The (latest) energy revolution - and how YOU can help Britain prepare for a greener, cleaner future
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Britain is the birthplace of many of the energy innovations which changed the way the world generates power - from hydro power, which arose when a trout fisherman had a moment of inspiration, to wind power, which dawned with a windmill generating electricity in Scotland in 1887.
Britain is once again pioneering in this century with an ambitious government commitment to become ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050, and investment in technologies from renewable energy to smart meters.
On the edge of a brighter future: Smart meters are the latest tool to help us help ourselves
But the next energy revolution won’t rely on a new power source, but instead on intelligent ways to monitor and manage our country's energy needs.
A new, smarter energy system is setting the foundations for Britain's future energy journey, with millions of smart meters working together to ensure that our nation consumes electricity intelligently, helping our country to waste less at a domestic and national level, and getting us ready to switch from fossil fuels to renewables.
The next energy revolution will look at intelligent ways to use the power we already have
This new, more responsive system will help Britain switch to cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar power, and pave the way for new ideas such as consumers storing energy in electric cars and sending it back to the grid at peak times.
‘We’re at the stage with the smart energy system where the internet was in the late Eighties,’ says Robert Cheesewright, director of corporate affairs at Smart Energy GB. ‘People didn’t know then that it would improve their lives, that it would save them hundreds on their car insurance, or give us social networking apps. In five or ten years’ time, new smart energy technologies will also seem normal.’
As electric cars become more common, storing electricity inside them like a ‘battery on wheels’ will allow consumers to buy electricity cheaply, and help create a new smarter, less wasteful energy system that can better manage supply and demand, Cheesewright believes.
Electric cars are becoming more popular, and soon the tech will spread to homes, too
In the longer term, it will become common for homes to have batteries ‘built in’, Cheesewright says. People with solar panels will sell electricity to neighbours or back to the grid when demand is high, and the key technology underpinning it will be smart meters, giving homeowners the control needed to store energy and use it effectively.
Cheesewright says: ‘I think that’s one of the key things missing in people’s understanding of smart meters: they’re an enabling technology.’
Technologies such as sending electricity from electric cars back to the grid are already under test in the UK, Cheesewright says.
‘It’s early days, but we’re not talking decades. The foundation is being laid by smart meters. We just have to build the innovative services on top of that.’
BEST OF BRITISH!
Five historic energy innovations invented right here in Britain:
Steam power, 1712
The first use of steam power was in mining, pumping water out of pits, and was unveiled at Dudley Castle in 1712. The technology enabled Britain to switch to coal power, driving the industrial revolution. For 200 years, steam became the power source of industry and transport.
The modern oil industry began in Derbyshire, when a chemist noticed a dark liquid seeping from the wall of a coal mine, and distilled it into two liquids, a thin lamp oil and a thicker sludge for lubricating machines. James Young went on to distill a form of petroleum, paving the way for the 20th century, where the motor car ruled our planet.
Wind power, 1887
Professor James Blyth harnessed the energy of the Scottish wind to power lights in his home for 25 years. He offered to provide wind power to his neighbours, but some reputedly considered the invention ‘the work of the devil’.
Hydroelectric power, 1870
The same inventor who created the mechanism that drives Tower Bridge came up with hydroelectric power, and created a home powered by hydraulics and hydroelectricity, Cragside, with an arc lamp powered by water. It’s considered the world’s first hydroelectric plant.
Smart meters, 2019-
The Government predicts that £650 million of energy goes to waste in our current system, but a new ‘intelligent’ grid connected to homes by smart meters will pave the way for a cleaner future. Millions of homes armed with smart meters will help to ensure our country uses energy effectively - and allow Britain to switch to cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar power.
Smart Energy GB is the UK government backed organisation tasked with informing Great Britain about the benefits of the smart meter rollout.
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