Why the evolution of the smart grid is pivotal in achieving Net Zero

Posted by Hamzah Khokhar, Managing Consultant

Topics: Data, Featured, Energy and Commercial

In this blog post, we explore the importance of the smart grid and explain why data plays a key role in our journey towards Net Zero.

As a result of Covid-19 and the existing control measures in place, the energy market has seen demand drop by 20%, whilst the easing of lockdown restrictions prior to Christmas combined with the introduction of a mass vaccination rollout saw a rebound in electricity demand. Between June and December 2020, electricity demand in Great Britain fluctuated by as much as 10%, posing a number of challenges to energy suppliers and highlighting a number of potential benefits to smart grid technology as a result.

What is a smart grid?

A smart grid is an energy management system that intelligently controls the generation, distribution, and storage of electricity. Smart grids have the ability to efficiently control and coordinate energy demand, leading to a more energy efficient ecosystem .

Progressing such ecosystems to meet the requirements of a Net Zero ambition requires smart grids to become decentralised. A decentralised smart grid has the intelligence to automate and allocate resources according to demand, minimising waste and providing greater control. This is pivotal to achieving Net Zero as it allows consumers to minimise waste and suppliers to efficiently manage the supply of renewable energy sources.

Data enablement is a crucial feature of a smart grid and allows customers to benefit from a smart ecosystem. Smart ecosystems allow greater flexibility to respond to demand and place the power within consumers’ hands. This ties into the notion of domestic flexibility - the idea that customers flex their energy demand according to the time of day because they have visibility of their energy usage and cost via a smart meter. A more conscious consumer is likely to reduce their consumption as they are monitoring the cost of their usage.

The consumer needs to have a vested interest in using the tools and technology which are being introduced within the smart home. It is therefore important to ensure that consumers are continuing to be educated, and suppliers are changing their communication from transactional to partnership. Meanwhile, suppliers will need to continue to innovate and further develop their capabilities to equip them with the skills to develop and utilise the smart grid.

The role of data enablement

Data enables the flow of continuous and real-time pricing information and allows consumers to make a conscious judgement to flex their consumption based on the data that they are being provided. It enables consumers who are being educated on the trends of their energy supply  to gain a better understanding of the impact that this is having on their energy bills.

Data also commissions the use of automation, which coordinates energy demand and allows the flow of real-time data. This has resulted in the smart home becoming equally more conscious and efficient, and this coordination of energy allows the smart grid to maximise its output and allocate demand where it is needed. It is powered by intelligent algorithms which predict expected usage and trends.

Together with a rise in smart home technology, recent years have also seen a significant uptake in electrical vehicles amongst consumers. Electric vehicles place a huge demand on the grid and contribute to an excess of 50% extra demand for each household. This places a huge amount of importance on the smart grid, as it allows intelligent allocation of demand, and data provides core statistics which can help model and automate the grid. It is a leading example of the positive impact that data can have on the running of a smart ecosystem.

How can companies begin their journey?

To begin your journey to a fully autonomous smart grid, it is important to develop a clear strategy that provides a roadmap for the impact of data enablement on the business and the potential benefits realised. This will need to be underpinned by key technological decisions based on architecture and capability assessments. Once your strategy has been defined, you can begin to develop a business case that takes the key output from the strategy and looks at wider factors such as regulatory requirements, technical maturity, and cost. Your business plan should be developed with a clear focus and link to the benefits realised as a result of the transformation.

In a nutshell

Data is crucial to ensuring the success of a fully functioning decentralised grid as it lays the foundation upon which innovative solutions and automation can be built to enable the grid to be more efficient and intelligent. It is through a combined effort of shifting consumer behaviours and enhancing prediction methods that the UK will begin to progress towards and meet its Net Zero target.

If you would like to learn more about the topic explored in this blog post, please get in touch with one of our experts.

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