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In the news this week Boris Johnson, Mayor of London warned that population growth in London could cause blackouts in the not too distant future. His solution? A £210m investment in substations.
The Mayor’s new London Infrastructure Plan outlined that unprecedented growth in certain areas of London had pushed substations to their capacity and that there is now an urgent need to upgrade so that potential investment can be unlocked for these development areas.
It is clear that this investment is needed, but is there more that we can be doing to keep the cost of the transformation of our energy system to a minimum?
In a live interview with BBC London Radio’s Breakfast Show, CHPA Director Tim Rotheray explains;
“When people talk about energy they often think about electricity but, electricity is only part of the energy we use. Half of our energy demand is heat, we need to think about the energy we use holistically so we can find the most cost effective way of meeting consumers’ needs.”
He suggests that by creating more user participation in the system we can reduce the amount that needs to be invested in infrastructure and have a more secure energy supply.
Rotheray highlighted the recent case study from Royal Festival Hall who engaged with National Grid in an experiment to see if at times of peak system demand the Hall could control its own demand to reduce stress on the system. When needed the Hall turned off its air conditioning units, with very limit impact on the ambient temperature or performances. The trial was deemed a success.
Boris plans for 25% of London’s energy needs to be produced locally by 2025, what we need to consider now is how heat can form part of the solution to the electricity capacity crunch.
One way in which heat production can support electricity capacity is through the use of combined heat and power. The supply can be tailored to the consumer, it does not require billions of pounds of investment upfront, unlike the cost of building new nuclear and gas fired power stations, and it can support the grid in times of stress by allowing companies to switch from taking electricity from the grid, to using CHP, or by switching on to supply extra capacity to the grid.
There are intelligent ways that we can tackle the capacity crunch that could be far cheaper and put more power into the hands of the consumer; substations are not the only option.