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Grid Flexibility – What Is It And Why Is It Important?

Grid flexibility is becoming an increasingly prominent aspect of the energy debate as we move towards electrification of heat and travel. Grid flexibility is something that we now assist with through Clade Cloud and we thought it’d be worthwhile writing an explainer on the topic for those who aren’t sure what it is or what it entails.

What Is Grid Flexibility?

The electricity grid represents the system of electricity production, transmission, storage and consumption. It aims to create an environment of stable electricity availability, but was designed based on the steady, constant power generation of fossil fuel power stations. It was not designed for a world where power is partly, or largely, generated by variable renewable sources such as solar or wind. Nor was it designed to cope with gigantic surges in demand like if millions of heat pumps are suddenly fired up to warm buildings on a cold day, or tens of millions of electric vehicles need to be charged for a morning commute. These changes make the grid less stable and could make power less reliably available.

Grid flexibility refers to the effort to solve this problem. A variety of technologies, strategies and social changes across the whole utilities value chain will need to be put in place in order for our grid to have the flexibility to cope with the future power market.

A flexible grid would be able to manage volatility in supply and demand of power and achieve sustainable balance. Those who provide flexible demand will be rewarded – there are some existing mechanisms to do this already as well as new emerging ones as this exciting field develops.

But it’s not only cost but the carbon content of the power that can vary. Clade are working with an AI company that is providing the intelligence to enable you to choose lower carbon power through flexible demand.

Why Is Grid Flexibility Important?

Grid flexibility is a hot topic right now because it’s vital we make significant changes to improve it. The future of heat and travel is electrification, and it needs to happen soon if we want to have any chance of hitting or exceeding our climate targets to mitigate environmental catastrophe.

If we make the changes needed to hit net zero, it’s going to drastically change the way energy is both supplied and consumed. There are going to be big spikes and drops in electricity generation, and big spikes in drops in power consumption by consumers and industry. If the grid can’t cope, there will be huge swings in A) the cost of power and B) the availability of power.

How Do We Improve Grid Flexibility?

There are several tools we have in our arsenal to improve grid flexibility throughout the value chain.

Supply. We can level off the peaks and troughs of supply by expanding the use of constant renewables such as geothermal or nuclear power. Smart inverters from solar sources can help the stability of the grid through two-way communication and carry out supportive functions to do with voltage and frequency regulation. Vehicle-to-grid technology can also help by allowing charging EVs to provide power to the grid if needed, or slow down charging rate at times of peak demand.

Storage. Better batteries, pumped hydro, molten salt – there are myriad ways that we are trying to improve how well we can store power at scale to scope with drops in supply or peaks in demand.
Transmission. We can pool generating commitments so groups of wind or solar farms work together rather than having individual relationships with the grid.

Demand. Smart technologies can help businesses and buildings to interact more efficiently with the grid and reduce demand spikes. This is what we offer through Clade Cloud – a smart system for connecting heat pumps to the power markets and mechanisms enabling effective use of heating and cooling controls, thermal stores and your own behavioral flexibility. We estimate that our customers can achieve 100% carbon free heat and a 20% reduction in electricity costs through a Clade heat pump with Clade Cloud installed.

The necessity of improving grid flexibility is becoming the mother of invention and a plethora of new technologies and approaches are becoming available that will help us solve this problem globally. If you’re looking at making your business more renewable now, it’s worth considering Clade Cloud Control which will help you interact with the grid efficiently to ensure you don’t find yourself paying peak electricity prices whilst maintaining your target levels of service and carbon reduction.,.

If you’re not sure, we can help. Talk to us today about our grid flexibility solutions.