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Why energy communities should be at the heart of your heating (and cooling) business

Biomass gasification plant in Gussing, Austria

Energy communities is emerging as one of the hot topics of the 2020s in the energy world.  This has been accelerated by the current Covid-19 crisis, which has made the need to find local solutions to global problems even more pronounced.  Many of the discussions around community energy are centred around electricity - but are we missing an opportunity by not talking about the benefits of a multi-vector approach which integrates electricity together with heat (and ultimately other vectors like mobility and hydrogen)? In this blog, we will focus on the opportunities for heat to be at the heart of energy communities.

The transition from “old heat” to “new heat” is making a community energy approach to heat more and more appropriate – and potentially more valuable.  We believe that working directly with communities on local heat decarbonisation strategies will be critical to the success of heating product and service providers in the future.  Energy communities with heat at their heart are not just the future – they are already here, and they are a growing opportunity not to be missed by the energy and heating industries.

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The murky world of flexibility platforms

The word ‘platform’ is one of the biggest energy business buzz words of the 21st century. Across the energy industry everyone has been talking about them, developing them (or being told they need to develop one) and the demand side flexibility space is no exception to this. But what do we even mean by ‘platform’? Do all these flexibility platforms do the same thing? And if not, how do they fit together?

In the last few months, the Flexibility Research team has been looking in depth at the murky world of platforms to answer these questions. There’s been no simple answers, but through discussions with contacts across the sector we’ve developed a framework of four types of platforms and their capabilities. Whilst it’s still early stages, there are examples of each of these platforms interacting with each other to cover the full demand side flexibility value chain.

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Black Start in the world of 'new energy': how to recover the energy system when coal is a thing of the past

“Black Start” is the process by which the National Electricity Transmission System (NETS) would be recovered following a total system collapse. This is a not uncommon occurrence in some regions of the world but thankfully) unheard of in the UK; that does not mean we should not plan for such an eventuality.

However, the current approach, which requires the constant availability of a thermal plant on hot standby, is costly in both environmental and financial terms (around £50 million annually).

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The New Energy Letter: January 2020

The energy system’s going to get much, much more localised. Maybe you don’t think that’s big news? With photovoltaics appearing on more and more rooftops, and storage in homes, isn’t this obvious? In my opinion what you see today is just the very tip of the iceberg.

In the past, economies of scale, dependence on bulk extraction of fossil fuel for generation, and inflexible demand dictated a paradigm of bigger is better, and optimisation of energy systems at the largest possible scale. The rationale for this paradigm no longer holds. Non-fossil fuel forms of generation and storage are deployable cost-effectively at small scale; demand is increasingly flexible; and data, software and analytics can be used for sophisticated optimisation of generation, network assets, storage and demand.

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