Growing demand for technology means growing demand for energy. Unfortunately, the grid is increasingly under pressure from this demand, and it could lead to potential blackouts. Already there has been severe consequences in the Western world, with South Australia hit by widespread blackouts on numerous occasions – including two in 2016, and an additional one in 2017. The UK Government has a plan to ensure the same doesn’t happen here, however, and it’s all to do with leveraging smart home devices.

The new plan, released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is known as the ‘smart systems and flexibility plan’, and was worked on in conjunction with the energy regulator, Ofgem. It sets out the ways in which the grid could be used more efficiently, with technology companies encouraged to come on-board to help ease the pressure on the grid.

Key to this strategy will be smart home devices; with smart appliances singled out for potentially having the biggest potential impact on the grid. One plan to ease pressure could be ‘demand-led response’, where the grid communicates with smart appliances to turn them off for a short period of time during a spike in energy usage. That means users with a smart fridge could see their appliance turned off for 10 minutes, giving the grid the capacity it needs to make over a million cups of teas after the World Cup final.

This isn’t the first time a demand-led response has been hinted at. In fact, there are already relationships between energy providers and businesses which work in this exact way. The businesses agree to turn off systems that are non-critical, but consume a lot of electricity, and in return the businesses pay less for their energy. The UK Government hopes that it can replicate that arrangement across the country, however.

While smart appliances will be the biggest consumers of electricity in a user’s home, smart home technology could further bolster energy saving. Technology such as the Nest Learning Thermostat can already recognise when someone is home and when some isn’t, thus saving energy by turning off the system when everyone’s out. AV and automation equipment could also work in the same way, with the home cinema communicating with the thermostat to ascertain whether anyone’s in – if there isn’t, and the system has been left on, then it could be powered down to ensure there’s no unnecessary drain on the grid.

As part of the UK Government’s plans for a smarter grid, it also wants to leverage energy storage devices to ensure blackouts don’t occur. While the UK has experienced significant growth in electricity generated by renewable sources, storing that energy hasn’t been the biggest priority. That means if the energy isn’t used immediately it can often be lost. Thankfully there’s now several solutions to this problem, whether it’s the Tesla Powerwall, or the countless other battery storage systems available from a range of manufacturers.

The UK Government believes that by leveraging demand-led response, battery storage devices and smart meters, up to £40 billion can be saved on energy costs over decades to come.

Speaking about the report, business and energy secretary, Greg Clark, notes: “Upgrading our energy system to make sure it is fit for the future is a key part of our Industrial Strategy. A smarter energy system will create opportunities to reduce energy costs, increase productivity and put UK businesses in a leading position to export smart energy technology and services to the rest of the world.”

British company Moixa offers residential battery systems which can help manage energy demands across the electricity network, make better use of energy generated by rooftop solar panels, and enable suppliers to reward consumers who charge their batteries during periods of low demand, when prices are lower. These systems have been deployed in nearly 1,000 homes across the UK, and Moixa calculate that they could help consumers save up to 60% on their electricity bills.

Simon Daniel, CEO of Moixa Energy Holdings, comments: “Moixa welcomes this plan which recognises the central importance of energy storage in upgrading the UK Energy System – and the potential to save £40 billion off future customer bills. The regulatory improvements proposed and Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will help storage providers like Moixa participate better in energy markets, and enable our Utility partners to deliver smart tariffs to customers. The actions will make the UK a global leader for new smart technologies and accelerate the transition to a cost-effective, resilient and low carbon energy system.”

Battery storage systems, such as those offered by Moixa, Sharp and Tesla, could be a future revenue stream for installers. Not only do the systems allow users to cut down on their energy bills, but it could also provide energy for outbuildings where the national grid has no hope of reaching. Paired with a solar panel, the Tesla Powerwall could ensure that even buildings without direct access to the grid have enough power to run a home cinema system.

The Future Of Battery Storage

The UK Government plans to invest at least £246m into a new industrial strategy focused on battery technology. The first phase includes the launch of a £45 million ‘Battery Institute’ competition to establish a centre for battery research to make the technology more accessible and affordable. That will be further bolstered by the ‘Faraday Challenge’, which will focus on research, innovation and scale-up of battery technology.

The Faraday Challenge’s competitions are divided into 3 streams – research, innovation and scale-up – designed to drive a step-change in translating the UK’s world-leading research into market-ready technology that ensures economic success for the UK:

  • Research: To support world class research and training in battery materials, technologies and manufacturing processes, the government has opened a £45m competition, led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), to bring the best minds and facilities together to create a virtual Battery Institute. The successful consortium of universities will be responsible for undertaking research looking to address the key industrial challenges in this area.
  • Innovation: The most promising research completed by the Institute will be moved closer to the market through collaborative research and development competitions, led by Innovate UK. The initial competitions will build on the best of current world-leading science already happening in the UK and helping make the technology more accessible for UK businesses.
  • Scale-up: To further develop the real-world use and application of battery technology the government has opened a competition, led by the Advanced Propulsion Centre, to identify the best proposition for a new state-of-the-art open access National Battery Manufacturing Development facility.

Storing renewable energies will be one of six key tasks for the government to tackle in its industrial strategy. The others include further investment in healthcare to speed-up patient access to new drugs and treatments, the proliferation of AI and robotics in everyday life, new funding for driverless vehicles, additional support for the UK space industry, and a manufacturing policy focused on new technologies.

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