Significant low carbon technologies that will make a difference to overall CO2 emissions are Electric Vehicles and Domestic Heatpumps. Speeding the adoption of these technologies requires overcoming a number of challenges in increasing the supply of clean electricity, and the UK is making significant progress on some of these issues.
The recent strike price for licenses of Offshore Wind generation licenses in the North Sea is at a level that implies no subsidy required. Recent reports of Grid Scale energy storage point the way to promising, scalable and economic solutions to managing the variability of renewable generation.
However, one of the areas that could possibly hold up the widespread adoption of low carbon technologies is in the local power distribution networks - the substations and cables under the pavements that carry power to your house. The variation of demand caused by adoption of EVs and Heatpumps, and also by domestic solar feed-in create significant problems for the local distribution network. Much of this network was installed in a previous age - about half of the 300+ thousand substations in GB date from the grid electrification, and are over half a century old - and so were not designed with these sort of new challenges in mind. These older networks tend to be a star distribution topology, subject to capacity bottlenecks and vulnerable to overloading faults.
UK Power Networks are running an exciting innovation project "Active Response" with funding support from Ofgem into making this mains voltage distribution network a smart, reconfigurable mesh that can dynamically re-route power to where it is needed while staying within the constraints of the network, thus enabling more rapid adoption of low carbon technologies.
ASH Wireless have been contracted by UK Power Networks to develop network monitoring and network switching in Link Boxes under the pavement to enable this dynamic reconfigurable mesh. This involves innovation on a wide range of challenges ranging from long term battery powered communications solutions, to switches that fit in a small space, handle load currents of 500 Amps, and can circuit break fault currents of 20,000 Amps.
Dealing with a range of 10 orders of magnitude for current is part of what makes such projects so interesting.