UK Government outlines plans to harness energy flexibility from EVs and appliances

The UK Government is planning new consumer protection requirements for the providers of ‘smart’ or ‘flexible’ energy services, which enable homes and businesses to contribute to balancing the grid by changing the times they use appliances or charge electric vehicles (EVs).

UK Government outlines plans to harness energy flexibility from EVs and appliances

Policymakers estimate that adding flexibility to the UK’s energy grid will generate savings of up to £50bn by 2050, largely through avoiding the need for new infrastructure such as pylons and backup gas-fired power plants.

Some of the flexibility will come from shifting energy use patterns from industrial hubs and other large-scale assets such as grid-scale battery energy storage. However, Ministers also see smaller appliances within homes and businesses as playing a key role.

So called ‘smart energy appliances’ can have their energy consumption turned up or down automatically to shift usage to off-peak times when energy costs less and the grid is less carbon-intensive.

The Department for Energy Security and Net-Zero (DESNZ) is consulting on new consumer protection rules to help scale the market for flexible energy services and smart energy appliances.

It wants to mandate new requirements for service providers to list their prices transparently, allowing customers to compare services. Changes will also be made to marketing standards for the sector.

Another aspect of the consultation concerns the introduction of a legal requirement to have a customer complaints and service process in line with those already required for energy suppliers.

Additionally, DESNZ wants to ensure that service providers offer products which can be universally used and which are easy to use. The Department is concerned that, at present, some ‘smart’ appliances like EV charging points only work with certain brands of device – in this case, only certain models of cars or vans.

Households are being told of opportunities to lower their annual energy bills by up to £900 by switching to off-peak energy tariffs.

DESNZ is also touting the growth of the flexibility market as an opportunity to create up to 24,000 jobs and increase GDP by up to £1.3bn by mid-century.

The consultation will run until June 11, 2024.

The move has been welcomed by the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE). Its head of policy Sarah Honan said:  “Public participation in our energy system is not a nice to have, but an absolute imperative to reach net-zero in a cost-effective and secure manner.

“Following the first consultation and the passage of the Energy Act, this publication marks another important step towards unlocking the value of demand flexibility through smart-as-standard devices and competitive customer offerings from a range of service providers. We applaud DESNZ for continued leadership, agility, and pragmatism in devising regulations fit for the future of this burgeoning industry.”

The National Grid’s Electricity System Operator launched a ‘Demand Flexibility Service’ for homes and small businesses in the winter of 2022/23 and has continued trials this winter due to the popularity of this offering. The Service financially incentivises energy users to avoid using energy-intensive appliances during peak periods.

Related contributed article: Now is the time for landlords to invest in smart EV chargers

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