What is the Smart Power Revolution and how could it save £8 billion a year?


The UK could save up to £8bn a year by using electricity better and implementing Smart Power Technology the government’s infrastructure commission says.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), published today (4 March), said it envisages a smart energy revolution with more cables linking the National Grid to mainland Europe and new technologies enabling better energy storage.

NIC also says the UK needs to store much more energy from intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

The Commission’s central finding is that smart power could save consumers up to £8 billion a year by 2030 and help the UK meet its 2050 carbon targets.

The report,  says that household appliances such as fridges, freezers and washing machines could play a part in reducing carbon emissions and cutting energy bills – all thanks to smart power technology.

It may sound rather complicated but the system is actually relatively simple. At a time of peak demand, your smart fridge or freezer will be contacted by an energy providers computer to ask if power can be switched off for a few minutes to allow your neighbour to use some of the energy to take a shower or cook dinner.

Your well-insulated fridge or freezer will stay cold without electricity for a short while, so it will agree to power down without having an effect on the contents inside.

Multiply this scenario across thousands of homes and smart energy means the grid will need fewer power stations to meet peak demand.

The system will work in reverse at times when the grid is under less pressure; at night, or when it’s very windy or sunny.

In these times when the grid has a surge of power and energy consumption is low, a computer will contact your web-enabled washing machine or dishwasher to ask if they want to turn on to benefit from cheap power.

This is known as demand flexibility – and the infrastructure commission says it must be supported by government.

Lord Adonis, chairman of the commission, said:

“Our existing power stations are closing down and their replacements will be radically different as we de-carbonise supply to reduce emissions.

“This represents an enormous challenge, but it leaves the UK uniquely placed to benefit from exciting innovations set to transform the global electricity market.

“The UK can lead the world in harnessing these innovations. We do not call for new subsidies or significant public spending, but rather a level playing field through fairer regulation and a better managed network to allow these exciting new technologies to compete.

“If we get this right, a Smart Power Revolution could save consumers £8bn a year.”

Photo Credit: Activ Solar from Flickr.