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Capturing the Benefit of a Smart Flexible Energy System

5 December 2016

To support the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Call for Evidence on a smart, flexible energy system in the UK, the Carbon Trust and Imperial College were commissioned to produce a report to assess the benefits of different flexibility solutions for a future UK electricity system. The consultation will feed into the Government’s strategy which is expected to be announced in early 2017.

The UK electricity system is undergoing significant changes to provide electricity that is secure, affordable and ultimately low carbon. Technology options such as demand response, energy storage, flexible power generation and electricity interconnectors can provide the flexibility required by a future system that may see an increasing share of intermittent renewables and more distributed generation.


The analysis in this report first uses a system level analysis to determine the optimal deployment of additional flexibility technologies in different scenarios. It then determines the levels of deployment of these technologies that avoid the worst possible outcomes across the same scenarios. This analysis showed that deploying flexibility technologies could save the UK £17- £40 billion from now to 2050, by reducing the required expenditure in low carbon generation, peaking plant and network reinforcement.


The report is the result of a collaborative project led by the Carbon Trust and Imperial College London, with contributions from interviewees in government, industry and academia. The objective of the project was to strengthen DECC’s understanding of the benefits of flexibility in the GB energy system with the following specific project outcomes:

  1. Annual profiles of ‘optimal’ additional flexibility, by technology, in a core set of scenarios out to 2050;
  2. A ‘least worst regrets’ level of additional flexibility, by technology, across the same set of core scenarios; and
  3. Model inputs and understanding to build upon DECC’s own modelling capabilities (e.g. cost trajectories).


The report has benefitted from multiple discussions with all project partners. The results are supported by systems analysis performed by the Carbon Trust.


The quantitative analysis is based on data published by the UK government, and is complemented by data from widely referenced sources or expert assessments where required. Key assumptions were reviewed by expert steering groups and discussed with senior decision makers in industry and government, as well as with leading research academics, and are provided in the annex.

Read the full report from the .gov.uk website:
An analysis of electricity system flexibility for Great Britain (PDF)

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