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CIBSE Conference opens with timely discussion on the Future of Power Networks and Supply

With the National Grid publishing its annual Winter Outlook report today (October 28th, 2014) the first panel session of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers’ new flagship CIBSE Conference and Exhibition: Leadership in Building Performance, was well timed.

The National Grid’s report which looks at the capacity margin - the gap between total electricity generating capacity and peak demand - was compiled as the country misses output from five key power stations following fires or safety checks. The network operator puts the figure at just 4.1% - its narrowest since 2006/7 - and said that margin of spare capacity could fall further to just 2.8% if weather conditions took a turn for the worse.

Volatility in generation and costs, both for purchase and sale of electricity, took centre stage in all three presentations in the CIBSE Conference opening session, along with the need for the UK power networks to adapt to change. Issues critical to the future of power networks and supply were covered from a range of perspectives, and the role of District Network Operators (DNOs) within this.

The session opened with Steve Roberts, Electrical Technical Manager, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd, sharing insights on the retailer’s range of initiatives to reduce carbon emissions; balancing reducing energy demands with an increased retail store footprint.

He also shared examples of Sainsbury’s Nine Elms and Fulham Wharf stores supplying local residences with waste heat, whilst the store in Hythe was a test bed as the retailer’s first carbon neutral store. While Weymouth and Leicester North stores use Green Certified Gas, work with BIFFA at Cannock focuses on food waste and energy buy back.

Critically Roberts said that all steps being taken in reducing energy demand made both business sense as well as contributing to more sustainable operations: £1 saved in energy costs equated in value to £5 of product  sold.

Steve Halsey, Decentralised Generation Development Manager, UK Power Networks, also looked at innovation, from the perspective of direct generation (DG), i.e. the generation of electricity through many small, localised energy sources. He flagged that UK Power Networks received 20,000 DG enquiries during 2014, but while interest is rapidly increasing the network itself is not really designed for electricity flowing in the other direction. Technical issues in the network need to be addressed however including a close understanding of the influences of thermal constraints, voltage rise, fault level increases and load masking.

How District Heating might assist with load balancing challenges was the focus of Huw Blackwell’s presentation drawing on his work as Decentralised Energy Project Officer at the London Borough of Islington. In meeting the challenges of the electricity demand/supply mismatch, Huw Blackwell described how the storage of thermal energy was easier than electrical. Presenting a scenario where District Heating (DH) could be the ‘the Heat Interconnector’ he described how DH was technology agnostic in energy distribution and therefore offered a strong option to become an export route for heat applications.

A look at the UK National Grid status through a live link to the dashboard for National Grid presented a clear indication of the role the various types of electricity generation were currently playing. With this in mind delegates could see how significant today’s report by the National Grid is with winter fast approaching, and how important maximising opportunities for energy reuse and reduction are.

UK National Grid Status UK National Grid Status

Other key sessions throughout two-day CIBSE Conference will cover topics such as moving towards real zero carbon buildings, the future of construction with BIM and the importance of soft landings and maintenance, the Housing Standards Review and new technologies.

>CIBSE Building Performance Conference & Exhibition

Huw Blackwell presents at the CIBSE Conference Huw Blackwell presents at the CIBSE Conference