By Paul Reeve CEnv FIEMA, Electrical Contractors’ Associaon Director of Business.

he UK’s low-carbon economy will increasingly depend on the smart deployment of energy capacity from renewables, storage and a distributed grid. This will present major opportunities and challenges, and the government and industry will need to adapt.

Solar, wind and storage

In principle, solar, wind and energy storage are a winning combination. While combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant still provides most of the UK’s electrical energy, it is increasingly underpinned by renewable energy, which has delivered major growth in capacity in recent years. Once set up, renewables tend to deliver the cheapest (and lowest carbon) electricity available to the UK market.

The solar/wind/storage triad can minimise customers’ energy bills, and notably their exposure to short-term price fluctuations via half- hourly metering. These savings can even be supplemented by income from emerging activities such as grid balancing. The triad will lead to many new installation and maintenance opportunities for the electrotechnical industry, whether for owners, customers, contractors or other third parties.

Towards a futureproof grid

The Government’s Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy are underpinned by a clear understanding that economic growth in the next few years will depend on an increasingly low- carbon UK economy, and the development of more distributed renewable and storage technologies.

Adversing: 01622 699116 Editorial: 01354 461430 Smart, stored and distributed renewables: a growth story

To facilitate this shift, the Government wants to make the grid fit for purpose, effectively remodelling it to accommodate the need for renewables and batteries to support the grid on a more flexible basis. All parties will need to ensure that the grid can handle these inputs and outputs from distributed sources.

Baeries – en route to market disrupon?

While batteries still only comprise a small part of the UK’s energy storage capacity, they are expected to become far more important in the near future. A key commercial attraction of battery storage is its relative ease of deployment (batteries can be set up in numerous locations). Lithium-ion batteries currently dominate the market, offering high discharge and recharge rates – ideal for frequency response.

Building capacity…

The opportunities for contractors are significant, and they include the design, installation, maintenance and servicing of smart, renewable and distributed power systems. We believe this area is set to grow as solar, wind and battery prices continue to fall, and we expect new opportunities in the electrotechnical industry to emerge.

Tomorrow’s energy market will require up-skilling of the workforce, particularly in relation to: uType of technology: Distributed energy technology is developing quickly. New products, with improved functionality and connectivity, are continually arriving on the market. uKeeping abreast with what is available and

what will meet customers’ needs. uSafety codes of practice: When designing, installing and operating technology in buildings and infrastructure, ensuring operational safety should be a top priority. uRegulatory/Access codes: Given the (currently slow but steadily increasing) two-way nature of customers’ interaction with the grid, contractors will need to be more aware of how the network and systems function, and the codes that govern the network. uSecurity: Smart, communicating systems may well have security vulnerabilities, which will make this a high priority.

Don’t forget energy eciency

Alongside plans for a smart, low-carbon grid, the perennial benefits of – and need for – better energy efficiency remain.

The business case for energy efficiency measures in commercial and public sector premises is increasingly compelling, and ECA has identified at least 25 different low-carbon or energy-efficient technologies now available to asset managers, ranging from LEDs to renewables, and movement sensors to batteries.

UK carbon emissions have been reduced by more than 40 per cent since 1990, while the economy has grown by two thirds, which means we have successfully ‘decoupled’ carbon emissions from economic growth. With implementation of the Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy, both these trends are set to continue, and this should lead to considerable business opportunities for asset managers and contractors.

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