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20/06/2016

Energy network needs overhauling, say MPs

Words: Laura Edgar

A change is required in the way the UK energy system is operated, an Energy and Climate Change Committee report has concluded.

The report, Low Carbon Network Infrastructure, recommends transferring system operation from the National Grid to an independent system operator (ISO) at the national level. At the regional level, it suggests moving to distribution system operators (DSO).

Chair of the committee, Angus Brendan MacNeil, said the National Grid’s technical expertise in operating the national energy system must be weighed against its potential conflicts of interest.

He said the ISO model has worked in the United States of America and it is time for it “to be brought to these shores”.

“Local energy is here, with astonishing growth in generation connected directly to regional networks. Distribution network operators (DNOs) remain somewhat blind to their energy flows and passive in managing them. DNOs must transition to a more active role as distribution system operators so that they can use smart technologies to manage ever more complicated energy flows," he said.

The report acknowledged the importance of smart meters and a smart grid to enable the recommended transition. However, it also expressed concerns that the rollout of smart meters is not progressing quickly enough to achieve the necessary mass to “truly create a smart energy network”.

The report considers energy storage, demand-side response (DSR) and interconnection, among other smart grid technologies.

The committee recommends that while deployment is hindered by “archaic regulations”, storage at scale should be deployed as soon as possible.

Additionally, the committee supports “significant expansion” of interconnection to balance a low-carbon network, but is calling on the government to investigate the disadvantage UK generators may face against other European generators as Great Britain becomes more interconnected.

The committee report that small-scale generators face long and uncertain queues to connect to the grid. At a larger scale, the cost of connections does not always help sourcing electricity where the resource is best.

MacNeil said: “The UK needs clean, renewable power, but it won’t be built if it’s too costly or difficult for generators to connect to the electricity grid. Distribution networks have been overwhelmed at times by the challenge of integrating small-scale renewables.”

The committee recommends a review of connection costs. The full report, including a list of recommendations, can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | Shutterstock

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