The Government and Ofgem have today published their Smart Power call for evidence, confirming their commitment to the creation of a smarter energy system.
This is a vital first step towards the creation of an efficient and clean power system which the National Infrastructure Commission predict will benefit industry & consumers to the tune of up to £8bn a year by 20301. As the heat and transport sectors electrify, peaks & pressures on the national grid are set to rise and much greater system flexibility will be required to ensure generation and demand are more efficiently matched. A smarter energy network is therefore essential to retain competitiveness and to reduce costs to consumers.
Smart power allows greater volumes of the cheapest forms of clean power – like solar – to be integrated effectively into the energy system.
Paul Barwell, STA CEO, welcomed the call for evidence and commented:
“Opening both energy markets and networks to the clean and clever technologies available today will be hugely beneficial for consumers. Smart power allows greater volumes of the cheapest forms of clean power – like solar – to be integrated effectively into the energy system. It also means demand will more efficiently match supply, rather than wasteful business as usual, where generation simply follows demand peaks. Smart power will benefit consumers with more affordable, clean and secure power – which it will be easier to own themselves. It will also encourage huge investment into UK Plc.”
The STA’s Strategic Grid Working Group aimed to transform the operation of local power networks to enable far more efficient connection and management of clean solar generation. Even modest rooftop solar schemes can face problems accessing the networks in parts of the country. The announcement today should help local grid operators, known as ‘Distribution Network Operators’ move towards ‘Distribution System Operators’. This means local networks should be increasingly incentivised to act like intelligent ‘mini grids’, with much more freedom to connect & manage complex power flows. It is also hoped that the power markets will increasingly move to put demand reduction contracts and storage on a more level footing with generation, enabling the shaving of expensive & inefficient demand ‘peaks’.
Leonie Greene, who leads on the STA’s Smart Power work said:
“The recognition that we need to move to more active local networks is hugely welcome given much clean energy is highly decentralised. For decades the electricity sector was one of the least innovative industries in the world. It is potentially poised to become a global hotbed of innovation and by moving early the UK has the chance to do more than save consumers a lot of money – we can become an international leader in the smart power industry.”
One of the key new system flexibility tools identified in the Smart Energy proposals is battery storage. Earlier this year an independent report from Aurora Energy Research, commissioned by the STA, found that integrating solar into a decentralised, flexible, smarter power system, including storage, delivers a net benefit to the system of £3.70 per MWh2. This is because solar combined with battery storage allows output to match demand requirements exceptionally closely, and requires only a small amount of backup. The STA report “Solar + Storage = Opportunities”3 confirms that storage is a long-term game changer, rather than a short-term market bubble. The STA will be submitting its analyses to the smart power call for evidence.
The STA is now looking to work in partnership with the diverse industries that make up a smart power system and will be making further announcements in due course.
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!