This article is written by Robert MacDonald, Practice Lead of Planning and Analysis at Smarter Grid Solutions
I recently found myself reviewing the power and energy consulting assignments we’ve undertaken at Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS) over the last year or so, taking time to recap the projects we have delivered to our customers like network operators, DER developers/operators, and other organisations including the Energy Systems Catapult and the UK Government department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). From a business perspective this is a worthwhile, if not essential exercise to review and explore the best ways to refine our consultancy offerings. But in doing so, I’ve found that it has also provided a valuable reflection of just how far this domain has come over the last few years and the extent to which energy flexibility concepts (which as always may mean different things to different people) have entered the mainstream conversation.
Rewinding five or six years, the team of consultants at SGS were often delivering studies to reinforce the business for network operators as they moved from considering network capacity purely in MW terms. It became apparent that the increasing need for flexibility within the electricity system would require consideration of capacity in MWh terms – understanding the time-varying nature of network operation. Back in the day (if this is far enough in the past to justify that phrase), our team was one of the few groups of consultants or analysts that were delivering bankable studies to consider flexibility in these terms; even back then we were using methodologies and tools that had been finely honed over years of application. Of course, our work didn’t solely focus on flexibility studies, however, there was very much a feeling of innovation associated with our efforts. At the time, there was support from those in the innovation teams at DNOs and early-adopter DER developers that were keen to consider network capacity in different ways and seek new ways to harness flexibility. That said, it would be a stretch of the imagination to suggest this type of thinking was by any means mainstream.
The changing face of consultancy
In reviewing the projects we have undertaken over the last few years here at SGS, it highlights the breadth and maturity of developments in the industry. Here’s a quick look at a few of those projects and some reflection on developments.
Above and beyond those specific SGS experiences, there have been numerous wider industry developments that have taken place – the evolution of ENA working groups into the Open Networks initiative; the introduction of DNO flexibility services as an alternative to reinforcement (that MWh vs MW point again!), and improved visibility for customers through DNO heat maps, flexibility maps, and strategic plans. More stakeholders are embracing this positive direction of travel and are increasingly conscious of the opportunities that exist.
It is heartening to see the fruits of this labour going back many years – and not just from Smarter Grid Solutions, but the DNOs, DER developers, research groups, technology vendors and other stakeholders that have championed and driven this transition. It is incredibly fulfilling to see innovative ideas slowly become accepted concepts in the industry.
As always, as those concepts that were once deemed innovative become business-as-usual, we intend to continue delivering at the leading edge of innovation. Whether that be more advanced analytical techniques, bespoke simulation tools, or supporting DNO innovation programmes, the team of consultants at SGS will be pushing the envelope with that objective of Business-as-Usual acceptance of flexible DER business models firmly in mind.
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