart meters that can take a reading every 15 minutes instead of once in a month, for example, will generate a dataset that’s almost 3,000 times larger. Managing this data, analysing it, acting on it and keeping it
secure, poses additional problems for businesses looking to benefit from the information provided.
Businesses will need to take the potential of cyber attacks into consideration when devising their smart energy policy.
Businesses involved in energy intensive production can take their smart grid solutions to the next level and consider energy storage as well as monitoring and implementing an energy management plan.
Technology such as battery storage and demand response could reportedly deliver savings for the UK of as much as £8bn by 2030 whilst smart grids will reduce the need for power plants and transmission lines which also cuts costs.
Microgrids, smaller networks of electricity users with a local source of supply that are usually attached to a centralised national grid but able to function independently, will increase. Often privately owned, these microgrids are destined to play a central role in the way we consume and manage energy. It has been estimated that savings for companies involved in microgrids could be
between 21-30% of overall electricity costs by 2020.
Making the transition to smart grid solutions requires investment including in time and resources ensuring cost benefits are maximised, on-going monitoring and system upgrades to ensure smooth, uninterrupted integration.
Businesses wanting to benefit from smart grid technology choose the right smart energy partners whilst bosses should be kept fully informed of the long term environmental and cost saving benefits.
Whilst smart grid solutions have the potential to offer wide ranging benefits, a strategy has to be well thought out and managed correctly by people who understand the sector. Companies wanting to explore smart technology from those wishing to exercise more control over their energy bills by implementing smart meters to those requiring an in-depth energy reduction management plan can
speak to our consultants who can deliver such projects on your behalf.
Insights into smart grid technology and how the sector is involving courtesy of energy news website edie.net and its smart grid guide which can be downloaded here https://www.edie.net/news/6/Making-the- smart-grid- transition– edie-launches- free-guide- for-