Being more flexible with electricity
We’re used to ‘energy on demand’. When we turn on a light, the electricity to power it comes straight from the grid.
In the future, our cars will all likely run on electricity. Many people will need to charge these from home.
All this means that our homes could be using eight times as much electricity at peak times compared to off-peak. The grid today wouldn’t be able to cope with this massive increase in demand.
But by making homes smarter, we can reduce this swing in electricity demand and ease the strain.
How do we be more flexible?
There are a few things that need to happen to make our electricity truly flexible:
Energy storage systems
The key to flexibility is storage. While we can easily store petrol and diesel in pumps and gas in the grid, electricity storage isn’t so straightforward.
Solar and wind power generate electricity when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. But what happens when there’s neither?
Our homes will need to evolve so they can store electricity that’s available when we need it.
This will likely take the form of home battery storage that could live on - or even in - our walls. They can store electricity generated by solar panels on the roof or renewable electricity bought from the grid. That guarantees energy when we need it, reducing reliance on the grid.
Generating renewable energy at home
What about homes that produce their own electricity? Instead of relying on the grid, they’ll reduce the demand on it.
The good news is that the tech to generate renewable energy at home is already here. Solar panels can be spotted on many rooftops already, and they’ll play a key role for the future.
15% of Brits we surveyed have solar panels on their homes already and they’re becoming more efficient and cheaper all the time.
Wind power could also help homes - or groups of homes - generate electricity in areas where wind is more prevalent than sunshine. Areas on higher ground, such as northern Scotland, would benefit from this approach.
Getting smart with flexible energy
Smartphones and smart TVs are everyday items in our day-to-day lives. But to reach net-zero, we need to invite smart appliances into our homes.
The key benefit of smart appliances is that they could turn themselves off when they’re not being used. There’s no need for washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers to remain on standby when not in use.
Even appliances like fridges and freezers could do with some downtime to save electricity, without impacting the food they store. Across the country, all the small things could really add up.
Smart meters will also be vital for an energy efficient future.
A smart meter can help you control your individual energy usage and give you the information you need to understand your usage habits.
The national rollout of smart meters is making the UK's energy system more efficient, but only around a third of homes have them installed. This is something we can address sooner rather than later, with the technology already in place.