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The issue of Power Resilience Rising up the Agenda (Industry Insight)

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How energy is generated and consumed in the UK is under intense scrutiny due to its role in climate change, but often the issue of power resilience, an important matter that affects many energy users, is overlooked.

Power resilience is about ensuring a business has a reliable, regular supply of energy and contingency measures in place in the event of a power failure[1]. It plays a crucial part in both operational and energy efficiency for businesses, local authorities, and non-governmental organisations, due to the costly and disruptive impact power failures can cause.

Since August 2019’s large-scale blackout[2], power resilience has largely taken a back seat in the press, which concentrates more closely on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and net-zero carbon efforts, but it is a daily risk as witnessed on 25 February when the grid dropped to within 0.1Hz of its operational limit when a supply failed[3]. Furthermore, businesses now classify power resilience as a top four risk, according to Centrica.

Disruption to power supply is a long-standing issue, but in today’s age of highly digitised processes, interruptions are more costly than ever, resulting in reputation damage, supply chain implications, wasted on-site resources, and the danger of bringing even the most basic business operations to a standstill as we are now so dependent on IT infrastructure[5]. In fact, 87% of sustainable businesses agree that as they become more digitalised, power resilience becomes increasingly important. Despite these known risks, 73% of businesses feel less than ‘very well prepared’ for an interruption to their power supply.

The evolution of the UK energy network may increase risks.  National Grid is aiming to be able to run the network without fossil fuels for short periods by 2025[6]. Currently, windfarms are sometimes asked to disconnect, and gas plants fired up in order to keep grid stable[7]. As the network strives to reach the renewable energy and fossil fuel phasing out targets, balancing and security of supply will continue to be a challenge.

Options for resilience

Awareness of power failures and their impact is rising, leading businesses to consider how they can protect their sites. A traditional solution in some sectors is a standard uninterruptible power supply (UPS) utilising a double conversion process to provide support to sites in the event of a power failure. However, such traditional systems consume around 15%[8] of the system’s capacity at all times to monitor the grid in preparation for an event which can make it less energy efficient.

In recent years, a new generation of more efficient uninterruptible power supply (UPS) solutions have become available, including leading-edge battery energy storage systems with online inline UPS capabilities.

Powerstar VIRTUE is a leading-edge behind the meter battery storage system with uninterruptible power supply (UPS) capabilities that can provide seamless support in response to power failures, supporting an entire site within milliseconds of detecting a grid event. This can enable businesses to maintain even its most sensitive equipment’s operation when a power failure occurs.

Powerstar VIRTUE does not use a double conversion process to provide uninterruptible power supply (UPS) capabilities, instead, it monitors the grid for interruption to supply via sophisticated software and supports the load accordingly resulting in a much more efficient system which utilises around 0.7% of its capacity, far lower than traditional UPS solutions.

In addition to providing seamless site wide uninterruptible power supply capabilities for connected loads with lower running costs than traditional UPS systems, battery energy storage can also support a wide range of functionality including supporting electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, maximising on-site energy generation and optimising energy flows, all of which can contribute towards reaching net-zero carbon targets.

Unless referenced, all statistics sourced from: https://www.centricabusinesssolutions.com/distributed-energy-future-trends

[1] https://www.centricabusinesssolutions.com/us/blogpost/what-energy-resilience

[2] https://www.ft.com/content/bcb9f3b2-c352-11e9-a8e9-296ca66511c9

[3] https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn%3Ali%3Aactivity%3A6637767370293161984/?commentUrn=urn%3Ali%3Acomment%3A%28activity%3A6637712196761591813%2C6637767290177761281%29

[4] https://www.centricabusinesssolutions.com/distributed-energy-future-trends

[5] https://www.centricabusinesssolutions.com/blogpost/15-minute-power-outage-nightmare-business

[6] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-08/u-k-power-grid-getting-ready-for-life-without-gas-power-plants

[7] https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-uk-low-carbon-electricity-generation-stalls-in-2019

[8] https://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/14664

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