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Future Power System Architecture

This project, commissioned by DECC from the Energy Systems Catapult and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), aims to establish what new tasks or functions will need to be implemented to plan and operate the power system in response to new user needs. Ensuring that the system is secure, affordable and sustainable is fundamental to the work.

Objectives of the consultation

The first phase of the project identified requirements and functions of the future power system. The initial analysis suggest that 11 of the 62 functions would present potentially significant challenges and difficulty in implementation due to its high complexity, including:

  • Forecast generation and demand contributions from smart cities;
  • Ensure market participants are free to act in the economic and social interests of customers whilst maintaining overall system control;
  • Accommodate smart city and community contributions;
  • Engage new players in the operational planning process;
  • Ensure relevant industry parties know relevant data and metadata in relation to smart, addressable, or controllable devices;
  • Include Smart Cities and Community Energy Managers in control operations;
  • Interact with aggregators in control timescale operations;
  • Activate range of market mechanisms and/or agreed control measures to manage constraints;
  • Improve monitoring of generation and demand at lower voltage levels;
  • Ensure relevant industry parties receive necessary real time, or close to real time, data flows. Volumes and timeliness suggest machine-to-machine engagement may be appropriate or necessary;
  • Distribute benefits of Smart City, virtual network and Community Energy Schemes involving multi-site/vector optimisation to individual customers.

The aim of the final phase of the project is to undertake more detailed assessment of the functions identified in phase one and this consultation was issued to engage a wider stakeholder community and gather further evidence on the degree of novelty and complexity of the functions. The consultation closed on 11 February 2016.

CIBSE response

The project draws attention to the increasing complexity in the energy supply networks of the future, and argues that the rise in renewables leads to greater uncertainty about load profiles and demand. There is much in the presentation material about energy demand reduction through active systems and pricing mechanisms to seek to manage peak demand in order to reduce the requirement for high marginal cost and high carbon generating capacity. However, other national systems are coping with higher levels of renewable generation, as described in the recent article from Bloomberg describing the German experience, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-12/germany-proves-life-with-less-fossil-fuel-getting-easier, which also refers to experience elsewhere in the world. It also acknowledges that some, particularly in the US, are taking a contrary view, but it is clearly not a position based on technical feasibility.

There is one significant topic which is not addressed explicitly In the consultation. There is no discussion about the use of greater investment in improved efficiency of use of energy resources, or of its impact on the configuration of future energy supply systems. Reducing demand from buildings and processes by improving the resource efficiency of the building or process so that it uses less energy is known to be a very cost effective activity. In the owner occupied building stock organisations like Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s have delivered permanent reductions in demand from their stores and other buildings through investment in effective management of their use of energy. They have shown what can be achieved and the potential savings. Whilst this is more difficult to achieve in the rented commercial sector due to split incentives between landlord and tenant, measures such as the minimum energy efficiency standards due to take effect initially in 2018 should help to improve investment in energy efficiency measures in the rented stock.

Reducing aggregate demand through more effective use of energy resources in buildings and infrastructure will reduce the requirement for new generating capacity, thereby reducing the investment required. It will also help to reduce the uncertainties and complexities associated with future demand. CIBSE suggests that in planning future power systems, some attention is paid to the potential impact of greater efficiency in the use of energy on future power supply scenarios. 

Results of the consultation and next steps

The final report to DECC is expected to be delivered at the end of March 2016.