Infrastructure Commission calls for UK ‘smart power revolution’

The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission has called for a ‘smart power revolution’ in Britain’s energy system.

In a report published today, the NIC concludes that “smart power principally built around interconnection, storage, and demand flexibility could save consumers up to à‚£8bn a year by 2030, help the UK meet its 2050 carbon targets, and secure the UK’s energy supply for generations”.

The report called Smart Power urges the “creation of a level playing field and a better managed network”.NIC calls for smart energy revolution

It says that the government should pursue additional interconnectors with other European countries, “become a world leader in electricity storage systems and make full use of demand flexibility by improving regulation, informing the public of its benefits and piloting business models”.

For the UK to become an energy storage leader, the commission states that several steps are needed: a review of the regulatory and legal status of storage, the removal of “outdated barriers”, and energy regulator Ofgem should encourage network owners to use storage.

NIC chairman Lord Andrew Adonis said: “Our existing power stations are closing down and their replacements will be radically different as we decarbonise supply to reduce emissions. This represents an enormous challenge, but it also leaves the UK uniquely placed to benefit from three exciting innovations set to transform the global electricity market ” interconnection, storage and demand flexibility.”

He said the UK “can lead the world in harnessing these innovations”, adding that the NIC report was not calling for new subsidies or significant public spending: “Rather a level playing field through fairer regulation and a better managed network to allow these exciting new technologies to compete. If we get this right a smart power revolution could save consumers à‚£8 billion a year.”

Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said that the report “makes some welcome recommendations” but added that any recommendations “that mean the UK has to rely more on electricity imports from other countries brings a number of risks”.

“Firstly, UK electricity supplies may be subject to electricity prices outside of the UK and competition from other European countries also looking to reduce their generating capacity. For example power outages in Eastern Europe could lead to soaring European power prices, which may have a knock-on effect on the electricity prices we pay in the UK. In addition, there is a risk that if demand is very high in the country generating the power, the UK’s power demands won’t be prioritised. The UK’s electricity supply, as well as the prices we pay, would be subject to energy policy and markets outside of the UK. This may be further affected by the results of the EU referendum.”

Dr Baxter said the “greater use of interconnectors would risk UK job losses and the long-term loss of vital power engineering skills”.

“There would be less demand for UK to construct or replace power plants, which could be devastating for communities that rely on local power plants and upstream supply chains to provide jobs and investment. If the UK stops constructing new electricity infrastructure there is also the real danger that the country could lose the ability to develop these skills for generations to come.”

To read the report in full, click here.

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