Wednesday, 2 December 2009

UK smart grid plans

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has released its plans for the implementation of smart meters in the UK.  Highlights are:

• All homes will have smart gas and electricity meters, supplied by their energy suppliers, by the end of 2020.  That’s apparently 47 million meters in 26 million properties.  The cost is put at £8.6bn, but the move is expected to deliver total benefits of £14.6bn over the next 20 years.

• DECC is providing a new UK Smart Grid Demonstration Fund of up to £6m to accelerate the development of smart technology such as electricity storage.  Ofgem will make £500 million available over five years from April 2010 for larger scale trials.

• The government has also publishing a paper setting out the case for developing smart grids.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Hunt said: “Smart meters will put the power in people’s hands, enabling us all to control how much energy we use, cut emissions and cut bills. Smart grids will help manage the massive shift to low carbon electricity such as wind, nuclear and clean fossil fuels.  Globally the business of developing smart grids has been estimated at £27bn over the next 5 years and the UK has the know-how to be part of that.”

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After a consultation around smart meter provision, the governments plan entails:

• Making energy suppliers responsible for installing smart meters in their customers’ homes

• Providing a stand-alone display device with meters so that consumers to see their energy use and carbon emissions in real time

• Central coordination of the communications between meters and the utility suppliers, so that consumers can easily switch suppliers, but also to provide a platform for the development of smarter grids in the future.

The associated published paper “Smarter Grids: The Opportunity” lays out the case for smart grids in the UK in detail.  The main points it makes are that smart grids provide:

• Greater efficiency in deliver, reducing electricity generation and transmission costs and emissions

• Easier accommodation of low carbon electricity sources such as wind and solar

• More control to consumers through the use of smart meters and much more effective interaction between suppliers and customers to enable better management of supplies.

The Electricity Network Strategy Group (ENSG) is developing a more detailed roadmap of how smart grids can be implemented as part of a wider DECC 2050 Roadmap that will underpin the move towards a low carbon economy.

So the process has started.  The UK smart meter plan is now in place with a 2020 deadline, but, clearly, smart grids are a bigger challenge, with lots of technical issues along the way.  But it is seen as a fundamental plank of a low carbon economy and ENSG seems to be the body that will co-ordinate the interested parties, help develop the technology direction and generally keep the ball rolling.

© The Green IT Review

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