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As the plug is pulled on investments in nuclear power, and fossil fuel power stations are to be decommissioned, the UK urgently needs to find innovative ways to meet its energy security and climate goals. 

How we as a nation design, build, operate and regulate energy distribution systems will have to become a whole lot smarter, but it’s not feasible to ‘rewire’ the whole country. There is, however, a prime opportunity to explore solutions that would help to balance load across the network – less capital-intensive, less disruptive and faster to implement than upgrading physical assets.

My conversations with energy retailers and service providers suggest that there is a growing demand for energy optimisation throughout the supply chain.  Making more intelligent use of data is the starting point. One obvious benefit of smart meters is the ability to put usage insights directly into consumers’ hands to help them make informed decisions about when they use energy and how much. This has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of investment required to build new, greener energy sources to meet peak demand.

With our long history of working closely with the utilities sector, we at SAP are taking a keen interest in how insight from ‘big data’ data can support demand side management strategies.  We’re currently working with business and IT services provider, Logica, to understand how moving away from today’s typical cars to electric and hybrid vehicles will shape – and inevitably increase – demand for electricity.

We’re exploring behavioural patterns to predict how a two-tier tariff could be used to distribute charging activity, preventing a scenario of everyone trying to plug in their car at a similar time of day and overloading the network.  The end device (in this case the charging post) could be dynamically controlled, with the option to pay a premium to take priority on a given strand of the network for a faster charge – a bit like flicking on an immersion heater. 

Smart meters, smart energy distribution systems and the ‘Internet of Things’ will generate orders of magnitude more data than is available today.  However, tools such as in-memory analytics, already available and proven, will allow DNOs and energy retailers to identify consumption trends by community, industry or perhaps even application – imagine knowing how many MWh the UK collectively uses every day on making a brew!  But on a serious note, these revelations could underpin the creation of innovative tariffs that actively reward consumers for altering their habits and becoming part of the solution.

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