Distributed energy an option to increase renewable growth in U.K.


John Hutton,
Business Secretary
London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — June 26, 2008 – Distributed energy generated by households, businesses and communities can play an important role in reducing carbon emissions and in contributing to the more widespread deployment of renewable energies in the U.K. market.

In its Renewable Energy Strategy, which was released for consultation today, the government states that while many of the non-financial barriers to increase take-up of distributed energy are being addressed by policies in place or under development, the complexity and novelty of the technologies, together with their need to be integrated into the built environment, often by players new to the energy business, means there is an information gap. Moreover, many of the technologies are not yet cost competitive, at their current state of development and with current fuel and carbon prices.

In order to overcome these barriers, possible measures include the availability of appropriate financial incentives and the introduction of a feed-in tariff for small-scale electricity. In addition a distributed energy information hub should be established to bring together and signpost information for households, businesses, communities, developers and others wanting to generate their own energy, and outreach activity should be supported to identify the potential for retrofit of distributed energy in the community.

The Renewable Energy Strategy is aimed at enabling the U.K. to meet its proposed target of a 15 percent renewable energy share in its energy mix by 2020 – an increase of 1,000 percent on current levels.

Other proposals include introducing a new financial incentive mechanism to encourage a large increase in renewable heat, including in homes and other buildings, and ensuring appropriate incentives for new electricity grid infrastructure and removing grid access as a barrier to renewable deployment. In addition the planning system should be helped to deliver, by agreeing a clear deployment strategy at regional level, and the development of new renewable technologies should be encouraged.

Noting the intermittent nature of some renewable technologies and the need to ensure balance on the grid, the Strategy notes that new techniques of dynamic demand management, utilizing new technologies such as commercial-scale electricity storage and smart meters, may also be able to play a role in addressing this issue. Moreover the future widespread use of electric vehicles could provide distributed energy storage capacity via batteries and could potentially improve the efficiency of the electricity grid by smoothing power demand between day and night. However, while the decision has been made to proceed with a rollout of advanced metering for larger business sites from early 2009, a decision on more widespread rollout will be made only after the release of further data due in November 2008.

Launching the Strategy, Business Secretary John Hutton described it as opening a new chapter in Britain’ history, moving from the old, carbon intensive economy of the industrial revolution to the new low carbon technologies of the 21st century.

“We must make the most rapid progress possible to becoming a cleaner, greener economy and we will strive to make these changes in the most effective way possible, with the least cost to consumers.”

Duncan Sedgwick, chief executive of the Energy Retail Association (ERA), called the publication of the Strategy a “green letter day for government.” However, he added that only the rollout of smart meters throughout Britain would enable the government’s strategy for distributed generation to fulfil its potential.

The 15 percent renewable energy target could achieve carbon savings of around 20 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020.