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Rollout of smart meters could turn Britain into a nation of power stations
United Kingdom Created: 6 Dec 2009
Rooftop solar panels, wind turbines and other home energy-production devices could generate almost one sixth of Britain’s electricity supplies within ten years, according to the chief executive of National Grid.
Steve Holliday, who runs the UK’s largest utility company, said that 15 per cent of the country’s electricity production would come from so called “embedded generation” in homes and offices by 2020. “That is an enormous part of the mix,” he said ahead of a speech on the future of Britain’s energy system at Imperial College next week.

Mr Holliday said that home based “micro generation” would become an increasingly viable proposition after the £9 billion rollout of “smart meters” in Britain’s 26 million homes, which was announced by the Government this week.

As well as saving consumers money, making consumption more efficient and allowing power companies to take readings remotely, the new devices could allow for two-way flows into the national grid. That would allow millions of householders to sell the electricity they generate back into the system. Other sources of home based power production include “micro-CHP plants” — a new type of domestic boiler that generates electricity as well as heat.

Mr Holliday warned, however, that homeowners could end up spending billions of pounds on redundant smart metering technology if their rollout was rushed through. He said that there was a risk that if the rollout was forced through too quickly, the devices would not be sophisticated enough to be able to communicate adequately with new and emerging “smart grid” technologies that promise to cut energy wastage dramatically across the wider UK power network.

“I worry that if we don’t have a careful plan then we will invest too much too soon,” he said. “These are not insubstantial sums of money and we do not want to look back and regret making the investments that we did.”

National Grid, the operator of the high-voltage transmission and gas distribution networks, has a market value of £16 billion.

Mr Holliday said that a key benefit of the meters would be their ability to communicate with a national “smart grid”, which should pave the way to a lower carbon future by tying in vast wind farms, electric vehicles and more efficient heating systems.

The Government claims the meters, which provide real-time information about energy consumption, and smart grids, which give real-time data about power demand and generation across the network, are both essential if Britain is to hit its targets of cutting emissions by one third by 2020.

Mr Holliday said: “We are very enthusiastic about smart meters but we need to make sure that we don’t get ahead of ourselves. We don’t want to build it piecemeal. The meters are a crucial piece of the jigsaw — they are the interplay device between the home and the grid.”

Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK, cited the case of Italy, which was the first large country to introduce a national smart meter programme. However, it is now having to scrap the technology and introduce new meters because the old ones are out of date.

Mr Holliday also estimated that Britain could improve its total energy efficiency levels by 25 per cent by 2050 through the use of improved insulation and smarter technology.
Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor
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Source: Agnes Ingvarsdottir

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