Creating a new flexible energy system
With the opening of COP26, our founder Simon Daniel shares his thoughts on what the future of energy looks like
As Earth’s climate has warmed, more frequent extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and intensive heat waves, have been observed worldwide; it is hard to deny the scale and immediacy of the current climate emergency.
With COP26 underway, it is increasingly evident that it represents the most important climate change summit of our time, a pivotal moment in deciding our planet’s future.
We caught up with our founder Simon Daniel on the challenges the energy industry faces in the race to net zero and what he believes the future of energy looks like.
What do you think of the current climate emergency?
The main driver of current climate change is the emission of greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide and methane, primarily released when fossil fuels are burnt.
As the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated, it is clear that we need to act now to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and increase our renewable energy usage, especially across the grid.
According to the 2021 Climate Change Committee Report, electricity will move from providing 15-20% of our energy to 65% by 2050. The report also shows that the uptake of electric vehicles increased by 28% over the past year. This shift to electrification is placing the UK grid under increasing pressure.
Therefore, to meet 2050 net zero goals, we must develop new methods to allow for more renewable energy to power our economies, decreasing the use of fossil fuels and lowering carbon emissions.
How can we achieve that?
To counteract the intermittent nature of renewable energy and decarbonise our electricity supply, leveraging technology to find ways to produce flexibility on the grid is crucial: it enables the system to be kept in balance on a second-by-second basis.
Energy storage has emerged as a critical technology to provide flexibility. By making home batteries work smarter through AI and machine learning, distributed energy resources (like smart batteries) can be aggregated into virtual power plants (VPPs) to deliver grid services.
These VPP-provided services can eventually displace the fossil fuel plants that have historically provided these services. This will also turn individuals and businesses into key stakeholders in an energy market where historically they have been passive.
Could you explain in more detail the concepts of flexibility and VPPs?
Adding renewable energy to the grid does come with a greater risk of unpredictability. However, that’s where flexibility comes into its own. Previously, when energy demand was low, and there was a surplus of renewable energy on the grid, the only way to prevent the grid from being overloaded was to control the supply side by turning off wind turbines. As we transition from passive Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) to proactive Distribution System Operators (DSOs), more flexibility is needed on the demand side.
As a result, households with intelligent batteries can now actively participate in the broader electricity system, creating VPPs and helping improve the resilience and reliability of renewable energy on the grid through more local energy management.
Why is intelligent batteries’ contribution so significant?
Rather than curtail renewable energy, intelligent batteries allow households to store excess renewable energy or send their energy back to the grid. Therefore, batteries can automatically deliver flexibility services when required by leveraging technology and integrating with system operators and aggregators’ APIs, taking the pressure off the grid. This shows the vast potential of VPPs of distributed assets. As more and more renewable energy is added to the grid, virtual power plants will play an increasingly important role in grid management.
Essentially, VPPs enable local communities to play an active role in the wider energy system to eradicate the need for fossil fuels. A cloud-based, decentralised network of power generation systems provides a more sustainable option to take the pressure off the grid by discharging the solar energy already stored in batteries to power households or charging up from the grid when the grid has too much power.
For instance, in partnership with UK Power Networks, Moixa delivered one of the country’s first contracts to provide energy capacity to a local electricity network from home energy storage. More about the outcomes of this flexibility contract can be found in our case study.
What do you think the future holds for flexibility services?
Harnessing flexibility to create millions of locally connected VPPs is a game-changer in allowing more renewable energy onto the grid. Only by enabling individual households to become active participants in the energy landscape — rather than passive consumers — through smart batteries will we move away from fossil fuels.
Integrating more intelligent batteries into homes to create millions of “home power stations” will enable bi-directional energy flows, rather than just a top-to-bottom energy system. Therefore, implementing more local VPPs in the UK will not only help support the grid but would allow individuals to access cheaper, greener energy.
Join Simon at the Sustainable Innovation Forum 2021
We are thrilled to be partnering with Climate Action for the Sustainable Innovation Forum 2021, a hybrid event on 8-10 November in Glasgow during COP26. Widely recognised as the largest multi-stakeholder side event at COP, it offers a platform to help build partnerships between business, government, UN agencies and the NGO community to accelerate the transition to a net zero future.
On 8 November, our founder Simon Daniel will also be discussing the importance of Innovation for a Flexible, Digital and Decentralised Energy System at the Transition stage. If you are interested in participating in the event and listening to the talk, you can register for free.
If you would like to meet Simon and Moixa’s team, let us know by emailing [email protected]. We will be in Glasgow from 4 to 10 of November, and we would love to hear from you and answer any questions you might have on our services and innovation projects.