How we generate electricity has been changing for several decades now.
UK electricity used to be generated at a few big power stations, which fed straight into the Transmission Network (National Grid), before it joined the Distribution Network (Western Power Distribution), and finally arrived in our homes, schools and workplaces.
Now there are many 'embedded generators' which are connected into the Distribution Network, and we also have even smaller micro-generation on our homes.
All this means that we need a much cleverer system to ensure we all have the right amount of electricity at the right time. We also don't want too much electricity on the grid.
In order to cope with peak demand, which doesn't happen very often, we need spare generation capacity, previously this has been gas power stations, sat ready and waiting to switch on and whizz huge amounts of power onto the Grid.
Or, the very exciting Electric Mountain in Llanberis, where water is pumped high up into a mountain when there is not much demand for electricity (middle of the night) then released down a vertical shaft at a moments notice - for example when everyone puts the kettle on after Eastenders!
The great news now, is that now UK grid electricity is already 30% renewable. To achieve net-zero carbon we will be increasing this percentage even further. One of the biggest challenges of renewable energy is managing the intermittency.
In the South West, Western Power Distribution are at the forefront of innovation in Flexibility Markets, looking at how we can use smart tech to control when electric vehicles charge, appliances are used, immersion heaters heat up for example, paying industry to operate at specific times of the day, and working with communities to develop local energy markets are just a few examples. All this can take electricity off the grid when there is too much supply. And large energy storage is being used to pump electricity back into the grid when there is not enough supply. Vehicle to Grid technology will also have a big impact when we are able to use our car batteries as storage for our homes.
If you've been wondering why all householders are being offered smart meters - this is why!
Three of our directors attended the WPD Flexibility Forum in Exeter on the 3rd July, to hear about how SDCE could get involved in helping to provide local flexibility and grid balancing services. It was an especially enjoyable day as it was chaired by Jodie, another SDCE director, in her day job with Regen.
We're working up some project ideas, so watch this space!