In the UK
Electricity from both renewable sources and large power stations is transferred through a network of wires running up and down the country called the electricity grid. All electricity suppliers deliver power to their customers via the same grid, regardless of whether or not it is from renewable sources.
Most of the electricity produced in the UK goes into the grid, which must be balanced with the same amount supplied as is drawn from the grid. National Grid are balancing supply and demand 24/7.
So, while all the electricity used by customers is supplied through the same network of wires, we are adding electricity from renewable sources into the grid making it cleaner and greener.
A green electricity tariff means that all of the electricity you buy is ‘matched’ by purchases of certified renewable electricity that your energy supplier makes on your behalf. These could come from a variety of renewable electricity sources such as wind, solar, biofuel and hydroelectric power stations.
Many green tariffs state that your supply is 100% renewable. However, the supplier may have other tariffs that are not green, and buy a mix of renewable and non-renewable electricity.
There are only a few electricity suppliers, such as Good Energy, who only supply 100% renewable electricity, and so all their customers are on a 100% green tariff.
Good Energy generates renewable electricity from their own wind and solar farms and buys renewable electricity from over 1,400 small independent renewable generators across the UK, including local generators around Fintry. Added together, this 100% renewable electricity will at least match the amount of electricity they supply to every one of their customers.
Fintry Development Trust carried out a feasibility study which was presented at the FDT ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING in 2015. The study looked at the possibility of Fintry being supplied entirely by local renewable sources. Two potential options exist:
- To build a private network in Fintry including wires, transformers and substations directly from local renewables to homes and businesses in Fintry.The advantage of this is that the exact same green electrons produced by the sites will be used by the community. Two distinct disadvantages are that capital investment would run into tens of millions of pounds rendering the project impractical. The option would also not be easily replicable in other communities. As Fintry is an exemplar demonstrator community each project FDT undertake must be replicable in other areas of Scotland.
- To record the amount of electricity produced at each site and ‘match’ with end user consumption data.One disadvantage of this is that we cannot guarantee that the exact green electrons produced by a local generator are being delivered to a specific meter within Fintry. However, this option has many advantages, including replicability in other communities and a potential to challenge the industry norms that exist within the electricity market place in the UK. This option would demonstrate an innovative smart grid in Fintry which would attract interest from other parties.
The SMART Fintry project was born.
SMART Fintry ‘matches’ all the electricity used by Fintry participants with electricity sourced purely from renewables within the local community. We can do this by measuring local electricity generation and use by households every half hour and feeding the information into a central database. SMART Fintry has set up Power Purchase Agreements with local renewable generators and Consumer Contracts with local households.
FDT are not a licensed energy supplier so our project partner Good Energy are providing the local electricity tariff for residents in Fintry and Power Purchase Arrangements with local generators.
Another project partner Energy Assets, provides the metering and communication network to create a smart grid in Fintry which allows the correct data to flow within the project in order to match local generation and consumption.
Another project partner Heriot Watt University, use their developed Origin system to predict when renewable energy will be available and when people will need electricity in Fintry. This gives us better forecasting and visibility over the new system. Heriot Watt University are also supplying an online tool which allows residents on the Fintry Tariff to view how much local renewable electricity is generated and what is used by residents in the village. Veitch Cooper are technical consultants on the project.
Scottish & Southern Power Distribution own and operate all the wires, transformers and sub stations in Fintry. They are not a partner in the project but they provide us with ongoing support and guidance when looking at things like: Can we use batteries to store electricity locally so that we can keep prices down for customers? Can we monitor electricity flows through the local network? Can we challenge industry practice such as pricing mechanisms? Can we charge electric cars and storage heaters to offset peak demand?
OFGEM are the energy industry regulator in the UK. They are aware of our project and often reference Fintry and are looking to learn from our findings over the coming years.
The Scottish Government currently fund The SMART Fintry project (through Local Energy Scotland) as it aligns with their strategies for effective community energy in the future of Scotland.
Finally, to make the project work we need local residents to participate. You can do this by signing up to Fintry Local Tariff – This is a competitively priced, renewable electricity tariff that is linked to electricity provided by local renewable generators using a new meter will be installed in your homes. Without this local support, the project would not work. Also, the more Fintry folk on the tariff the better and more effective the project can be in delivering more benefits for Fintry and community energy in Scotland.