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Innovation Crowdsourcing Pays Off For EIC Stakeholders




The Energy Innovation Centre (EIC) has taken a new innovative approach to bring the needs of the energy network to the market place as these networks discover news ways of working.

Over the last 12 months, the EIC has been actively inviting innovators to share their solutions to unique problems faced by the UK’s gas and electricity distribution networks. Since the ‘calls for innovation’ process began, the EIC has engaged with over 150 innovators to discover new ways for the networks to work more efficiently, safely, cost effectively and ultimately delivering a better service to energy customers.

One of the successful projects to emerge from this process is with the Industrial Noise and Vibration Centre (INVC) which is now working with Northern Gas Networks (NGN). NGN was seeking ways to reduce the noise created when digging to access its underground pipe network, especially in busy, built up areas.

INVC’s expertise in working with noisy plant machinery meant that it was able to develop an acoustic screen which reduced the expected noise levels by 97-99 per cent. Through collaborating with INVC, NGN was able to resume a crucial project that had been put on hold due to noise concerns.

Managing director of the EIC, Denise Massey, said: “Engaging with large organisations, such as the energy networks, can be challenging for SME innovators who very often lack the time and resource to go through lengthy procurement processes.”

Likewise, it can be just as difficult for big companies to know how to connect with the right small businesses.

“The calls for innovation process shines a light on specific problems faced by the networks and has the potential to accelerate the adoption of novel technologies from
innovators and new market entrants into business as usual.”

The project between INVC and NGN is a perfect example of the success that can come from the process. The acoustic screens have now been deployed by NGN, all within two months of NGN identifying the problem. Other success stories from the process come from SP Energy Networks (SPEN) and SSE Power Distribution. The networks were jointly looking for a specialist coating that could be used on electricity pylons to reduce corrosion and extend the timescales between recoating by up to 25 years. The networks are now trialling products with a number of suppliers. Over the past couple of weeks, and following another EIC call, SPEN entered into an agreement to trial several new non-intrusive testing techniques to evaluate the
condition of existing tower foundations. One of these techniques involves the use of a ground penetrating radar.

Wales and West Utilities (WWU) is also involved in a collaborative project with NGN. Leaking gas valves need to be replaced and when this happens, if the gas meter is semi-concealed underground, it can be a lengthy and costly process to fix. It can result in engineers digging on customers’ property to access the service pipe so the gas supply can be turned off while the valve is exchanged which can last for several hours. NGN and WWU were looking for a simpler solution that will allow for a simple above ground isolation of the gas flow slightly upstream of the valve without the need to excavate and reinstate. The networks are now trialling a new technique with a company sourced through the EIC calls for innovation process.

“We are focused on two main things: delivering innovation at pace and value to energy customers,” adds Denise. “Through this innovation calls process, we have seen the real impact that working together can have on the networks, the SMEs and the energy customer. Together we all play a part in driving change in the industry in order to positively impact our energy future.”

For more information and to keep up to date with the latest the calls for innovation from our network partners, visit:


Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?



The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.

Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.

The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy




Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?

A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.

“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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