Energy System Integration Guides: Distributed Energy

‘Integrated energy solutions’ that combine local distributed generation with smart, flexible consumption and demand management will play an increasingly significant role in transforming the energy system.

Energy Systems Catapult and its partners carried out a pilot project exploring decision making during campus-scale energy system transition planning.

Campus scale sites are ideal for integrated energy solutions because, typically, their energy demands are large enough to have material economic impact, but not so vast and complex as to be unmanageable.

Yet both public and private sector energy consumers and the supply chain, currently have limited expertise to scope, install and operate these integrated energy solutions. This has been compounded by a focus on single technology distributed energy solutions, which can have unintended negative consequences on the wider energy system.

The Energy System Integration Guides (ESIG) project looked at the impact that distributed energy was having in transforming the UK energy system. A feasibility study was carried out to investigate how integrated energy solutions installed on campus-scale sites (e.g. hospitals, universities, etc…) might improve outcomes for both the site and the wider energy system.

Key points

The Energy System Integration Guides (ESIG) are designed to assist in ‘good practice’ in energy efficiency and system transition planning.

The project aim was to positively assist those faced with the challenge of initiating a campus-scale energy transition activity through the development of a ‘methodology’ and an associated set of tools and resources.

The methodology developed also seeks to:

  • Anticipate and assist the appropriate adoption of new technologies and business models in the solutions it arrives at, thereby generating new business opportunities for businesses of all scales and maturity; and,
  • Encourage cooperation with neighbouring sites and the Distribution Network Operator to optimise the potential of a pool of local co-ordinated assets for mutual benefit – rather than simply pursuing a narrow focus on the self-interest of an individual site.

Working with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and Norwich Biosciences Institutes cluster of buildings and facilities, the Catapult team developed an early pilot methodology and suite of tools to assist campus energy managers to evaluate a range of potential integrated energy solutions.

The outputs from the Norfolk feasibility study included:

  1. Twenty-five potential integrated energy options, compared against metrics such as cost savings, energy savings, future-proofing and new revenue; from which six viable solutions emerged;
  2. Even without commissioning one of the six integrated energy solutions, the Catapult team found that a 20% annual energy saving for the site might be possible with simple changes in the short term.

We found that while sites with distributed generation can benefit from reduced energy costs and reduce average demand on local network operators, the knock-on effect to the wider energy system was not well  understood and therefore not considered. Individual site solutions, if designed without the wider system in mind, can be detrimental, requiring local network reinforcement and potentially avoidable investment in larger generation.

The public sector estate, which consumes 6% of total UK energy across over 1,000 sites, provides a unique market making opportunity for integrated energy solutions that combine low carbon distributed generation with energy demand management and smart control systems. If wider system benefits are designed in from the start, cooperation with neighbouring sites and energy network operators would optimise the potential for a pool of local co-ordinated assets.

There is a clear gap in the UK market for innovators able to help site owners/operators scope, install and operate energy system transformation solutions. Capitalising on this opportunity could grow private sector capability to help the UK achieve a cost-effective energy system transformation: a potential £100 billion annual global market, which also delivers savings for consumers.

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Energy System Integration Guides: Distributed Energy

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