Reinventing electricity grids and Creating a Platform to Integrate New Technologies

FGL at the Energy Storage + Connected Systems Conference

7 February – London

Energy Storage and Connected Systems 2018, a two-day conference held in association with the Renewable Energy Association, was organised to bring together key industry figures to focus on the future of energy in the UK. CEO, Andrew Scobie joined a panel discussion focusing on the systemic evolution of grid operation and its relation to new technologies, titled ‘Transition from DNOs to DSOs: Opportunities for storage’.

Below synopsis outlines the key points of Andrew’s presentation, the slides to which can be downloaded from HERE.

Reinventing electricity grids and Creating a Platform to Integrate New Technologies

There is no doubt that the world is facing an unprecedented energy challenge. Growing investment into renewable energy generation coupled with strong policy support projects a drastic increase of variable energy within the system. In order to meet its legally binding decarbonisation targets, the UK will need an additional 80-100 terawatt-hours of low carbon electricity supply – nearly a third of its current electricity demand[1]. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts the proportion of wind and solar energy to increase in the energy mix from 18% to 40% over the next decade[2]. Simultaneously, coal is to be phased out in the next seven years, despite it currently supplying about 40% of UK peak-demand.

While generation is undergoing radical changes, so is consumption. The electrification of light vehicles alone could increase current electricity demand by 25%[3]; and a surge is to be expected sooner rather than later, considering the government’s ban of new diesel/petrol cars by 2040.

The core components of the electricity grid have not fundamentally changed since the late 1800s, which means it is structurally incapable of meeting this unprecedented energy challenge. Battery technology is regarded as a convenient instant fix, but for a great price: according to Policy Exchange it would cost £1 trillion to meet the full requirements of a typical five-day work week in January using batteries in the UK[4].

Generally, attempts to compensate for individual symptoms of a malfunctioning system are driving the cost of electricity to be economically unsustainable. This is illustrated by the fact that the UK consumer prices have tripled since 2004, or that the UK industrial prices are 50% higher than the IEA average[5]. Current estimates by the UK Energy Research Centre anticipates that electricity costs could double or even triple as we reach 50% renewable penetration[6].

Overall, a serious volatility issue in both supply and demand is upon our electricity system. Many mitigating technology solutions have been proposed, however they can only have marginal impact within a broken system. System operators are left to fight issues as they emerge in real-time or clean up the damage after the fact. The prospect of shifting from Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) to Distribution System Operators (DSOs) nevertheless points to the right direction: a system-wide solution. Going back to first principles is necessary to find the integral solution to a systemic problem. The electricity system should be treated as a whole, with the elicitors of all its current issues regarded as system constraints.

This is precisely the idea behind the revolutionary design of the Faraday Grid. In order to achieve inherent efficiency, we first mapped all the criteria a modern electricity grid should fulfil, should this be within the domain of economics, physics or the societal norms and behaviours. Focusing on the entirety of the system as opposed to its individual qualities allows for a design to emerge that is as close as possible to systemic optimality. Consequently, the Faraday Grid is an autonomous, responsive, electrical meta-network; agnostic to generation and consumption; with its own inertia; enabling more productive, resilient and stable electricity transfer. These qualities ensure a truly unique response that promises a cleaner, more reliable, and affordable energy system. The Faraday Grid alone doubles the capacity for renewable energy integration. Additionally, it facilitates the efficient use of storage and demand response technologies. This means not only better power quality and lower cost, but also an enabling platform for innovation.

The Faraday Grid itself is enabled by a quantum shift in technology – the Faraday Exchanger. Similar to the way the adoption of the router enabled the Internet, the Faraday Exchanger enables the Faraday Grid. The Faraday Exchanger is a hardware device that:

✓ Controls Voltage within + or – 25%

✓ Maintains Frequency

✓ Maintains a power factor = 1

✓ Harmonics removed to the 99th

Live demonstration of the Faraday Exchanger performance as unveiled at our 12 December 2017 launch event at the National Museum of Scotland. The Faraday Exchanger dynamically controls voltage, power factor and harmonics.

Faraday Exchangers fit seamlessly into the existing electricity system, forming a superior Faraday Grid network that is sufficiently robust and flexible to facilitate the inevitable transition into a new energy era.

In conclusion, the transition from DNOs to DSOs is fundamentally the right move – but a system operator can only be as good as the system they are operating, and today that system is not fit for purpose. The Faraday Grid can drastically improve the DNO to DSO transition while also providing an enabling platform for additional technology, such as storage.

[1] The Committee on Climate Change (2017) Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change: 2017 Report to Parliament, Summary and recommendations

[2] Bloomberg New Energy Finance (2017) Beyond the Tipping Point

[3] National Grid (2017) Future Energy Scenarios

[4] Policy Exchange (2018) Small Modular Reactors

[5] BEIS (2017) Industrial electricity prices in the IEA

[6] UK Energy Research Centre (2017) The costs and impacts of intermittency