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Decentralised Energy using Green Tech

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The University of Cambridge has found that energy generation in the UK is responsible for over 50% of total UK CO2 emissions (37% from centralised power generation and 14% from domestic heat generation from fossil fuels). If we were to shift our current energy model to an integrated and decentralised energy system these figures would drop dramatically, if not completely.

Harnessing green technology within energy production is essential to meeting net-zero by 2050. Instead of a siloed approach, using one or two means of energy production e.g. traditional gas and coal, a decentralised energy system allows multiple energy sources and increases the use of renewables and more efficient technologies to reduce carbon emissions.

There are a variety of technologies that come under decentralised energy, while some still use fossil fuels they remain a lot more efficient than conventional generation from boilers and power stations. For example, Combined Heat & Power (CHP), produces electricity by simultaneously generating heat and power which can reduce carbon emissions by up to 30% (BEIS, 2021). The Association for Decentralised Energy explains that “By using waste heat, CHP plants can reach efficiency ratings more than 80%. This compares with the efficiency of gas power stations, which in the UK which range between 49% and 52%. Coal-fired plant fare less well with an efficiency of around 38%.”

Another notable green technology that is growing in the energy space are heat networks and heat pumps. Heat networks deliver cost effective, low carbon heat, in the form of hot water or steam, from the point of generation to the end user through a network of insulated pipes (The ADE, 2021). Heat networks enable valuable energy, often wasted in power generation or industrial processes, to be captured and supplied to householders and businesses, which removes the need for additional energy generation (ADE, 2021). The great advantage of heat networks and pumps is that they are technology agnostic, meaning they can be powered by any energy available to them, most favourably renewables and CHP. HNIC visualises that by 2050, around 20% of the UK’s heat demand will be delivered by heat networks, which will have a huge role to play in the decarbonisation of our energy system.

Amongst the array of decentralised energy technologies are also demand flexibility and energy storage. Demand response and storage are tools that enhance the power system flexibility by better aligning variable renewable energy supply with electricity demand patterns (Greening the Grid, 2013).

·       Storage shifts the timing of supply

·       Demand response shifts the timing of demand

Chris Curry, Head of Flexibility at Bryt Energy, describes how the increased roll-out of electric transport and heating will heighten the stress on heat networks. Yet, flexibility can balance the grid during stressful periods by shifting the load to align with renewable energy generation (NREL, 2021). The partnering of renewables and demand-side flexibility will greatly contribute towards decarbonizing the energy sector. NREL have predicted that demand-side flexibility can lower annual carbon emissions by 8.3% with its power to enable the usage of more renewables, thereby avoiding fossil fuels.  










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