Report looks at how to manage “peaks and troughs” from clean energy transition

More coordination is needed across data and digitalisation, technology and markets as the clean energy transition gathers pace, a report from National Grid ESO has found.

On 3 March, it published a report from its Future Energy Scenarios (FES) Bridging the Gap to Net Zero project. In its second year, the focus has been on the impact of increasing renewable electricity generation on the operation of the system between now and 2030, exploring how to manage the challenge of peaks and troughs posed by the clean energy transition and how the pillars of data and digitalisation, technology and markets can help.

From roundtables with senior stakeholders, working groups with industry and government volunteers, and industry-wide webinars, it found a consensus that increased data availability and digitalisation of systems is fundamental for markets and technology to manage peaks and troughs; the technology to manage peaks and troughs is available now, but must be smart, deployed at scale and in combination to be effective; and electricity markets are in need of reform, whether for short-term trading or longer-term contracts, to provide the flexibility needed to more effectively balance the system.

It went on to make a series of recommendations to integrate the approach to these pillars and help deliver a coherent approach to managing peaks and troughs. These include integrating the pillars in innovation projects and business models; learning from other sectors already combining markets and technology using digitalised solutions; and developing demand-side solutions to accelerate end-consumers’ ability to participate when it comes to delivering system stability.

It further called for skills and literacy in decarbonisation and digitalisation to be improved, explaining the interconnection of these two areas is fundamental as is a deeper understanding of both energy and communications challenges. This requires new skills and capabilities across industry and government. Iterative policy and regulation able to adapt and learn from experience quickly is also needed, applying to both energy and communications policy and regulation as they are interdependent, while unlocking investment to enable widespread adoption of technologies to provide flexibility.

Laura Sandys, co-chair of the Bridging the Gap project, said: “Managing peaks and troughs requires coordinated action now to be ready for 2030. To succeed as a sector, we need to build greater understanding, and more literacy about the challenge of decarbonisation. At a micro level, technologies need to be smart, WI-FI-enabled (energy ready!) and markets need to be able to react up to the last second. If it can work in the financial markets, why not within the energy markets?”