Energy networks commit to £17bn smart grid opportunity

Energy networks commit to £17bn smart grid opportunity

The development of a national smart grid could deliver £17 billion back to the economy by 2050.

 Great Britain's electricity network companies announced a joint commitment to "create new markets to enable flexibility services that will compete alongside traditional investment" at this week's Low Carbon Network Innovation Conference. 

According to the Energy Neworks Asociation (ENA) network operators in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will also signal their intent to use the services in the future.

The ENA has published a new report entitled ‘Opening Markets for Network Flexibility' as part of its Open Networks projects - a pan-industry initiative to establish the future roles and responsibilities of network companies.

The move will help reduce the cost of running the network to customers and provide new opportunities for businesses and communities to offer flexibility services to local network operators.

Flexibility services include businesses and consumers increasing electricity generation, or choosing to adjust their electricity consumption up or down to support balancing of supply and demand in real time in response to a financial incentive provided to them by an agreement with a network operator.

The figure of £17bn is based on analysis conducted by Imperial College London and The Carbon Trust for the smart systems and flexibility plan published by the government and Ofgem in July. The research concluded the use of smart grids and flexibility services could create between £17bn and £40bn of energy systems benefits by 2050.

The report also states that network companies will also "rapidly increase the use of competitive markets" over the next six years, under the current RIIO ED-1 price control period.

David Smith, CEO of Energy Networks Association, said: "Our energy networks have a great track record of delivering for households, businesses and communities when it comes to network reliability, reducing costs to the bill payer and driving forward new investment in our infrastructure.

"This announcement builds on that, as our energy market rapidly changes. It is about creating a system that creates a platform for a whole range of new energy technologies and services that not only allows network companies to manage the system more effectively but give other organisations the chance to benefit from that, whether that be directly or indirectly."

Richard Harrington MP, Minister for Energy & Industry, added: "Upgrading our energy system to make sure it is fit for the future is a key part of our Industrial Strategy and the Smart Systems Plan published in July sets out what we will do to make that happen.

"A smarter, more flexible 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."

Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, said: "We welcome this commitment by network companies to create new markets for flexibility services following the joint publication of the Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan by Ofgem and the Government in July.

"Flexibility is key to the transition to a smarter energy system which saves consumers money on their energy bills. We will work with the energy industry, Government and consumer groups to make sure that these new services are delivered in whatever way works best for consumers."

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