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The latest blogs from BIFM, and from guest bloggers, and all things facilities and beyond.

Will we be smart enough to stop the lights going out?

13-09-16, 14:20


Facilities Management Professionals Could Hold the Key.†By Andrew Buckley, Chief Executive, Major Energy Users Council.

Free Conference Invitation for BIFM Members,†London October 6 and Leeds October 12

Much is now being made by government and National Grid of the benefits awaiting us from the Smart Energy Future. Whether it's the prospect of generating capacity potentially falling short of demand this winter or the reality of the Green Agenda sliding further into the government's in-tray as security of supply and affordability dominate is hard to judge. The reality is that the government needs a plausible hook on which to hang its energy hat and the Smart Energy Future is the best in town now and for the foreseeable future.

Part of the concern over the Hinkley debacle has been the growing realisation of its inflexibility as well as its cost and questionable security issues. The doctrine of base load and merit order dispatch from the power stations which has kept the lights on for the last seventy years is fast making way for a power market revolution. One based on the flexibility of customer demand required to respond to our burgeoning and intermittent renewables output.

Weather is no respecter of customer demand patterns as National Grid can testify to its cost. Its fledgling demand turn up scheme and innovative customer tariffs such as British Gas' free electricity on Saturdays or Sundays for its domestic customers point the way to a future dominated by far less certain generating patterns and hence more volatile and pronounced market pricing.

And that's where the facilities management professionals come in. Demand side management holds the key, backed by smart meters, a smarter grid, cheaper battery storage and state of the art controls to turn down and reschedule plant as the power industry's supply margin demands. Recently traditional incentives for demand side response from industry, commerce and the public sector have been redoubled by National Grid troubled by the prospect of negative generating margins facing them this winter for the first time since the miners' strike over thirty years ago.

Demand side response needs to scale up, Grid says, to meet a third or even half of the turn up needed at times of high demand currently relied on from maintaining costly peaking plant. And several of the Big Six have been busy writing cheques to gobble up entrepreneurial businesses holding out the prospect of providing their customers with energy solutions rather than just therms or kilowatt hours as they have in the past.

But time is not on our side on this. DECC giving way to BEIS has resulted in delay to the production of a key paper on smart energy as a central part of the government's climate change strategy. Hopefully the joint Sino American announcement in Hangzhou will add urgency to ensure it will see the light of day before the end of the year.

Your invitation to get up to speed with the smart energy future

One thing that is clear is that customers across the business spectrum will need to get up to, and stay up to, speed on what this silent revolution will have to offer both in terms of incentives for those who respond and penalties for those who don't. That's why the British Institute of Facilities Management has teamed up with the Major Energy Users? Council for this year's MEUC's Autumn Roadshow Conferences being held in London (October 6) and Leeds (October 12) and including for the first time part of the day given over to the Smart Energy Future with presentations and discussions from the network operators and leaders in battery technology, renewables and metering and monitoring.

BIFM Members can attend these popular days free of charge to include all the presentations, debates with electronic voting and lunch and refreshments. To see the full programme and register go to MEUC Website.

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