The electricity infrastructure will have to undergo the biggest peace-time changes in the next 20 years due to the rise of renewable energy and will require entirely new architecture, an IET report has concluded.
Incorporating electric vehicles and adjusting to their charging demands, as well as dealing with the unpredictable energy flow generated in local wind or solar power plants, have been named among the key challenges.
“Britain’s electricity sector is grappling with the triple challenges of decarbonisation, maintaining security of supply, and affordability to customers. The impact of future changes has potentially profound impacts on networks and on the electricity system as a whole,” said Dr Simon Harrison, the chairman of the Power Network Joint Vision (PNJV) expert group brought together by the IET.
“These changes are potentially disruptive to electricity supply security and the cost-effective operation of the grid, and these pressures will become progressively more severe," he said
In the report Electricity Networks: Handling a Shock to the System, published today, the group of experts from the government and industry calls for sharing knowledge and identifying long-term and cost-effective solutions to respond to the challenges.
The report says a ‘holistic’ approach will be needed, rather than one that only looks at parts of the system in isolation.
“We have an opportunity to act in ways which reduce cost and create worldwide opportunity for innovation and UK leadership. The scale and complexity of the challenges ahead is new, and potentially even greater than when the national grid was first developed in the 1930s,” Harrison said.
Phil Lawton, Future System Operation Manager at the National Grid added: “The electricity industry will play a crucial role in cutting carbon emissions, so it’s vital that we think through the implications for the electricity networks and how they work together.”
The group believes steps should be taken to establish a ‘System Architect’ functionality, which could be modelled, for example, on the GSM Association in the mobile phones industry, the Railways Safety and Standards Board or the International Civil Aviation Organisation