The Digital Economy And New Technology Will Drive The UK’s Energy Future – Forbes

Pedestrian pass the government department of  Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy formerly the department of Business, Innovation and Skills, in London, U.K. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The U.K. is well positioned to draw on its expertise in the digital economy and its ability to innovate and develop new technologies in its efforts to better manage its domestic energy requirements while producing export opportunities.

The U.K.’s commitment to innovation and the digital economy will drive the development of game-changing technologies and energy consultancy services, directly benefiting both the country’s domestic energy requirements while generating export opportunities.

As the U.K. moves toward its 2030 renewable energy targets, a balanced, reliable and cleaner energy mix will emerge.

While energy efficiency will also play a significant role in reducing household energy bills and carbon emissions, there is a real possibility that the infrastructure, technology and innovation required to drive these efficiencies will themselves become an important part of the U.K. economy. In short, a ‘smarter’ grid has the power to transform energy management and the economy across the U.K.

Introducing flexibility into the U.K.’s electricity network is vital in dealing with the uncertainties of becoming a low-carbon economy by the 2030s, but the “devil’s in the technical detail” of managing an ageing grid.  The growth of renewable energy systems makes the task even more challenging because the electricity network was originally designed for a one-way flow of energy, but today it has to deal with a level of dynamic complexity never before seen.

At the heart of this energy revolution will be an ‘intelligent network’ that uses digital communication systems to monitor and automatically respond to local power demand in real time, so making it easier to integrate renewable energy sources and new storage systems into the grid. For example, reducing costs for someone who allows their washing machine to be turned on by the Internet to maximize use of cheap solar power on a sunny afternoon. Or people who agree to have their freezers switched off for short periods during times of peak demand.

Of course, the idea that consumers are going to be both fascinated and busy in responding to all these energy price signals is perhaps over-enthusiastic. However, aggregation service providers, using advanced analytics and IT, will be more likely to see business opportunities in providing these services. Google is entering this market, for example.

The development of new technologies such as high performance batteries, adaptive condition monitoring and automatic control systems are important to making these technically feasible, but more remarkable are the change in business model from passive distribution network operator to the creation of new distribution system operators. New rules will make it easier for people to generate their own power with solar panels, store it in batteries and sell it to the National Grid in a manner which is responsive to its changing technical characteristics.


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