UK announces plans (and a competition) to make the energy system smarter


The British government has announced plans to make the UK energy system smarter and to reduce costs for consumers. At the heart of the programme there are batteries to store electricity generated with renewables, smart meters to better manage energy usage, as well as measures to facilitate new entrants in the market. The plan is estimated to deliver savings between £17bn and £40bn by 2050.

The package launched on 24 July includes new rules on licensing, planning, connections and charging that should make it easier for homes and businesses to install batteries alongside PV panels.

The roll-out of smart meters, which started with the previous government, will also continue. The aim is to give households and businesses more control over their energy use (and bills).

Over a quarter of the UK’s electricity is generated through renewables such as wind and solar, so the combination of storage and smart meters should allow a better management of peaks in production. “We are empowering consumers by ensuring households and businesses can use energy when it is cheapest, and reward them for being flexible on when they use energy,” says the paper.

Finally, the plan includes measures to improve access to the energy markets for smart businesses with new innovative products and services.

“Upgrading our energy system to make sure it is fit for the future is a key part of our Industrial Strategy. A smarter energy system will create opportunities to reduce energy costs, increase productivity and put UK businesses in a leading position to export smart energy technology and services to the rest of the world,” said Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark.

“Today is the starting gun for the UK to become the world-leader in innovative battery storage technologies,” commented Emma Pinchbeck, Executive Director of trade association RenewablesUK. More caution came from the Solar Trade Association: “Today’s announcements are a start but there is a lot to do and a clearer timetable is needed,” said Chris Hewett.

As part of the industrial strategy, the government is investing £246 million in the development of disruptive technologies, including designing and manufacturing better batteries for electric vehicles.

Within this initiative, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK announced on 25 July the “Faraday Challenge,” a competition for collaborative research and development projects for new battery technologies. Up to £30 million are available for the competition, and another £10 million for feasibility studies. The deadline for applications is 14 September 2017.

Claudia Delpero

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