Meta-study of smart and local energy system demonstrators in the UK: technologies, leadership and user engagement

Authors: Rajat Gupta and Sahar Zahiri

Published in:  BEYOND 2020 – World Sustainable Built Environment conference. 2020 IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 588 022049

Date Published: 2/11/2020


Smart local energy systems (SLES) can intelligently and locally link energy supply, storage and use, and power, heating and transport in ways that dramatically improve efficiency. This paper undertakes a meta-study of the technologies deployed, leadership and extent of user engagement achieved in SLES initiatives undertaken in the UK from 2009-2018. An extensive review of literature revealed 122 SLES projects that have received some form of funding, deploy multiple vectors (heating, power or transport) and have an element of ‘smartness’ to them that includes innovative use of data, digitalisation or innovative energy management systems. Meta-data analysis reveals that more than 50% of the SLES projects were undertaken in Scotland and Southern England where grid constraints are prevalent. Nearly 30% of the projects were led by district network operators (DNOs) or energy suppliers and 27% were led by private sectors, while only 19% of SLES were undertaken in collaboration with community energy groups, local authorities and/or universities. Less than 50% of SLES projects had some form of user engagement through public events and workshops. Learning from this meta-study can inform the next generation of SLES projects that have been funded under the £102 million Prospering from the energy revolution programme.

Insights for EnergyREV:

Majority of SLES were either led by, or had involvement of network operators given that most SLES projects focussed on grid balancing and local energy management. Despite the high levels of innovation involved in these projects, only a fifth of the initiatives had involvement of Universities who could have conducted independent and impartial evaluation of the outcomes and impacts of SLES initiatives.