Building the UK’s resilient, low carbon electricity grid: Sara Bell, Tempus Energy

Reading time: 3 minutes
16 March 2016

Sara Bell, CEO and Founder of Tempus Energy, writes about the opportunities to improve efficiency in the UK's electricity grid. In 2012, Sara set up Tempus Energy – a technology company focused on developing and deploying clean technology to cost-optimise the electricity supply chain. This is part of The Climate Group's project Home2025.

On a cold, windless UK day in February at 5pm, it is likely that peak demand is driving up the wholesale electricity market prices. The following day as a weather front moves in, it could be blustery with UK wind power at maximum capacity, pushing prices negative.

But in fact, while we all go about our daily business, the UK's National Grid, the network operators and suppliers, are busily balancing the grid to bring diverse supply assets and national demand into rapid alignment - managing associated wholesale price differentials of up to 400%.

What is really going on behind the scenes? Our aging electricity grid is working hard to manage intermittent renewables. The UK's renewable resources should be a huge benefit to us all - providing clean, very low marginal cost power - but harnessing them efficiently on our grid is currently proving challenging.


A current strategy of only building out new peaking fossil fuel generation to achieve ‘security of supply’ is ignoring the potential for a new range of innovative demand-side solutions to better balance supply and demand, and make our grid system much more efficient, reliable and resilient.

The scale of inefficiency in our electricity system is huge and is holding back UK productivity. The magnitude of potential savings to the UK from demand flexibility and balancing technologies are estimated at £8-17 billion a year by 2050 according to Imperial College and up to €53 billion a year in Europe, shows research by ENTSO-E.

Greater efficiencies unlock a much a more cost-effective low-carbon electricity system that creates better value for customers.

Advances in clean tech, electricity storage, new grid technologies and the “internet of things” now enable commercial users to be far more flexible about how when they use energy, and participate in ‘demand response’ solutions.


Because of price volatility and network charges (that customers are usually shielded from but still pay for) there is a huge financial upside to shifting as much non-time critical energy usage as possible away from periods of peak demand into cheaper off-peak price periods, when renewable generation is often oversupplying the grid.

Tempus Energy’s supplier model helps flexible customers to capture that upside and offer them more competitive tariffs. Tempus Energy is one of a number of new businesses in the UK enabling energy customers to drive and benefit from market-based solutions to climate change.

Public concern over rising bills, black-outs, and climate change (the 'Energy Trilemma') means that UK demand response is not just good for business but also for the economy, society and the environment.

Despite the smart meter roll-out, more will need to be done before homes can take full advantage of this. For instance, the move to half-hourly settlement will make it easier for homes to save money on their bills by unlocking valuable demand-side grid efficiencies.

But come rain or shine, energy system innovation will unlock better value for UK customers.

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