Prof Phil Taylor: Both Portugal and Germany have recently succeeded in meeting almost all of their power needs using renewable energy. But at the moment, the UK falls far short of this feat. In 2015, less than a quarter of the country’s energy was generated from renewable power sources such as wind, solar, hydro and bio-energy. If the UK is to usher in an era of low carbon energy by bringing more renewables online, then its energy infrastructure needs a major overhaul. The energy grid must be smart, flexible and integrated – which means making it more open and accessible via the latest technology. With many existing fossil fuel power stations set to be decommissioned in the coming 10 years, and energy from UK coal hitting zero for the first time in 100 years, it’s time to start implementing “smart” energy infrastructure. According to a 2016 report by the National Infrastructure Commission, introducing “smart power” would require an energy system which facilitates interconnection, storage and demand flexibility. It is estimated that such a system would save energy customers £8bn a year by 2030, help the UK meet its 2050 carbon targets, and secure the UK’s energy supply for generations. But this infrastructure cannot be implemented without a deep understanding of the whole energy system. At the moment, energy policy is paralysed by uncertainty about what the future low carbon energy mix will be and which transition pathways will lead to that future. This includes uncertainty about how energy and carbon prices will fluctuate, plus when and where the technological breakthroughs will be made. At the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, based at Newcastle University, researchers will be working with Siemens and the UK Energy Research Centre to make the UK’s energy system safer and more efficient. We will be examining the energy system as a whole – gas, electricity, renewables, heating and cooling – to come up with new ways to give customers greater control of their energy use, while allowing the industry to meet tough new low carbon targets. Along with innovations in energy storage, renewable energy technology and distribution, “smart power” has an exciting role to play in the UK’s energy future.
The Conversation 23rd May 2016 read more »
Green innovation and regulatory institutions: The case of smart electricity grids in Great Britain.
IGov 24th May 2016 read more »