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Ofgem’s net zero carbon plan targets greater ‘flexibility’ on the grid

Energy regulator Ofgem has published its 'Decarbonisation Action Plan' which sets forth how the energy infrastructure should change to accommodate more electric vehicles and low carbon heating systems.

In 2019, the UK Government made a commitment to reach 'net zero' carbon by 2050. However, Ofgem said only 5 per cent of the energy used to heat our homes today is from low carbon sources and the number of electric vehicles on the road will need to grow from 230,000 today to 39 million by 2050 if the target is to be met.

“Given the need for new investment, it is imperative that we build an energy system that is as efficient as possible. New technologies, better use of data and AI will also be needed to boost flexible demand,” Ofgem said in a summary of its 'Decarbonisation Action Plan'.

Making the grid more flexible, by incentivising electric vehicle owners to charge their cars at certain times for example, will help to even out the peaks and troughs in electricity generation brought about by higher installation of renewables on the grid, it added.

Batteries, whether industrial scale or those in electric vehicles, were also cited as a good way to store energy when it is not needed and released back into the system when demand is high.

“Such flexibility will reduce the need for more power generation and other new infrastructure, saving consumers billions of pounds on their energy bills,” Ofgem's plan states.

Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Gillian Guy has that said Ofgem needs to protect vulnerable customers during these changes.

“29 million homes will need to have their heating system changed and electric vehicles will eventually replace petrol and diesel models,” she said.

“The regulator, government and industry has to put people at the heart of this process. People need to understand why these changes are needed, they will need help and support to make those changes and strong consumer protections if things go wrong.”

Jonathan Brearley, the new boss of Ofgem, promised to introduce price controls on the energy networks to improve flexibility and he called on the industry to “rise to the challenge”.

Brearley added: “Britain has come a long way. It has decarbonised faster than any other major economy, but we must go further, particularly on heat and transport. We are taking an approach that recognises that our role protecting consumers includes achieving net zero”.

Late last year, National Grid paid customers to use electricity during a few nights, mostly to charge their cars, while offshore wind farms were churning out large amounts of energy.

“It’s critical that the regulator, government and industry are aligned to decarbonise the energy sector in the journey to net zero at the lowest cost to consumers and we both welcome and share Ofgem’s commitment to achieving this,” said Nicola Shaw, the UK executive director of National Grid.

Ofgem's plan has nine actions. They include plans to publish a strategy for electric vehicles, which sets out how the grid can meet the increased demand that the cars will bring. 

The nine actions are as follows:

  1. Make price controls more adaptable to help firms invest in clean energy.
  2. Set up a regulatory fund to help invest in climate change solutions.
  3. Explore ways to create a lowest-cost offshore grid to support wind power.
  4. Work with government and industry to decarbonise heating.
  5. Make UK energy systems fit for a net zero future.
  6. Create a more flexible electricity system to help move towards net zero.
  7. Develop a regulatory strategy to help get ten million electric cars on the road by 2030.
  8. Support energy firms to create low carbon products and services for consumers.
  9. Change its regulatory approach and take big decisions on decarbonisation faster.


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