The UK must urgently restructure its energy system to avoid blackouts and other problems arising from the growing use of decentralized energy, a new report has found.
In the report titled People power: how consumer choice is changing the UK energy system, environmental group the Green Alliance said the use of “21st century technologies in a 20th century energy system is a recipe for disaster”.
One example is the increasing use of electric vehicles (EVs), which is expected to jump by 700 per cent to over 4.5 million on the road by 2040. Charging as few as six EVs simultaneously on a UK street could result in local power outages, the report claimed.
The report also predicted a significant rise in decentralized energy installations such as commercial and residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and energy storage by 2025.
But the nation’s current energy policy is not well-placed to deal with this growth, the report found, warning that government intervention through the use of subsidies will lose its effectiveness within five years as growth will no longer be tied to them. This could lead to blackouts, penalties for consumers who go off-grid, and even the need for bailouts for large utilities.
Among the report’s recommendations were: increased support for both large-scale power production and smaller energy technologies; the creation of an independent energy system design body; transformation of distribution network operators into distribution system operators to enable smart management of local grids and reduce the need for grid upgrades; support for smaller-scale technologies in providing system flexibility; and increased use of automation and aggregators.
Dr Simon Harrison, chair of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) energy panel, said the report shows that “the way in which we govern and manage change on the system in the context of the fast moving world of consumer technology needs significant and urgent overhaul.
“The system of the future will need to perform substantially different functions to today’s,” he added. “Most of the changes are around how consumers want to use the system – for example to charge their electric car or to generate their own electricity supply using solar panels.
“We now have to think about the decisions of individual consumers and the electrical equipment they use as much as about the planning and use of large power stations and transmission lines.”