UK smart grid trial generates positive consumer feedback

The UK’s largest smart grid project has completed the first stage of its research into electricity consumption after establishing a series of on-going trials with 12,000 customers.

The £54m Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR) project, part funded by Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF), is testing a number of solutions to ensure Britain’s electricity networks are prepared for the mass uptake of low carbon technologies, such as solar PV, heat pumps and electric vehicles.

The government is implementing measures to cut carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050 but achieving these targets will largely depend on low carbon technologies being adopted nationwide.

Dr Liz Sidebotham, communications manager for the CLNR project said, ‘Through the CLNR project, we are already preparing for the widespread uptake of low carbon technologies by carrying out…trials with thousands of customers and testing innovative new technology on the electricity network.

‘Within the first stage of the project we’ve been actively studying thousands of residential, commercial and industrial electricity customers to better understand how much electricity people use, when they use it and for what purpose, and whether financial or other incentives can encourage them to shift their usage away from periods of peak demand.

‘Our findings at this stage are preliminary, but we have seen a huge appetite from domestic customers for our Time of Use (TOU) tariffs and this particular programme was actually oversubscribed, showing that customers are willing to take ownership of their electricity consumption in return for lower bills.

‘This is hugely important because achieving a degree of customer flexibility in significant numbers is a win-win situation; offering customers a way to save money and network operators a means of cost-effectively reducing network demand at peak times.’

Led by Northern Powergrid and its partners British Gas, EA Technology and Durham University, the CLNR project will continue to study electricity consumption patterns, customer flexibility and trial new smart grid technology across electricity networks in the North East and Yorkshire regions throughout 2013.

‘The current debate around the capacity margin needed to meet the UK’s future energy needs has largely overlooked the role of smart grids and demand side measures, but if customers are willing to be flexible with how and when they use electricity, it would offer a cost-effective solution in the drive to create a sustainable, low carbon energy sector,’ said Dr Sidebotham in a statement.

The findings from all CLNR trials are being shared with other electricity distribution network operators across the UK and on the project’s website to help the energy industry prepare for the low carbon future.

Ofgem funding is helping to map out what the UK’s future smart grid may look like. Click here to read more.