Find your flexibility to support a cleaner energy future

We’re going to have to get to grips with how much energy we use – but also when and how we use it. GCMA partner Inspired Energy consider how businesses can be more flexible New research by the Carbon Trust has revealed that a fully flexible energy system could cut the cost of the UK reaching net zero by £16.7bn by 2050. A study by Imperial College suggests that the UK will have to grow its wind generation capacity more than 10-fold by 2035 (from 10.4 GW to 108 GW) if it is to reach net zero. The same report predicts that peak demand will grow more than three-fold in the same time, from 50 GW today to almost 150 GW, as space heating and electrification of transport are electrified.    Achieving this level of growth in electricity demand from a system made up largely of wind, solar, and battery storage will require UK businesses to get to grips not only with how much energy they use, but also how and when they use it – so for organisations that are focused on sustainability, it’s time to start embracing greater flexibility.   Ofgem defines flexibility as, “modifying generation and/or consumption patterns in reaction to an external signal (such as a change in price) to provide a service within the energy system”. While not all businesses will be able to modify their generation or consumption patterns, many are already adopting flexibility – those that shift their consumption to avoid Triad periods in the winter, for example, are demonstrating that they can be flexible in their usage.  Why is flexibility so important? As we transition towards net zero, we’re going to become increasingly reliant on renewable energy, which can be intermittent. Electricity demand will also rise – in fact, it’s predicted to treble from 2019 levels by 2050 – as we will need to electrify areas that are currently powered by fossil fuels, such as transport and heat. This means that our current electricity infrastructure will need to expand and adapt in order to meet growing demand.  Upgrading our infrastructure will require a huge amount of investment, but if businesses can be flexible around when they use energy and how much energy they use, they can significantly reduce the level of investment required. If businesses can turn down or even supply electricity generated on-site back to the grid when demand is high, and shift their usage to periods of lower demand, they can help to limit the increase to our overall peak system demand. Reducing peak demand is not the only benefit to the system. Consuming electricity when electricity is cheap often means consuming it when it is abundant and easy to generate. This stimulates growth in renewables by allowing them to sell power when it is naturally available from the environment – which is both cheaper and cleaner, reducing further the need for fossil generation. By keeping the increase in electricity demand as low as possible, and consuming it when it is most abundantly available from renewable sources, businesses can reduce the costs...
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