Network March 2017

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NETWORK / 5 / MARCH 2017 E D I T O R ' S N O T E There is a tendency to talk about Demand Side Flexibility (DSF) as a panacea – one that cuts carbon emissions, gives consumers more control over their energy use, and defers massive network investment. In short, by shi• ing both demand and generation it will deliver a more a• ordable, more e• cient and secure energy system, while also saving between £3-8 billion. But will it? The conversation between a group of network operators at the start of this month did much to burst that bubble. The important word here is "defer". The unpalatable truth, according to network operators, is that a smarter energy system will need a bigger network, meaning little of that multi-billion pound saving will end up coming from the network sector. What DSF does is buy time to understand how demand will change, and to undertake the option of least regret. These network operators were in agreement: if demand can be accurately predicted, it is cheaper to reinforce the network. Another unavoidable truth is that it doesn't matter how smart and ‹ exible a network is, it will always need replacing. In the process of upgrading the network, DSF could be made largely redundant, despite the government's hard work in trying to create a market. There is also the question of what kind of energy system does the government, and ultimately consumers, want? For all its talk of creating a more "secure" system, network operators say the opposite is true: a smarter, more integrated energy system will be far less secure. There is a risk, they say, that the government wants one kind of energy system but is paying for another. When assessing the size of the prize when it comes to DSF, the question is, how big a market should it become? What is the optimal point? Nobody knows, because the cost-risk-bene' t algorithm has not been worked out, and that's a far more pressing issue than the de' nition of storage in network operator eyes. Nobody is denying that there is room in the system for a little smartness, but the old adage "keep it simple, stupid" comes to mind. Removing barriers to innovation while maintaining system security and protecting customers is not a challenge I envy the government and Ofgem taking on one little bit. C OMING SO ON ∙ Electric vehicles • Balancing the system – early incarnations of DSO • Artifi cial intelligence • Phasing out SF6 YOUR NET W ORK Give the people what they want Let us know what projects, technologies and topics you want us to cover Have your say Express your opinions and respond to content by blogging or writing for the magazine A social Network Follow us on Twitter: @Network_mag Email the editor: Lucinda Dann

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