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The recently created Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has kicked off a consultation seeking input into how to go about building a smart, flexible energy system.
The consultation comes ahead of a full plan that BEIS expects to publish in spring 2017, setting out actions it plans to take to remove barriers, improve pricing, enable innovation, and shape both roles and responsibilities as the UK’s energy market evolves towards a more efficient, flexible model.
BEIS said both the government and energy regulator Ofgem were committed to ensuring the energy system works for people and businesses, and that a smarter and more flexible system would offer significant benefits for consumers and the economy, helping ensure the UK has a secure, affordable and clean energy system. It believes a comprehensive smart energy system could save users between £3bn and £8bn per annum.
However, it acknowledged that the transition towards smart meters, smart internet of things (IoT) appliances and smart energy systems “could feel as radical for consumers as the changes they have experienced in how they buy and use telecoms”, and emphasised the need to ensure that nobody was left out.
Studies conducted with the help of a consumer panel have shown more interest in smart meters among young people and higher socio-economic grades, suggesting a substantial number of people will need help adjusting to this new environment, particularly when it came to replacing familiar appliances – such as fridges, dishwashers or washing machines – that have not fundamentally changed in some time.
In addition, it said, the UK’s energy system was already getting smarter through smart meters, grids, interconnectors and so on, all making it possible for the electricity system to operate more efficiently. But it argued this was potentially disruptive and could require deep-rooted structural change in how the industry works.
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“New business models could challenge incumbents and how they operate. Where these could bring overall benefits to consumers, we should allow them to do so,” wrote the authors of the consultation brief.
“Government and Ofgem have a role to ensure that this transformation happens in the right way – to make sure new technologies can compete and consumers are both empowered and protected.”
To this end, it set out a number of policy ambitions: to ensure effective markets and competition; to secure a low-cost energy supply; to encourage technological innovation; and to partner with industry, including the technology sector, to achieve its goals.
BEIS called for input on a number of questions relating both to general energy policy and to how the IoT will fit within it, including regulation and interoperability of smart appliances, and the possible impact on the grid of increased uptake of electric vehicles.
The consultation will run until 12 January 2017. ............. .............. ................ ............... ................. ............... .............. ................ .............