UK energy system needs to be ready for growing small-scale energy technologies, new report says

23 April 2017 (Last Updated April 23rd, 2017 18:30)

A new report published by independent think tank Green Alliance shows that energy systems across the UK are not prepared to catch up with the rising number of consumers choosing to purchase small-scale energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and solar panels.

A new report published by independent think tank Green Alliance shows that energy systems across the UK are not prepared to catch up with the rising number of consumers choosing to purchase small-scale energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and solar panels.

According to the study, only six electric cars charging close to each other at peak times can overload the power grid and affect the local electricity supply.

In addition, one in five of the UK’s local electricity grids are unable to accept distributed energy, such as rooftop solar.

However, the report states that if the UK Government designs a smarter power system, electric car batteries can store enough power to supply electricity for seven hours at a time by 2025. Distributed energy could save customers more than £1.6bn annually.

The Green Alliance report predicts that the country will reach a tipping point as soon as 2020, when the government will no longer be able to control the speed of small-scale energy deployment.

"It has already led to blackouts and billion pound losses for unprepared governments and it won’t be any different for the UK."

Green Alliance's acting policy director Dustin Benton said: “Small-scale energy is growing rapidly because consumers are choosing it, regardless of government subsidy.

“It has already led to blackouts and billion pound losses for unprepared governments and it won’t be any different for the UK. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

“With the right policy, electric vehicles and solar could help keep the lights on and cut consumer bills. Political parties need to outline how the large-scale energy the UK needs and the small-scale energy people want can work better together.”

The study highlights four major government interventions that are important to get the benefits of small-scale energy.

The report suggests a new and independent system designer should be employed to ensure small-scale energy is well integrated and distribution network operators should be transformed into system operators to facilitate integration of electric vehicles and solar energy in a smart network.

In addition, the report says small-scale technologies should be encouraged to ensure system flexibility, while automation and aggregators should be adopted to create more flexible time-of-use tariffs.