Britain breaks network flexibility record with 45% increase

Britain breaks network flexibility record with 45% more contracted this year than in all of 2020.

New figures from Energy Networks Association (ENA) reveal record levels of local flexibility have been contracted by Britain’s electricity distribution networks this year. A total of 1.6GW has been contracted since the beginning of 2021 – freeing up capacity on the electricity networks during peak periods: the equivalent of connecting 32,000 rapid electric vehicle (EV) chargers (50kW) to the grid or half the size of the proposed nuclear power station at Hinckley Point C (3.2GW).

This is an uplift of 45% since 2020 when 1.1GW was contracted for the whole year.

Unlocking network capacity by using flexibility services opens up new markets which will not only avoid the need for traditional network reinforcement and save customers money but will also power the energy system towards a Net Zero future.

Flexibility is also a key aspect of delivering a green recovery as it enables us to meet Britain’s targets for the widescale roll out of EVs and heat-pumps. New figures from Government’s Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan show that flexibility could also reduce annual energy system costs by £10bn a year by 2050 while also creating 24,000 ‘green collar’ jobs.

This record has been achieved through adopting a “flexibility first” approach where the network operators look to the market to seek alternative solutions to all significant traditional investment that would otherwise be required to solve congestion on the grid.

These solutions include smart technologies, which offer faster, more cost efficient and environmentally friendly services to unlock capacity. Customers are paid for these services, which could include reducing their energy usage at certain times of the day or using battery storage to inject power into the grid.

Randolph Brazier, Director of Innovation and Electricity Systems at Energy Networks Association which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses, said: “Local flexibility services are a relatively new market but one that has seen an incredible growth over the past three years alone in Britain. Breaking the previous record for flexibility after only seven months of this year is great news for customers and great news for Net Zero.

“However, there is still plenty of room for growth and we are not resting on our laurels; networks, Ofgem and Government are working together to increase the amount of flexibility in the energy system of the future, and we very much welcomed the release of the latest version of the Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan. With Northern Ireland also joining the fold with local DSO flexibility trials, it looks like this market will soon expand to the whole of the UK.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg. The UK has some of the world’s most ambitious decarbonisation targets and Open Networks is helping to pave the way through flexibility to bring on more low carbon technologies. We’re continuing to power forward, further and faster – in line with Government’s Ten Point Plan and Climate Change Committee targets – to make sure that customers across the country can see the benefits that smarter, more flexible energy networks can bring.”

Image: Shutterstock

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