Heat pumps and EV batteries could save grid £4.7bn, says Ofgem

·2-min read
 electricity pylons - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
electricity pylons - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Hooking up millions of electric vehicles, heat pumps and other devices to the UK's electricity grid could save up to £4.7bn a year by the end of this decade, the energy watchdog has predicted.

Ofgem on Thursday set out proposals for how the electricity grid of the future could work, using technology to ensure infrastructure is used as efficiently as possible.

The regulator estimates it could save households between £3.2bn and £4.7bn a year compared to the alternative, which is keeping gas power plants running.

Instead, its preferred proposals will give households a bigger role in fine tuning supply and demand for electricity, by consuming or generating power through smart devices such as batteries, electric cars and heat pumps when required.

For example, electric cars parked in people's driveways could be called upon to send electricity back into the grid when supplies are tight.

According to the Climate Change Committee, there could be around 27.6 million electric vehicles on Britain's roads by 2035.

This could provide a major boost and avoid the need to build a lot of extra nuclear or renewable generation, Ofgem said.

The regulator also proposed setting up new bodies with responsibility for regional grid plans, forcing companies to share more data, and establishing a joined-up way for households to help supply energy back into the grid from their new smart devices.

Ofgem's director of infrastructure and security of supply, Akshay Kaul, said that making the grid more flexible would mean lower bills for consumers and “reduced strain on the grid”.

The grid is likely to need around 20 to 30 gigawatts (GW) of flexibility by 2035 in order to make up for the biggest weakness of renewable energy – that sometimes the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow.

Over winter the National Grid launched a system that pays customers if they use less electricity at peak hour on certain days.

The flexibility systems of the future are likely to be a lot more automated – with people's electric car, heat pump, or other device shutting itself off for a short period or even sending electricity back to the grid when demand for electricity is high.

Customers would be able to overrule this at any point.