Britain breaks network flexibility record, says new report

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Photo by Антон Дмитриев on Unsplash

‘Record levels’ of local flexibility have been contracted by Britain’s electricity distribution networks this year, according to new figures from Energy Networks Association (ENA).

According to the industry body, 1.6GW has been contracted since the beginning of 2021 to date, and this is set to increase in the coming months as more flexibility is tendered out. This is reported to be an uplift of 45% since 2020 when 1.1GW was contracted for the whole year.

This flexibility is reported to free up 1.6GW of capacity on the electricity networks during peak periods, the equivalent of connecting 32,000 rapid EV chargers (50kW) to the grid or half the size of the proposed nuclear power station at Hinckley Point C (3.2GW).

Randolph Brazier, Director of Innovation and Electricity Systems at Energy Networks Association which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses commented: “Local flexibility services are a relatively new market but one that has seen an incredible growth over the past three years alone in Britain.

“Breaking the previous record for flexibility after only seven months of this year is great news for customers and great news for Net Zero.

“However, there is still plenty of room for growth and we are not resting on our laurels; networks, Ofgem and Government are working together to increase the amount of flexibility in the energy system of the future, and we very much welcomed the release of the latest version of the Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan.

“With Northern Ireland also joining the fold with local DSO flexibility trials, it looks like this market will soon expand to the whole of the UK.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg. The UK has some of the world’s most ambitious decarbonisation targets and Open Networks is helping to pave the way through flexibility to bring on more low carbon technologies.

“We’re continuing to power forward, further and faster – in line with Government’s Ten Point Plan and Climate Change Committee targets – to make sure that customers across the country can see the benefits that smarter, more flexible energy networks can bring.”

While flexibility services have so far tended to focus on the industrial and commercial sectors, ENA reports that the next big step for both Open Networks and industry is harnessing the power of residential flexibility through EVs, heat pumps and other domestic smart technologies.

The latest figures were published ahead of ENA’s flexibility consultation, which is open until Friday 24 September.

ENA’s Open Networks project team are welcoming responses from the energy industry and beyond on how the project can further drive standardisation in local energy markets across the country.

More information about this consultation and how to take part is available on the ENA website.

The newest flexibility figures are available on the ENA website.