Flexibility ‘essential’ to reap energy transformation benefits

Major changes in the way the UK produces, manages and uses energy are inevitable in the years ahead, according to a report into the future of the sector.

The study by consultancy Arup and endorsed by Energy UK said a flexible approach to regulation, system design and operation will be essential for the Government to achieve its three objectives of decarbonisation, security and affordability.

The study predicts that many more businesses and individuals across the UK will be generating their own power by 2035 and decentralised generation along with storage will also play a much greater role.

The study suggests there will “not be one solution within the future energy system, but many”.

“This will make flexibility – in system architecture, system operation and the regulatory framework – essential,” said the report.

Low carbon and local

The study predicts changes across areas including:

• Electricity – will be low carbon and local, with many people no longer relying on the grid. There will be between 50-77GW of intermittent solar and wind generating capacity on the system compared to 27GW today.

• Decentralised energy and microgrids – demand-side response and batteries will become widespread in commercial and residential properties, industrial parks, universities and airports. New towns will develop microgrids to reduce the load on the national grid.

• Heat – the heat sector will no longer rely on natural gas but will become a multi-sourced system varying by location and type of building.

• Smart homes – new properties will be energy neutral and at times will export energy back to the grid and at other times will import energy from the grid. Some properties will be built with energy storage.

With more energy retailers in the market - including local energy co-operatives and municipal suppliers - consumers will have a wider variety of products available to them including time-of-use and peer-to-peer tariffs.

Flexibility essential

Filippo Gaddo of Arup, said: “The next few decades are expected to be amongst the most transformative for the energy industry and billions are being invested to ensure that it is fit for the future.

“For this investment to enable positive change, flexibility across energy systems and within regulation will be essential in order to achieve a sustainable, affordable, and low carbon future.

“The UK has the opportunity to lead the way in the future of energy development, but it will be technological advances, investors and policy changes – highlighted within this study - that drive this forward.”

> Read more about the report here