Report: Smart technology could reduce annual cost of decarbonising homes by £6.9bn

Smart technologies which improve household energy flexibility have the potential to cut the annual cost of decarbonising Britain's housing stock by almost £7bn, according to a new joint report from Imperial College London (ICL) and OVO Energy.

The report, released today (5 September) and entitled Blueprint for a Post-Carbon Society, considers three potential trajectories for the future of the UK’s energy network, all with varying amounts of residential energy flexibility factored in.

In the most ambitious of the three decarbonisation scenarios, which relies on 93% of the nation’s energy being derived from renewables, the use of residential flexible technologies such as smart electric vehicle (EV) charging, smart electric heating and in-home battery storage was found to save the UK energy system £6.9bn overall.

The savings were calculated as £1.1bn from smart EV charging, £3.5bn from vehicle-to-grid (V2G) EV charging, £3.9bn from smart heating systems and £2.9bn from in-home batteries. Cost savings were calculated against a ‘business as usual’ scenario relying on fossil fuel-based power generation. Indeed, the report speculates that the findings serve as proof that smart electric heat can provide enough flexibility to enable green generation from wind and solar alone, displacing the need for nuclear generation and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The report claims that the savings realised would be equivalent to a £256 saving on the average household energy bill each year. The scenario relies on the uptake of 25 million EVs and 21 million electric heating units by 2040 – a trajectory which the report dubs “ambitious but achievable”.

Nonetheless, smart technologies were still found to reduce the national cost of decarbonisation by £5.6bn annually under a less ambitious scenario which relies on a grid carbon density of 50g per kWh.

“Flexible storage, located near consumption and found in EVs, smart electric heating and home energy storage devices offer a perfect solution to ease grid capacity issues and will limit the need for expensive grid upgrades and reinforcements,” the report states.

“The energy storage found in these behind-the-meter (BTM) devices can act like an energy reservoir, soaking up cheaper renewable power that can then be used when required or released back into the grid at times of peak demand.”

OVO Energy’s director of strategy Toby Ferenczi said the findings served to prove that smart technologies are “absolutely critical to bringing down emissions and powering the future sustainably”.

The Bristol-based energy supply firm is currently campaigning for the Government, energy regulators and the wider industry to collaboratively adapt to a flexible energy system as renewables continue to make up an ever-larger proportion of the UK’s energy mix.

Indeed, the cost of generating energy from wind and solar in the UK is expected to halve by 2040, with the expected future power system volatility set to create more economic opportunities for flexible energy sources and storage capacity.

Low-carbon homes

The OVO and ICL report comes as the Renewable Energy Association (REA) is urging ministers to scrap the “single-phase” electricity supply system for new homes, in a bid to encourage the uptake of solar arrays, heat pumps and electric vehicles.

The REA believes that a three-phase system will be necessary to support the uptake of EVs, in-home battery storage units and smart heating, which it claims would “overload” the existing system.

Sarah George

Comments (2)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    93% renewable?????
    Solar at night, zero.
    Wind liable, in its entirety, over UK and contiguous seas, almost zero for tens of hours.
    Storage prohibitively expensive; outside national abilities.
    Stop looking at total MWhour figures, that is not a realistic scenario.
    Richard Phillips

  2. Andy Frew says:

    I have been researching this since 2008, and the big figure for electric heat is no surprise to me. People have at last noticed that wind availability in winter matches home heating and hot water loads quite well. For heat there is little need for backup generation for missing wind, as the boiler is there already. Hot water cylinders can be heated at night when wind energy is going spare, and homes can retain heat for hours if they are better insulated. The Dutch and Danes are building heat reservoirs that can store heat for weeks. This is not Florida, the air conditioning we need is heat.

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