Operating the future energy system and enabling smarter and more flexible energy systems

Discussions and common challenges from the UK and Nordic countries

The European Union and UK government are committed to achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050 to address the challenge of climate change, in addition to ambitious targets by 2030 such as 55% reduction in emissions in the EU and operating a net-zero electricity system by 2035 in the UK.

Achieving net zero is vital and brings both opportunities and challenges for the future energy system. The transition needs to be done in a controlled and effective manner without negatively impacting industry, society or increasing fuel poverty. Whilst there are differences in the UK and Nordic countries, there are also similar challenges and ambitions.

These shared ambitions and common challenges were the foundation for a series of workshops hosted by Energy Systems Catapult and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to bring together European Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) active in smart energy systems.

The workshops – attended by the Research Institute of Sweden (RISE), SINTEF from Norway and Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) – explored how to enable smarter and more flexible energy systems.

Discussions focused on the challenges of operating the future system and ensuring security of supply, which the workshops categorised into three key themes:

THEME 1: Establishing a reasonable level of security of supply and security standards – as more renewable power is connected to older transmission systems, are current security of supply standards fit for purpose? And how do we establish a reasonable level of supply? This discussion considered both reliability of supply and associated standards that ensure the quality of supply.

THEME 2: Lack of market flexibility – in the transition to net zero, some of the key questions relate to how system operators incentivise market flexibility, whilst operating the system in a secure manner and maintaining the integrity of the grid. The discussions considered both encouraging adoption through creation of viable markets, as well as maintaining the reliability and resilience of the grid as electrification increases.

THEME 3: Whole system planning and visibility – with more embedded generation increasing on the system and the focus of DNOs becoming DSOs, there is a need for greater whole system planning, operation, data exchange and coordination between the TSO and DSOs to reduce costs and benefit the end consumer.

Key points from the workshops

  • Consensus among RTOs that the transition to green energy systems will require more than just technical solutions.
  • Transition to Net Zero will require a coordinated approach that includes market reform, technical solutions as well as addressing socio-economic issues.
  • Current security of supply requirements need to be reviewed at a minimum on the transmission system as more renewable energy is connected to a system designed for synchronous machines. Both security of supply and quality of supply should be reviewed to understand potential cost savings of relaxing current limits on both, respectively.
  • A whole system approach is the only way to achieve net zero.
  • TSO-DSO coordination needs to be improved; the TSO cannot access DSO connected generation which is making operating costs of the transmission system more expensive.

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Operating the future energy system and enabling smarter and more flexible energy systems: Discussions and common challenges from the UK and Nordic countries

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