03 July 2018

July Energy Scan

July's Connected Energy Horizon Scan; breaking and trending themes in smart energy

This month, the BBC is asking whether householders could become an integral part of national electricity networks.

It argues that as we move towards renewables in our efforts to decarbonise our economies, energy storage is becoming increasingly key.

“Storage has an important role to play supporting the country as it makes the exciting transition towards more low carbon sources of generation, like wind and solar power, providing ever increasing system flexibility,” a spokesman for the UK's National Grid tells the BBC.

Nonetheless, home energy storage needs to reach massive scale, and cost is currently an issue, with systems costing several thousand pounds. Without serious Government subsidies, householders would not recoup their costs for years.

“While the technology is proven and works, it's still at a nascent stage and doesn't benefit from economies of scale in production,” says Nick Browne, an analyst at energy research consultancy Wood Mackenzie. “Therefore it's currently expensive.

“But we expect that battery costs could fall by 50% by 2025. If this happens, battery installations will grow significantly, boosting renewable energy penetration further and reducing the role for fossil fuel generation.”

Whilst challenges remain for the domestic sector, it plainly has a vital role, especially regarding electric vehicles, within the smart network of the future.

Are cyber-attacks for real?

Verdict reports that advancements in electricity grid technology have opened the door to devastating smart grid cyber-attacks, the head of Europe’s leading cybersecurity non-profit has warned.

Anjos Nijk, Managing Director of the European Network for Cyber Security (ENCS), told Verdict that such attacks could cause blackouts so vast they cover multiple countries, and the energy industry currently lacks the skills to cope.

“Ten years ago the energy grid was still a fully standalone system. Now, it gets more connected by the day,” he said. “Non-secure systems are added and existing non-secure systems get more exposure into an increasingly complex architecture of the overall grid system.

“With the current speed of digitisation of the grid systems, which is needed to facilitate the energy transition, and the speed of connecting new systems and technologies to the grids, such as smart metering, electrical vehicle charging and IoT, grid systems become vulnerable and the ‘attack surface’ expands rapidly.”

Whilst the risks remain hard to pinpoint, it's plain that investment into security and skilled staff will be increasingly needed as the digitisation of energy hastens.

BP goes EV

Finally, The Guardian reports that BP has bought the operator of the UK's largest charging network.

The move hints that fossil companies are realising where energy futures lie, and beginning to transition their operations accordingly.

BP estimates that by 2040, some 12 million electric vehicles will roam Britain's roads, according to the FT. BP has also been investing in Israeli owned battery tech firms, with Royal Dutch Shell and Total making additional moves to break into the EV market.

It all just goes to show that the shift from fossils to smarter energy really is here. When fossil firms themselves begin to divest out of their own operations, the direction of travel is plain.