Charlotte Hewes, Stakeholder Manager, Oxfordshire Projects, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks
29 November 2021
The UK is on a journey towards a zero carbon future and the decarbonising of heating and the anticipated growth of electric vehicles, will result in an increase in electricity demand in the UK, as well as a change in the pattern of energy demand. If we don’t get smarter in how we manage this, Then the cost of the energy transition is likely to be much greater as the network needs to be reinforced to accommodate the extra demand.
At the same time we are seeing a welcome increase in new local renewable generation, particularly solar and wind, making great strides in our journey towards net zero. This could also help us address the increase in electricity demand, particularly at peak times, but only if there is capacity on the system for their connections. The challenge is that this type of generation relies on specific weather conditions, which are about as predictable as human behaviour.
Project LEO (Local Energy Oxfordshire) is learning, through a broad range of trials in Oxfordshire, how Local Smart Grids will help us to proactively manage these challenges. It’s doing this by using real-time data and power analysis, network management and other tools to maximise the use of renewable energy. It is also trialling, with partner project TRANSITION, a market where energy services can be bought and sold to support distributed system operations.
LEO is also testing a market where energy ‘network peers’ can trade their demand or generation capacity between each another. This includes the opportunity for a generator to exceed the amount of energy they are delivering temporarily to the local network. by buying capacity from a network peer who has some ‘to spare’. These capacity trades can help maximise the amount of renewable energy being delivered to the network, no matter what the weather, as well as helping to Optimise the use of the power system.
The energy challenge isn’t just facing the UK. It is one that needs addressing across the globe. Many countries, like the UK, are also looking to their local distribution systems to help power communities to decarbonise in a smart, secure and fair way.
This is why Project LEO partners SSEN, with the University of Oxford and leading UK community energy social enterprise, the Low Carbon Hub, have come together with global partners to launch the International Community of Local Smart Grids (ICLSG). This initiative will see community energy groups, electricity networks and researchers, from London to Sydney, sharing what they are learning and supporting collaborative discussions and on how local smart grids can help us support and manage the transition to a decarbonised future. Find out more about what the ICLSG will be doing below.
Community energy groups will play a critical role in this partnership, guiding, informing and shaping discussions to ensure the challenges and opportunities discussed are people focused. The successful delivery of any local smart grid hinges on the ability of households and businesses to participate in it - using, storing, and generating energy themselves.
The new International Community of Local Smart Grids was launched at COP26 and is one of the most watched COP26 sessions on YouTube. You can watch the launch session, Chaired by Laura Sandys below.