HOW SMART METERS COULD SUPPORT BRITAIN’S ENERGY SECURITY IN THE FUTURE
Find out how smart meters can help us support long-term energy security in Britain.
Currently, a large share of the energy in Great Britain comes from fossil fuels imported from other countries. For example, most homes in Britain are heated by mains gas, but the UK imports around 50% of the gas it uses.1
Smart meters could help to create a future where we're less reliant on imported gas. They could do this by helping us manage our energy use throughout the day, which improves the balance of supply and demand. This means that smart meters can help to efficiently integrate more homegrown and renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, into our energy system. This would help to support Britain’s energy security in the long term.
Read on to learn about the definition of energy security, and find out how smart meters can help Britain to create a future where we're less reliant on imported gas.
Energy security definition: what is energy security?
Energy security is about having uninterrupted access to a readily available and affordable supply of energy. This means having a continuous and sustainable supply of energy, and being able to react to external factors that might impact energy supply and cost. It also refers to being able to react to short-term changes in the balance of supply and demand.
How much do we rely on imported gas?
According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK imported £19.6 billion worth of natural gas in 2021, and exported £3.4 billion worth. Imported gas makes up around 50% of the UK’s natural gas supply.2
The import of natural gas is currently important for energy security in Britain, because natural gas is used to fuel both heating and electricity. Most of the homes in Great Britain are heated by mains gas supply – 81% of homes in Scotland, 79% in England and 78% in Wales. Gas is also used to fuel about a third of the UK’s electricity generation.3
How can Britain improve long-term energy security?
Using more homegrown energy can help improve long-term energy security in Britain. The Government’s April 2022 Energy Security Strategy outlines a plan to do this by making the most of the UK’s North Sea oil and gas reserves and using more renewable energy, such as wind power.
The IEA Energy Security Report also recommends reducing overall energy demand as a way to help reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels.4 In this way, energy efficiency has a role to play in helping Britain become more energy independent and energy secure.
Managing when energy is used can help to reduce fossil fuel use, including what we buy from abroad. If energy use is spread more evenly throughout the day, this reduces the demand at peak times, when fossil fuels, like gas, are often used more. It can also help prevent home-grown renewable energy generation being limited.
In the Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan 2021, the Government says that flexible energy usage is essential for renewable energy integration. The Plan also states that flexibility results in better utilisation of low-carbon energy.
What role could smart meters play in supporting Britain's long-term energy security?
Smart meters help us to manage our energy use throughout the day. A smart meter display shows you how much energy you’re using and what it’s costing you daily, weekly, or monthly. By helping people to easily track their energy usage, smart meters help people to take steps to reduce their energy use.
Being able to manage and track energy usage also helps to improve the balance of supply and demand. Smart meters will enable suppliers to offer a greater range of time-of-use tariffs, and similar services, in the future. Time-of-use tariffs can promote a more even spread of energy use throughout the day. This could help to reduce demand at peak times, and make more use of home-grown renewable energy at other times.
This winter, the National Grid ESO is working with energy suppliers to offer a new Demand Flexibility Service. This would allow people with smart meters to benefit from reducing their energy use at peak times. The service will run between November 2022 and March 2023.
At the moment, we often increase our use of fossil fuels when there is more demand for energy, to ensure we can all use energy when we need it. This means more reliance on imported gas. If we can reduce demand during peak times, and move demand to when there's lots of renewable energy, we could use more home-grown, renewable energy.
This means that the data from smart meters could help to efficiently integrate more renewable energy into our energy system. In doing so, smart meters could support Britain’s long-term energy security. Watch our video with Dr Jeff Hardy, Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College London, to learn more:
Dr Jeffrey Hardy: Around 80% of our energy comes from fossil fuels. If we want to become more energy independent in the future and also zero carbon, then what we're going to need to do is three things:
- rapidly decarbonise our electricity system
- we're going to have to move transport and heating across to that renewable electricity;
- and then finally, we're going to have to do it in a smart and flexible way.
And that's where smart meters come in. If you have a smart meter in your home, you can choose to opt-in to a dynamic tariff. A dynamic tariff is where the price of electricity is different at different times of the day.
A lot of these devices, such as electric vehicle charging outlets, washing machines, and heat pumps, are already intelligent. So what you can do is you can tell those devices to automatically follow the right prices.
All of this really is about trying to build the most efficient energy system of the future.
Do your part for energy security in Britain: Get a smart meter
If you haven’t already, join the millions of households who’ve already made the smart choice – get a smart meter:
You may also be interested in…
1. ONS, Trends in imports and exports of fuel, (June 2022)
2. ONS, Trends in imports and exports of fuel, (June 2022)
3. ONS, Energy efficiency of Housing, England and Wales, country and region, (November 2021)
4. IEA, Energy Security Report, (2019)
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