Huhne backs smart grids

28 July 2010

Huhne backs smart grids

Gas and electricity network companies today endorsed government backing for smart grids – the advanced networks that will be crucial to sustainability and security in gas and electricity supplies. Today's statements from the government, including its prospectus for the UK roll out of smart metering, were welcome step forward. Other announcements emphasised energy networks’ role in bringing on vital renewable gas and electricity resources.

Energy Networks Association (ENA) welcomed the smart metering prospectus for giving network operators' confidence that the specifications of the smart metering system – particularly the data communication element - will align with the anticipated needs of smart grids. The importance of smart grids was reinforced by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne in his statement to the House of Commons on the government’s energy programme in which he said:

"We will not be able to deliver it without a 21st century network that can support the 21st century infrastructure. The [annual energy] statement sets out practical measures we are taking to improve network access, and begin the building of a truly smart grid."

ENA chief executive David Smith said:

"Smart metering brings with it a lot of expectation from consumers and industry as a means of ensuring more efficient energy use and cost savings. Today’s prospectus gives us confidence that we are on the right path to meet those expectations by opening the way to smart grids. This unlocks the gateway to the advanced energy networks required in a low-carbon economy."

Meanwhile the government emphasised the enduring need for gas in the UK’s energy mix and its support for renewable gas. Mr Huhne stressed his commitment to expanding renewable gas production from industrial waste and pointed out that gas reserves equivalent to some 20 billion barrels of oil remained in the North Sea. This reinforced ENA's view that the future will be based on a dual fuel solution.

The Government signalled its intention to speed up regulatory processes that have held up growth in renewable energy. Mr Huhne announced plans to revisit the proposed regime for attracting investment in grids to connect offshore wind farms. ENA welcomed this review with the anticipation that it will accelerate the delivery of a key renewable resource. And the Energy Secretary pledged to implement measures

that will open the way for swifter connections to the transmission grid for new generation – including onshore wind.

Mr Huhne announced also the launch of a review of the energy regulator Ofgem which ENA welcomed.

Notes for editors

Why do we need smart grids?

Moving to a low-carbon energy system will spur growth in sustainable energy production and more efficient use of gas and electricity. These will present the operators of gas pipelines and power grids with considerable technical challenges. For example household electricity generation will put power into regional grids that were designed to carry power only one way – into homes and businesses. And proliferation of electric cars could place huge peak demands on regional grids as owners charge up their vehicles. Smart grids offer opportunities to manage these and other new demands while keeping in check the need to construct new infrastructure and the attendant costs and disruption.

In its prospectus for smart meters DECC said: "Smart grids should allow improved network management capability, efficiency and responsiveness. This should lead to the delivery of benefits such as: savings in infrastructure investment; integration of renewable generation; improved consumer energy management; and flexible control of networks."

Measures to ensure that the smart metering implementation aligns with the needs of smart grids included: setting the required metering functions to support smart grid requirements and making the data communications upgradeable without removing the meter.

Offshore transmission

The government today signalled its intention to revisit the regulatory regime for transmission grids serving offshore wind generators. These included a new option for generator-built grids and a review of how the onshore and offshore networks can be best coordinated to ensure value for money for consumers.