A new report published by Ernst & Young for the SmartGrid GB group highlights how the introduction of smart grids will revolutionise the way power is generated and used in the UK. By providing consumers with greater understanding and control over the pricing and usage of electricity, smart grids are also expected to make a significant dent in carbon emissions.

Smart Grid: a race worth winning points to Britain as a potential world leader in smart grid technology, creating thousands of high skilled jobs, substantial domestic investment and a £5 billion export market along the way.

The smart grid revolution is also expected to deliver substantial benefits to the renewable, microgeneration and electric vehicle sectors. The report says that using smarter technologies to make the essential upgrades to the electricity distribution network between now and 2050 will reduce the cost of doing so by around £19 billon.

While the report says the UK is currently well placed to become a world leader in smart grid technology, it also warns there is a “decreasing time window to do so” as several other countries join the race.

Robert McNamara, Manager for SmartGrid GB, explains:  “The findings of the report are clear. There is a strong business case and we should not delay in developing a smart grid. If Britain is willing to take a global leadership position there are potentially enormous benefits. But if we want to be a serious competitor in the global smart grid race we must prioritise laying the relevant ground work in order for its accelerated development to take place.

 “The UK cannot afford to take a ‘wait and see’ approach. Failure to deploy a smart grid will hamper development of clean tech industries and push up domestic electric costs. It could also potentially mean that we fail to meet our carbon emission targets.”

Bill Easton, Utilities Director at Ernst & Young, commented: “The report shows that the transition to smart grids will require substantial investment, but should also deliver substantial benefits. The report estimates that additional investment of £23 billion will be needed, but that this will deliver benefits of up to £19 billion. Significantly, the benefits also appear to be robust across widely varying scenarios for future usage of the networks.

“In addition to the direct economic benefits, we can also expect to see wider economic benefits to the UK, providing a welcome boost to growth, jobs and exports. These could include close to 10,000 new jobs and exports in excess of £5 billion. Overall, the report paints a compelling case in favour of smart grids,” he concluded.