The UK is facing a looming energy crisis – but smart meters can help – according to the government’s Minister for Energy and Climate Change
Everything is in place for smart power grids that could stave off a looming energy crisis, an IBM-sponsored summit in London heard yesterday.
“The components are all there now,” said John Granger, general manager, for IBM’s Global Business Systems in North-East Europe – having first spelt out the looming energy crisis which makes a solution necessary. New power generation capacity takes such a long time to build that, in just a few years’ time, the UK will not be able to meet the demand, if power use grows at current rates.
The looming energy crisis
Older nuclear power stations and other generating capacity will come to the end of its life by 2020 and, unless demand can be cut, it needs to be replaced, at an estimated cost of £200 billion, said Charles Hendry (left), Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change.
“There is an incredible challenge to respond to,” said Hendry. “We have to reinvent the energy market.” The government’s electricity reform package, due later this year, and part of the Green Deal promised by energy secretary Chris Huhne, is “one of the most important things we will do in this parliament”, he said.
Ensuring continued availability of abundant power will be critical to persuading companies to invest in Britain in the future, he pointed out, and any efforts to even out power usage and reduce peak demands will be worthwhile. “We have to give huge attention to the structure,” said Hendry. “That means looking at the price of carbon, and how we provide capacity. A lot of plant is built, but only used for a small amount of time, perhaps a few days in winter.”
Smart meters do cut energy use
Smart meters have been proposed as a way to help this by reducing demand. Several governments have promised to roll them out, and the current UK government has accelerated this as a way to manage power demand and cut waste. However, the idea has been criticised, both for the potential security risks, and for the sheer difficulty of doing anything useful with a flood of smart meter data.
Granger made the point very strongly that the looming energy crisis was so critical, a solution would be needed – and presented results from a US trial designed to dispel doubts about the ability of smart meters.
In one US study, smart meters put into 150 homes reduced their peak demand by 50 percent and their overall electricity usage by 15 percent. If that could be scaled up to the whole country, it would save $70 billion a year, said Granger
Reductions like this are possible because of full availability of information from sensors and automating the feedback and control. Underlying this, he said, strong analytics – coincidentally IBM’s strong suit – could use the data to respond quickly to changes in circumstances.
Video from IBM Start
Below is an interview with David Clarke of the government-backed Energy Technologies Institute. For more material from the IBM summit, visit its Netvibes home page