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Will renewable targets be possible without smart grid?

15 July 2009
Will renewable targets be possible without smart grid?

By Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group.

Today's UK Renewable Energy Strategy says this about the power grid which is a key enabler of renewable electricity, heat and transport energy, from small to large scale.

Quicker, smarter grid connection: We will invest in and manage the electricity grid so that new renewable and other forms of generation can connect when they need and on the terms they need. Therefore our actions will achieve:

  • More strategic investment in the grid. We have agreed with industry a detailed vision of how the grid must be structured for 2020 and beyond. Ofgem is developing the incentives to encourage grid companies to invest the £4.7 billion required to deliver this, and we will shortly publish for consultation a Grid National Policy Statement to speed up planning approval.
  • Investment in a new offshore grid. We have launched an entirely new offshore transmission regime to provide clear, cost-effective and co-ordinated delivery of the grid connections needed for our growth in offshore wind. This will present opportunities for investment worth up to £15 billion.
  • Quicker and fair connection to the grid. We now have an interim 'connect and manage' approach to grid access to ensure new generators can connect to the grid. We are working closely with industry to develop longer-term grid access reforms and will use powers in the Energy Act 2008 to implement new rules urgently.
  • A smarter grid. We are leading work to develop the grid of the future that will automatically manage the variability of renewable sources, save energy and reduce costs. We are investing to develop the technologies to deliver this and later this year we will publish a vision for the smart grid, drawing on wider work for the 2050 vision.

This sets out to achieve 750 million tonnes of CO2 emissions savings. But is it possible to achieve without a more sophisticated understanding of the demand side? What will be the penetration of electric vehicles (to name one consumer product with an uncertain diffusion rate) and how will these along with distributed power generation be managed? Agreeing a detailed structure of how the grid should be structured after 2020 doesn't help deliver 2020 targets. Luckily, it does look like a smart grid consultation is on the way...

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