40 Benefits of Smart Local Energy Systems: highlighting diversity of impacts on stakeholders

40 Benefits of Smart Local Energy Systems: highlighting diversity of impacts on stakeholders

By Luke Gooding, Rebecca Ford and Rachel Bray, University of Strathclyde

In a survey of 39 stakeholders involved with Smart Local Energy Systems (SLES), respondents were asked to detail their views on the possible benefits of implementing an SLES. In total they reported 40 distinct benefits which impact a diverse range of environments and stakeholders.

While these benefits are not entirely independent of one another (and we’ve written another blog about that here), we have sorted them into six broad groups or themes. These cover benefits in terms of: (1) flexibility and tailoring in planning and operation; (2) technology enabled CO2 reduction; (3) supporting and empowering communities; (4) place-based prosperity; (5) improving visibility and control; and (6) benefits at the domestic property level. 

These 40 benefits are detailed in the tables below, and illustrate the diversity of benefits which SLES can produce, for different stakeholders (e.g., households, businesses, communities, network companies) at different scales (e.g., individual, local, regional, national), who may have differing outlooks and priorities in terms of the types of environment in which they operate or live.

The wide range of potential SLES benefits means that significant levels of oversight are needed to ensure that benefits are being achieved and to see whether SLES design or management tweaks are required to ensure that benefits are not being missed. Embedding the processes that are needed to achieve these benefits within the different areas of the SLES requires insight into a wide variety of environments, stretching from household level right up to national energy distribution levels.

At the same time, the diversity of stakeholders involved in delivering or benefiting from SLES highlights the need to appropriately engage with these different groups and individuals. This is essential to understand the range and diversity of priorities, which could impact the design of a SLES and ultimately, the way in which benefits are delivered and distributed.

Flexibility and tailoring in planning and operation benefits

1.      Reduced price volatility

Added renewable assets enable reduced fossil fuel reliance and related potential price volatility. 

2.      Network efficiency

Reduction in transmission and related losses increases network efficiency.

3.      Flexibility across energy vectors

Bringing online multiple energy supply sources, offers flexibility to take advantage of different sources dependent on environmental conditions and location contexts.

4.      Reducing limitations on renewable energy connections to the grid

Increased number of renewable assets required in decentralised locations, entails the removal of limitations to new clean technologies.

5.      Removal of network constraints

Increased renewable potential and decentralising energy production offers a route to remove network constraints. 

6.      Opportunities for higher energy use activities

Increasing use of renewable energy locally could pave ways to enable activities such as widespread electric vehicle charging and electric heating.

7.      Balancing supply and demand

Enabling the energy system and energy assets to offer a balance between energy demand and supply methods, particularly providing a pathway to maximise renewable energy usage.

Technology enabled CO2 reduction related benefits

8.      Meeting carbon targets

Localised renewable energy production offers a route to achieved carbon reduction targets, along with technologies to maximise the use of clean energy.

9.      Providing new business opportunities

SLES provide a potential reorganisation of the energy sector offering multiple new business opportunities and innovative technology implementation routes, generating CO2 reduction and potential economic growth.

10.    Increase in data availability

With increased variation and number of energy assets across a wider geographic space, data to effectively manage these assets, along with customers' energy demand, should and could increase. 

11.    Improvements in HVAC technology

Increased use of renewable energy resources offers a route to enable increased usage of HVAC technologies, particularly where renewables have in the past been underutilised, and excess energy could improve internal environment living conditions.

12.    Smart control increases

Increased data required to deliver effective energy control means increased use of Smart Controls could result.

13.    Technological innovation

Variances in requirements dependent on local conditions will entail technological innovation to tailor approaches to place.

14.    Electric heating increases

Increased opportunities for renewables to be brought online with SLES means reduction in curtailment for instance, and resultant chance to provide energy for high demand assets, such as electric heating.

SLES benefit supporting and empowering communities

15.    Profits to flow into the community

Increases in community involvement enables a boost in potential profits to flow into local initiatives and organizations.

16.    Removal of intermediaries

Decentralised energy production means the reduction in intermediaries involved in centralised energy distribution, and a possible route to passing related savings to end users and the community.

17.    Electric vehicle take-up

Increased opportunities for renewables to be brought online with SLES means reduction in curtailment for instance, and resultant chance to provide energy for high demand assets, such as electric vehicles, tackling mobility issues, and isolation.

18.    Bringing money into the community

Generation of routes to sell energy or services with profits potentially returned to the community, or via community ownership of assets.

19.    Reduction in fuel poverty

Tailoring of energy production to local areas offers a route to tackle local issues, including fuel poverty. 

20.    Increased knowledge of local challenges

Tailoring of energy supplies to distinct communities offers a platform to tackle area specific energy challenges, such as poor grid connections of remote communities for instance.

21.    Community empowerment

Localisation of energy supply and energy assets could offer education and empowerment opportunities for communities and their members.

22.    Local strategic vision

Prioritisation of place, and tailoring of energy supply, enhances strategic plans for local areas. 

23.    Increase self sufficiency

Localised energy supply could assist in communities becoming more self-sufficient and self-reliant. 

24.    Reduction of isolation

Bringing communities together via energy supply methods has the potential to connect community members and reduce isolation. 

25.    Land sharing

Increased community ownership could enable added land sharing, due to benefits flowing to local organisations and individuals.

26.    Increased community ownership

Added assets at community level offer increased routes to community ownership, and possible financial investment and return options for local groups. 

27.    Increased education

Visibility of energy assets at community level, provide increased opportunities for education and empowerment regarding energy.

SLES benefits Place based prosperity

28.    Addressing business needs

Alteration of energy provision methods and infrastructure, could better suit businesses and organisations within a locale.

29.    Local energy trading

Localised energy production could provide a platform for individuals and community organisations to trade energy locally. 

30.    Job creation

Decentralised energy and added variability of SLES design and implementation requires increased human resource to best optimise systems.

31.    Replication possibilities

Innovations in tailored energy production and supply to different locales could enable strategy development which could be applied to other communities, reducing CO2 nationally and internationally.

SLES benefits improving visibility and control

32.    Demand side management

Localisation of energy systems offers a route to manage energy demand and tailor supply methods to best meet community needs.

33.    More informed decision making

Higher visibility of local energy production improves information streams for decision making. 

34.    Greater transparency

Increased visibility of energy assets, and community involvement in the energy system, offer greater transparency.

35.    Data protection improvements

Due to increased decentralisation of energy assets and granularity of data required for effective energy system management, increased data protection is required.

36.    Increased visibility of energy assets

Localisation of energy assets within communities offers increased visibility.

37.    Tailoring energy assets to local conditions

Due to heterogeneous local conditions, energy assets require tailoring to ensure suitability to local characteristics. 

SLES benefits at the domestic property level

38.    Better service offering

Increased tailoring of energy service offering to better suit domestic and commercial customers alike.

39.    Increased uptake of low carbon energy solutions

Multi-vector nature of SLES means added routes for low carbon and renewable technologies to be brought online, which could enable property specific carbon savings.

40.    Increased energy efficiency

Reducing the distance between energy supply and energy consumption not only reduces transmission losses and increased efficiency, but also increases energy asset visibility, which encourages energy awareness and education regarding efficient usage behaviours.