Smart metering has role in balancing future U.K. electricity supply and demand


London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — June 24, 2009 – Smart metering, smart enabled appliances such as fridges, washing machines and dishwashers, electric vehicles and energy storage will all provide new opportunities for both large and small electricity consumers to provide balancing services to network operators in the future, according to a new report from Britain’s National Grid.

The study, which looks towards operating the electricity transmission networks in Great Britain in 2020, is based on the requirements to meet the country’s 2020 climate change and renewable energy targets. These include connecting around 32 GW of wind and 12 GW of new gas fired generation against an unprecedented churn in the generation fleet due to the closure of old fossil fuel and nuclear generation plants.

With such large amounts of variable wind generation and much larger nuclear power stations connecting to the transmission system, the day to day operation of the networks is expected to become more complex, National Grid says. The way the company operates and the way the electricity market operates is likely to change, and the way that consumers, large and small, may interact with the market may also change considerably.

Under this scenario, National Grid, which is the system operator of Britain’s electricity transmission networks, expects that its short term operating reserve requirement could increase from today’s levels of approximately 4 GW to possibly 8 GW in 2020.

National Grid says it expects that it will need to procure an increasing volume of balancing services to meet reserve requirements and it foresees demand side services and storage technologies playing a more prominent role.

Indeed some 8 GW of additional demand side services could be available by 2020 to help meet its operating reserve requirements, National Grid estimates. However, significant effort will be required to realize the benefits available from these measures, as other parts of the energy industry will also be interested in them.

In addition interconnectors with Europe will offer additional flexibility, with Britain’s cross border capacity likely to at least double by 2020.  Such cooperation would allow wind intermittency to be balanced out across a much wider area.

But even in the absence of these new technological developments, variable wind and larger nuclear power stations can still be accommodated, National Grid believes. Better wind forecasting, more sophisticated control systems and more innovative sources of operating reserve are critical.

“The future brings great challenges for the energy industry, and National Grid is playing a key role in developing many of the solutions,” commented the company’s future transmission networks manager Chris Bennett. “This most comprehensive view yet of how Britain could balance electricity supply and demand in the future moves the debate firmly beyond the simplistic view that we just need more back-up generation.  It paints a fascinating picture of how different the way we operate the system could be in coming years, and is a key step in ensuring that the industry is prepared.”