Released today (20 April), the report claims that the UK’s energy system isn’t prepared for the growing number of consumers choosing to buy increasingly cheaper small-scale energy technologies such as electric vehicles (EVs) and solar panels.

The Green Alliance points towards the year 2020 as a tipping point when the Government will “lose the ability” to control the speed of small-scale energy deployment, as subsidies will no longer be needed.

But a positive intervention could enable EV batteries to store enough energy to keep the UK’s lights on for seven hours at a time by 2025, the report suggests, virtually eliminating blackouts. It also claims that distributed energy could save customers more than £1.6bn a year.

“Small-scale energy is growing rapidly because consumers are choosing it, regardless of government subsidy,” Green Alliance action policy director Dustin Benton said. “It has already led to blackouts and billion pound losses for unprepared governments, and it won’t be any different for the UK. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

“With the right policy, EVs and solar could help keep the lights on and cut consumer bills. Political parties need to outline how the large-scale energy the UK needs and the small scale energy people want can work better together.”

System flexibility

The Green Alliance highlights the “serious consequences” of Government withdrawal from the energy market. Unmanaged EV charging could lead to as few as six closely located vehicles charging together at peak time disrupting the local power supply, according to the study, which also claims that one in five of the UK’s local grids are currently unable to accept distributed energy like solar PV.

The Alliance puts forward several recommendations which it believes the Government should implement to ensure small-scale energy is well integrated, including; the creation of a new, independent system designer; and a shift from Distribution network operators (DNOs) to distribution system operators (DSOs).

Disruptive technologies should be enabled to provide system flexibility, the report contends, while automation and aggregators ought to be adopted to make more flexible “time of use” tariffs attractive to consumers.

Smart thinking

The thinktank insists that low-cost batteries, including those in EVs, mean many individual households and commercial buildings could operate off grid for months at a time by 2025. This reflects a growing consensus regarding the impending economic viability of smart energy technologies.

The Renewable Energy Association’s (REA’s) new head of EVs earlier this week told edie that technologies such as the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) concept – which provides a demand-response service to the power grid – offers the “perfect opportunity” for businesses to export surplus energy,

Today’s report suggests the UK could follow the example of California, which last year began to create EV charging infrastructure that support the grid, by awarding demand response contracts to an EV charging provider.

In the UK, businesses are starting to look at opportunities for smart EV charging. Nissan, for instance, recently fitted its research and development facilities in Cranfield with its V2G concept, which could generate 180MW of capacity if all 18,000 Nissan EVs in the UK were connected to the network.

George Ogleby

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