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Flexibility takes centre stage in NIC annual report as 'clear level' of ambition is needed

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Flexibility – and the actions required by government, Ofgem and National Grid ESO – formed a clear part of the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) annual report.

The report, which is designed to keep track of government progress towards implementing recommendations previously made by the NIC, highlighted that Ofgem and the government have made “good progress” in increasing the capacity for flexible technologies. This follows initial recommendations made in the NIC’s 2016 report Smart Power.

However, the NIC has issued a series of actions required for the next year. Whilst it praised the government for launching its consultation on exempting storage from the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime, it added that amendments to the Electricity Act to provide a statuary definition of storage should happen in the next year.

Ofgem announced its intention to include a formal definition of storage as a subset of generation last year with a consultation on the topic.

The NIC also outlined how the government should continue to review the latest evidence on the costs and barriers to access for demand side response technology in the Capacity Market.

Other recommendations relating to flexibility made to the government for the next year include:

  • Proactively facilitate the transition to more actively managed local networks and distribution system operators (DSOs).
  • Set out a “clear level” of ambition for overall system flexibility, including a transparent framework to monitor it.
  • Maintain access to future interconnector projects in negotiations with the EU, and prioritise retaining access to EU power markets and market coupling.

However, the annual report did praise the government’s consultation on smart charging for electric vehicles, as well as the reinstatement of the Capacity Market and the recommendations made by the Energy Data Taskforce.

Recommendations were also issued by the NIC to Ofgem, namely ensuring “effective and rapid” progress is made on the Access and Forward Looking Charges Significant Code Review, and that modifications for the generation license for storage are finalised.

Ofgem should also ensure it publishes its decision on market wide half hour settlement in Autumn 2020 in line with its current commitments.

Meanwhile, National Grid ESO should make further progress in increasing access to balancing services for flexible technologies and increase transparency and competition in design of balancing products.

National Grid's goal of operating a zero carbon grid by 2030 was also welcomed as showcasing positive steps taken towards facilitating the transition to a highly flexible system, however this must be “backed by concrete action” in line with the NIC's expectations.

The annual report also makes reference to the expected response from the government to the NIC’s National Infrastructure Assessment, published in 2018, which is set to be included in the government's forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy.

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “The UK desperately needs a strategy that looks well beyond this Parliament, setting out infrastructure policy and funding up to 2050. It must contain goals, plans to achieve them, funding to deliver those, and deadlines for delivery.”

The annual report also covered recommendations for the UK's road network, Crossrail 2 and wider suggestions for the UK's transport infrastructure.

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