The current, aging grid was designed to distribute a predictable amount of energy generated from fossil fuel power plants to fixed destinations. However, the transition to a low-carbon economy presents a significant challenge as new energy generation will not integrate well with the existing energy infrastructure, as large increases in renewables will lead to a surge of intermittent energy being delivered to the grid.

Government has touted the development of smart grids as a solution to help the nation deliver reliable energy in the future. Essentially, smart grids will share information about generation and consumption seamlessly between supplier and user to better manage the national grid.

Smart grids reduce maintenance and operating costs because they enable a more efficient use of available energy and will be vital to the UK’s commitment that, by 2050, nearly all electricity will be generated from clean sources. The Government has also committed to ensuring all households have smart meters by 2020.

In 2009, Government published a discussion paper on the opportunity presented by ‘smarter grids’. Subtitled, a 2050 roadmap, the paper outlined the action required to transform the way the UK produced, distributed and used electricity.  Three years down the line, projects and programmes are getting underway, but Critical software believes that more time still seems to be spent in committee discussing the issue.

Critical Software maintains that some innovative projects are in place, and valuable kick-start funding is available; but real progress remains slow.  “Five years from now that will no longer be good enough. Smart grid capability means enhanced security and reliability of power supply in a rapidly changing world, as well as increased global competitiveness and environmental sustainability. However, these benefits in themselves could exacerbate vulnerability to supply problems: magnified dependence on electricity would make any serious infrastructure breakdown devastating.”

The electrification of transport in the future and the decommissioning of a quarter of the UK’s generating capacity over the next ten years will provide significant strain on an already overstretched grid. In response, Critical Software has created a software platform that helps charging suppliers to optimise the management of their charging infrastructure; with real-time usage and performance monitoring, centralised management and control, and seamless communication with other business areas such as billing.  These tools already support a major charging network in Portugal and we are extremely excited about getting involved with smart charging programmes in the UK.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change maintains that building a smarter grid is “an incremental process.”