• Scenarios for the development of smart grids in the UK: synthesis report

      Balta-Ozkan, Nazmiye; Watson, Tom; Connor, Peter; Axon, Colin; Whitmarsh, Lorraine; Davidson, Rosemary; Spence, Alexa; Baker, Phil; Xenias, Demitrios; UKERC (UKERC, 2014-02-05)
      ‘Smart grid’ is a catch-all term for the smart options that could transform the ways society produces, delivers and consumes energy, and potentially the way we conceive of these services. Delivering energy more intelligently will be fundamental to decarbonising the UK electricity system at least possible cost, while maintaining security and reliability of supply. Smarter energy delivery is expected to allow the integration of more low carbon technologies and to be much more cost effective than traditional methods, as well as contributing to economic growth by opening up new business and innovation opportunities. Innovating new options for energy system management could lead to cost savings of up to £10bn, even if low carbon technologies do not emerge. This saving will be much higher if UK renewable energy targets are achieved. Building on extensive expert feedback and input, this report describes four smart grid scenarios which consider how the UK’s electricity system might develop to 2050. The scenarios outline how political decisions, as well as those made in regulation, finance, technology, consumer and social behaviour, market design or response, might affect the decisions of other actors and limit or allow the availability of future options. The project aims to explore the degree of uncertainty around the current direction of the electricity system and the complex interactions of a whole host of factors that may lead to any one of a wide range of outcomes. Our addition to this discussion will help decision makers to understand the implications of possible actions and better plan for the future, whilst recognising that it may take any one of a number of forms.
    • Weighing up the risks, considering the benefits: public perceptions of smart grid technologies

      Davidson, Rosemary; Balta-Ozkan, Nazmiye; Spence, Alexa; Watson, Tom; Nash, N.; Whitmarsh, Lorraine; University of Bedfordshire (2014-09-18)
      Much has been written on the possible implications of the introduction of smart grids for the UK energy market on standards and technical issues, data handling, regulation and investment. Less consideration has been given to lay perceptions of smart grids; yet consumer engagement will likely influence the extent to which such technologies will help with managing energy demand more efficiently, reduce peak loads and household bills. Sharing data, compromising confidentiality and being subjected to unsolicited marketing calls were key, interlinked issues of great importance to participants when considering a future smart grid. Participants were usually comfortable with their data being used if anonymised for the smoother operation of the network and in return for cheaper prices. If data could be linked back to them personally, opinion was divided over whether this would be an invasion of privacy or simply knowledge of daily routines and household energy usage. Some wanted to see a more dynamic relationship whereby if consumers shared information, they would be kept informed as to how it was used, and thus also receive some benefit. Quantitative data collected supported these ideas, highlighting that participants did not perceive benefits to the consumer of a future smart grid to outweigh the related risks. We additionally found that perceived benefits to society and to energy companies were perceived as higher than those conferred to the consumer and significantly outweighed the relative perceived risks. Discussions highlighted that particip ants assumed that future changes to the energy system were likely to maximise profits and benefit supply and demand for energy companies alone. We note that current negative perceptions of the ‘big six’ energy companies also greatly influenced participants’ attitudes to data sharing, and motivations to change their behaviour. Frequently emerging was the idea that energy supply was a basic need to be managed for the good of everyone rather than led by commercial pressures and share holders in the private sector. In relation to behavior change, participants envisaged being able to interact with new technologies and systems in order to use mainly renewable ‘clean’ energy, with the proviso that they could override systems where necessary. Yet there was also the view that such decisions should be taken out of consumers’ hands as part of a government-led green strategy where only one sustainable option would be available. Developing and effectively communicating consumer and societal benefits would likely increase engagement with a future smart grid. It is argued that strong policy to address this along with decisive regulation would help to build trust and reduce risks.