Flexible Electricity Systems

3 Oct 2018 02:18 PM

The electricity system of Great Britain is becoming increasingly decentralised, with more complex patterns of power production, transportation and consumption. New types of ‘flexibility’ are being developed to facilitate and manage these changes. This POSTnote reviews ways of developing flexibility, as well as technical and economic barriers to doing so.

Jump to full report >>

Image Credit: Energy Networks Association

The electricity system has historically developed around a ‘centralised’ system, where a small number of large power stations provide the majority of electricity supply. However, the system is changing, driven by three long-term processes: decentralisation (power that is increasingly supplied by smaller power generation, situated closer to the consumer), decarbonisation (the move towards forms of generation that do not contribute to climate change) and digitisation(the increasing use of data, automated processes and ‘smart’ systems in the power sector).

Decentralised power can flow in more complex patterns across the network than in the conventional system. This, combined with a greater proportion of supply becoming weather-dependent and the increasing use of electricity for heat and transport, will place extra pressures on the network. To manage these challenges a more flexible electricity system is being developed. Flexibility is defined as the ability to rapidly change supply or demand in response to a signal (such as changing price) to help manage the electricity system. Current and developing technologies are increasingly providing flexibility to the system. The role of the electricity many of network operators is also increasingly changing to become more active.

Key points in the POSTnote include


POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including

* denotes people who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.