Flexible Futures report

October 25, 2019

Yesterday saw the launch of the Flexible Futures report, the culmination of our recent partnership with the REA.

This new report uses ElectraLink’s analysis and dataset from the Energy Market Data Hub (EMDH), together with REA expertise, to understand developments on the UK distribution network and chart a course for the next decade. Specifically, the report looks at the past seven years, the period which saw enormous deployment of low carbon technologies such as solar PV, and growing deployment of electric vehicles, batteries, and other forms of embedded generation.

The report has built on the skills demonstrated in the outcomes of ElectraLink’s LCT Detection Project which used advanced analytics to identify indications of 15,000 previously unknown solar PV and electric vehicle charging installations on the Western Power Distribution network.

Flexible Futures also assists in drawing a roadmap, based on industry experience, addressing how we can achieve our common goal of £8bn per year in savings and the path to Net Zero Carbon. This document is split into three parts, focusing on:

  • Understanding renewable energy supplier switching
  • Trends in electricity generation and flexible energy technology deployment on the distribution network
  • Proposing a new classification system for flexible customer types
  • Analysis of the above in context of the National Infrastructure Commission’s Smart Power report, the recent GB power cut, and the Government’s commitment to Net Zero

The report conclusions include:

  • Distribution network flexibility will play a vital role in the future of the decarbonisation of the energy system.
  • Three million people are now customers of energy companies that exclusively offer 100% renewable electricity supplies.
  • 8TWh of the total 45TWh exported to the GB distribution networks in 2018 was from renewable sources, ranging from wind to waste-to-energy.
  • For the Commercial and Industrial (C&I) sector, adoption of a ‘100% renewable electricity’ supply tariff may be a leading indicator of future low-carbon and flexibility technology adoption.
  • Battery developers are targeting those already with solar photovoltaics (PV) technology, and those with solar PV are more interested in taking up a flexibility technology such as a battery.
  • Renewable technologies are amongst the cheapest means of new power generation, but many are connected to grid differently than conventional large fossil stations.
  • To meet net-zero decarbonisation targets, significantly more variable generation from wind and solar will be required.

Daniel Brown, report author at the REA said:

“To meet Net Zero we will need more power generation than we have today, but as nuclear and coal come offline there is a lack of policy that will fill the gap.

“Industry models forecast that electricity from technologies such as wind and solar will be crucial for delivering Net Zero. For the first time the Flexible Futures data gives us an indication of the extent to which they are being deployed at the more local distribution networks, rather than at the transmission level.

“The data shows that exports have doubled since 2012 and given the pace of innovation in the renewable energy sector we can expect fresh growth in the 2020s. To accommodate this, flexible energy technologies need to sit at the heart of future planning and network upgrades.”

Paul Linnane, Head of Energy Market Insight at ElectraLink said:

“We are pleased to provide data to the REA as part of the Flexible Futures initiative and as they continue to advocate for a more flexible, decarbonised energy system. Our dataset, derived from management of the Data Transfer Service, is an invaluable resource for the renewable energy and flexible power sectors and we look forward to working further with the sector in the future.”

Richard Molloy, Business Development Manager for Energy Storage at Eaton said:

“This ground-breaking study examines previously unavailable data sets to help understand what is really going on at the distribution system level.

“It is encouraging to see the growing contribution of variable renewables and flexible dispatchable generation exports to the distribution network but it is also clear that more is needed to encourage the development of a truly open and transparent market to spur private investment in the flexibility technologies that will be required to ease the transition to a high-renewable energy future.”

To download the full report, please click here

ElectraLink has governance provisions to allow us to access data from across the gas and electricity markets. For any queries or questions on the dataset or our analysis, please feel free to contact us at communications@electralink.co.uk.

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