The alternative to a power station has already arrived

Green Fields with sunrise - green energy
Transforming the UK’s energy future

Demand side response and energy storage technologies can unlock power in our energy system.

COP21 is focused on how to generate more and cleaner energy to power a low carbon world. But what if we also set about dramatically changing how we use the energy already available to us? Our creaking systems of power generation have in-built flexibility that needs unlocking so we don’t have to always turn to the option of building another expensive power plant.

Looking back to the time of Thomas Edison, we have made only incremental improvements in actually using the infrastructure we use to generate energy. With only a 6 per cent increase in load factor in 130 years, focusing on building more power stations alone is not a smart solution.

Instead, Open Energi is rolling out invisible and automated technology that allows large industrial consumers to align their energy use with available supply. If just 5 per cent of peak demand is met with flexible power, the response would be equivalent to the generation of a new nuclear power station.

With traditional power infrastructure, it has been especially difficult to store electricity. Today however, batteries are fast becoming a megatrend- allowing consumers to store low cost and renewable energy and deliver it back at times of peak demand. People don’t look out their window to see if the sun is shining or the wind is blowing before putting their kettle on, which means we need a new way of making electricity flexible. Arenko is building a portfolio of energy storage assets which puts the power back into the consumer’s hands whilst providing reinforcement to the electricity grid and reducing the need for significant and costly grid upgrades.

With the exciting growth of new technologies for managing demand it is important not to forget that people are at the heart of the energy system. Energy tech start-up Open Utility is trialling its first service, called Piclo, with Good Energy. The 100 per cent renewable energy marketplace connects wind, solar and hydro generators with businesses that want to cut their carbon emissions by buying clean energy. We’re moving towards democratised and decentralised energy systems, and we need platforms that let people take part. We’re moving away from large power stations, to people generating energy in their back yards, and selling to their neighbour, local school, hospital or workplace. International targets and pledges for cutting carbon emissions can seem quite abstract and unconnected to the everyday person. The advent of an online marketplace puts people back into the equation, giving them the choice to buy local green energy – and play their own part in combating climate change.

With the energy system already transitioning away from traditional models dominated by power stations, Open Energi, Arenko and Open Utility are pioneering a consumer-led, decentralised approach- providing flexible capacity which is exponentially cheaper than the alternatives.

By Open Energi’s David Hill, Arenko’s Rupert Newland and Open Utility’s James Johnston