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Future Worlds and the Internet of Energy: ENA unveils visions of the UK’s future power landscape

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

The Energy Networks Association’s (ENA) Open Networks project has published its blueprint for a future Internet of Energy in the UK, seeking out the most desirable ‘Future World’ of electricity distribution and transmission.

It comes as part of an independent impact assessment, compiled by consultancy firm Baringa, which has looked into five particular models for how the country’s electricity networks could underpin a future smart grid.

That assessment proposes a framework under which the country’s transmission and distribution network operators could essentially redesign how they operate in order to deliver that change, dubbed a ‘Future World’.

That ‘Future World’ would see network operators collaborating more closely to bring forward flexibility service markets, utilising the energy flexibility of new technologies installed in the country's homes, public buildings and businesses.

It’s the ENA’s intent that the publication of the assessment and ‘Future World’ model builds on the progress made by the association’s Open Networks project, in particular those relating to the adoption of flexibility services.

Late last year the ENA orchestrated the networks’ first ‘Flexibility Commitment’, which saw the country’s network operators commit to embracing flexibility providers when seeking solutions for grid issues.

The ‘Future World’ models

Baringa’s assessment focuses around five Future World models summarised by the ENA, identified as World A, B, C, D and E.

  • World A, or DSO Coordinates, includes the DSO taking a central role for all distribution connected parties, acting as a neutral market facilitator.
  • World B, dubbed Coordinated DSO-ESO Procurement and Dispatch, sees DSOs and the ESO work together to manage networks through a co-ordinated flexibility procurement process.
  • World C, titled Price-Driver Flexibility, includes made via Ofgem’s electricity network access reforms and forward-looking charges improve access arrangements.
  • World D, or ESO Coordinates, sees the ESO take a central role in flexibility procurement, rather than the DSO.
  • and World E, or Flexibility Co-ordinators, identifies a world where national, or regional, third parties act as the market facilitator for DER and provide efficient services to the ESO and DSOs as required.

After assessing those worlds against more than 30 criteria identified by the ENA and its stakeholders, as well as a quantitative cost and benefit analysis, Baringa concluded that there was no set ‘World’ that excelled across all criteria and that each possessed relative strengths and weaknesses.

Baringa has established a series of trade-offs associated with each World which will need to be weighed up against each other in order to determine the most practical or ideal solution.

Image: ENA.
Image: ENA.

The quantitative assessment also concluded that there was not much between the Worlds by 2050 in terms of their potential costs and benefits, however Worlds A and B have appeared capable of delivering those benefits faster - outperforming the other three scenarios by 2030.

In response to the assessment’s conclusions, Baringa has identified four areas of further work which would help inform which path is the most likely, based around the answers to four specific questions, namely;

  • How far can reformed access and charging arrangements go in delivering flexibility to the system?
  • What is the value of flexibility to network operators at low voltages?
  • What are the potential conflicts of interest and how can they be mitigated?
  • How can industry arrangements facilitate a different pace of change across regions?

The 144-page assessment can be read in full here.

Next steps

David Smith, chief executive at the ENA, said that the assessment provided a clear vision for Britain’s networks to “pave the way” for a smarter, more flexible energy system.

“This vision is clear in its direction, but pragmatic in its nature. It will allow network operators to build on the progress they’ve made so far through the Open Networks Project to ensure the people can access the benefits of a smart grid as quickly as possible, whilst leaving the door open to more radical changes in the future,” he said.

A public consultation on the impact assessment report has been opened and will collect responses until 1 May 2019. Consultation events will be held in London and Glasgow on 8 and 10 April respectively.

Responses to the consultation will be summarised in a standalone report to be used alongside the impact assessment when presented to policy makers, while feedback will also be used to shape ongoing work within the ENA’s Open Networks Project.

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