Overhaul to energy network operation urged

The Energy and Climate Change Committee has recommended a major change in the way the UK energy system is operated.

In a report the select committee urges that system operation is transferred from National Grid to an Independent system operator at the national level and distribution system operators at the regional level.

Chair of the Committee, Angus MacNeil MP, said National Grid's technical expertise in operating the national energy system must be weighed against its potential conflicts of interest.

“The Independent System Operator model has worked in the USA. It is time for it to be brought to these shores,” he said.

“Local energy is here, with astonishing growth in generation connected directly to regional networks. Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) remain somewhat blind to their energy flows and passive in managing them. DNOs must transition to a more active role as Distribution System Operators so that they can use smart technologies to manage ever-more complicated energy flows."

Storage should be deployed ‘at scale’

The Committee said although it notes the importance of smart meters and a smart grid to enable the smart transition, it was concerned that the roll-out of smart meters is not progressing quickly enough to achieve the necessary mass to truly create a smart energy network.

The report also examines energy storage, Demand Side Response (DSR), interconnection and other smart grid technologies. The Committee recommends that storage be deployed at scale as soon as possible but said its development is being hindered by archaic regulations.

"Innovative solutions—like storage and DSR— to 21st-century energy problems have been held back by legislative and regulatory inertia. The Government has committed to addressing these issues, and we will hold them to account on making good on this promise. DECC must also learn lessons from these policy lags so as to be better prepared for ongoing changes," said MacNeil.

Small-scale generators face delays

Although developing low-carbon electricity is key to the UK’s decarbonisation ambitions the Committee found that small-scale generators faced long and uncertain queues to connect to the grid. At a larger scale it said the cost of connections does not always help sourcing electricity where the resource is best.

"The UK needs clean, renewable power, but it won’t be built if it's too costly or difficult for generators to connect to the electricity grid. Distribution networks have been overwhelmed at times by the challenge of integrating small-scale renewables."

> Read the ECCC report here