Next steps to the ‘internet of energy’: views sought on the smart grid’s Future Worlds

What is the best way to deliver a ‘smart grid’ that accommodates responsive, decentralised and decarbonised electricity networks? The Energy Networks Association (ENA) has opened a major consultation on the future shape of the GB electricity networks and the next steps to delivering the ’internet of energy’. It wants feedback on the so-called ‘future worlds’ by 1 May.

The consultation builds on earlier work that identifies five ‘future worlds’ with different roles for system operators at high and low voltage levels, network access rights and price signals, and different levels of  independence. Consultant Baringa has considered the next steps to deliver each ‘world’ over the period to 2030 and 2050 and how well each delivers a variety of aims, including decarbonisation of heat and transport, flexibility, local energy markets and lower costs.

Baringa found that improved access and forward looking charging arrangements (World C) were best treated as a feature of all the future worlds and it issued that from 2023 they would be a key part of all transition paths. They were necessary, but not sufficient on their own to best use new flexible resources and deliver the necessary outcomes. An enduring ‘system operation’ role is likely to be required as well.

All the worlds are feasible, and they are likely to diverge in the late 2020s and early 2030s as the amount of distributed energy resources increases dramatically.

More information on the costs of IT systems  and platforms to manage flexibility and the value available to flexibility providers, as well as more information about how economies of scale will change the cost base will help determine the likely future, the consultants said. Baringa added, “We also consider that it would be useful to define in greater detail the commercial arrangements in each of the Future Worlds and also where responsibilities and accountabilities lie.”

During the consultation ENA will be running webinars on 11 and 27 March, and will have open consultation events in  Glasgow on 8 April and London on 10 April. There will also be a drop-in stand at this year’s Future of Utilities conference on 27 March. 

Consultation events will include a ‘Response Surgery’, where members of the Open Networks team will be on hand to advise stakeholders on the key sections of the impact assessment consultation, the areas of most interest to them and on drafting a response.

See the full consultation documents here