Posted on 13/06/2016

Our energy system is shifting away from high-carbon sources.

The times, they are a-changin’

What we must do now is harness the opportunity that this change brings.

In March, the Energy and Climate Change Committee began an inquiry into ‘Our Energy Revolution’, saying:

“The Committee is investigating disruptive innovation in the energy sector, including the potential of technology to transform existing market structures, and Government support for innovation.”

In response, Scottish Renewables has described four areas where we believe disruptive innovation can secure the value of changes in our energy system:

  • Innovative renewable generation
  • Non-traditional business models
  • Flexible network management
  • Energy systems integration

 

Innovative renewable generation

In our briefing paper on innovation (and this blog) we highlighted innovative generation areas we believe offer a particular opportunity for the UK: offshore renewables and renewable heat.

It has been estimated that wave and tidal stream technologies could meet around 20% of the UK’s electricity demand, and utilising offshore expertise from our oil and gas industries could position the UK as a market leader ready to export knowledge

Beyond electricity, disruptive innovation is required if we are to get on the right path to delivering low-carbon heat.

Heat accounts for 46% of UK energy demand, and 55% in Scotland (it’s chilly up north).

Decarbonising this sector would create opportunities for businesses and tackle harmful emissions.

For example, combined heat and power could allow us to capture the heat which is often wasted in electricity production. Deploying this technology could allow large heat users like hotels, hospitals and shopping centres to provide heating and electricity, presenting a clean and affordable alternative to imported grid electricity or polluting diesel generators.

 

Non-traditional business models

Our focus on finding business models to diversify the possible routes to market for renewables is not new, but it’s one that has been sharpened by recent policy shifts.

With businesses and communities looking to take control of their own energy supplies and improve their environmental credentials, innovation here seems inevitable.

Models like peer-to-peer trading already let consumers contact renewable generators directly to find the  power they want at a price they can afford.

Community supply is another way of creating a direct link between generators and consumers, empowering our cities, towns and villages and the consumers who live in them.

Innovative tariff structures can help make the most of renewables on the system, and reward consumers.

Our response to the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s enquiry encourages Ofgem to focus attention on those models, and others like them.

 

Flexible network management

If we’re smart with how we manage our network, we can save money and reduce emissions.

Active Network Management systems allow for nimble network controls; preventing losses on the grid, securing our energy supplies and providing lower-cost connections for renewables to access the grid.

Taking this approach to network connection and operation can offer cost savings of up to 90%.

SP Energy Networks’ ARC project, in the Scottish Borders, has already shown ANM in action.

The project, which brought together Community Energy Scotland, Smarter Grid Solutions, the University of Strathclyde and the DNO, allowed new generators to connect to the power network more quickly and cheaply, where previously the network was believed to be at full capacity.

ARC was named Best Innovation at Scottish Renewables’ 2015 Green Energy Awards for its “ambition, intelligence and achievements” in “allowing connection of distributed generation around system constraints”.

 

Energy systems integration

(This is a topic we’ve blogged on previously, so read this post for a full run-down of the potential it offers).

Each part of the energy industry understands the ‘energy trilemma’: the need for secure supplies, low-carbon systems and cost-effective energy for the consumer.

The logical step is to tackle these in unison – to integrate our energy systems.

For example, the Isle of Eigg became the first place on earth to integrate solar, hydro, wind power and battery storage to power locals’ homes when it did so successfully some years ago.

That’s an integrated system which is already enriching people’s lives with 24-7 access to electricity.

 

Energy innovation is already happening.

The wheel’s still in spin, but it’s clear to us that these four areas can help make the most of this shift.

 

  • Blog by Hannah Smith, Policy Officer, Scottish Renewables
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