Smart Grid project helping UK prepare for a greener future


The UK's largest smart grid project has completed the first stage of its research into electricity consumption after establishing a series of ongoing trials with 12,000 customers.

The £54m Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR) project is testing a number of innovative solutions to ensure Britain's electricity networks are fit for the future and ready for the mass uptake of low carbon technologies, such as solar PV, heat pumps and electric vehicles.

Government targets to cut carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 will help the UK reduce its carbon footprint and establish a low carbon economy, but achieving these targets will largely depend on low carbon technologies being adopted on a nationwide scale.

As many of these are electricity-dependent, the additional demand created will mean that electricity networks across the UK need to become "smarter" to accommodate Britain's changing energy requirements and help accelerate the development of a low carbon energy sector.

Dr Liz Sidebotham, Communications Manager for the CLNR project, said: "Through the CLNR project, we are already preparing for the widespread uptake of low carbon technologies by carrying out ground-breaking trials with thousands of customers and testing innovative new technology on the electricity network.

"Within the first stage of the project we've been actively studying thousands of residential, commercial and industrial electricity customers to better understand how much electricity people use, when they use it and for what purpose, and whether financial or other incentives can encourage them to shift their usage away from periods of peak demand.

"Our findings at this stage are preliminary, but we have seen a huge appetite from domestic customers for our Time of Use (TOU) tariffs and this particular programme was actually oversubscribed, showing that customers are willing to take ownership of their electricity consumption in return for lower bills.

"Through these trials we've seen early signs that customers are happy to change their usual daily routines - putting their dishwasher on overnight instead of during the day for example - to benefit from a cheaper tariff.

"This is hugely important because achieving a degree of customer flexibility in significant numbers is a win-win situation; offering customers a way to save money and network operators a means of cost-effectively reducing network demand at peak times."

Led by Northern Powergrid and its partners British Gas, EA Technology and Durham University, the CLNR project will continue to study electricity consumption patterns, customer flexibility and trial pioneering new smart grid technology across electricity networks in the North East and Yorkshire regions throughout 2013.

Liz added: "Later this year we will be publishing more results that provide further insight into customer flexibility and the effect of various interventions such as demand side response, where customers are incentivised to reduce their electricity usage or increase their generation in response to a signal from the electricity network operator.

"The current debate around the capacity margin needed to meet the UK's future energy needs has largely overlooked the role of smart grids and demand side measures, but if customers are willing to be flexible with how and when they use electricity, it would offer a cost-effective solution in the drive to create a sustainable, low carbon energy sector."

The findings from all CLNR trials are being shared with other electricity distribution network operators across the UK and on the project's website to help the energy industry prepare for the low carbon future.

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