Last year marked a palpable momentum shift in the UK’s transition to a low-carbon energy system – something most clearly demonstrated by the fact that 2017 was the country’s ‘greenest ever year’.

For the first time ever, low-carbon sources generated more UK electricity than fossil fuels, seeing thirteen different renewable energy records broken along the way – including an all-time low cost of offshore wind.

The good news is that an even better 12 months is expected for 2018 as momentum in Britain’s drive to decarbonise continues apace.

If 2017 was the year that we really began to see renewable energies living up to their potential, what energy trends can we expect to see making a similarly big impact in 2018?

Last year, the ‘Four Ds’ – Digitalisation, Decarbonisation, Decentralisation and Democratisation – characterised energy sector developments.

In 2018 we expect to see further progress on this front, taking these Four Ds further away from just concept, and much closer to reality…

1) EV demand and development go up another gear

2017 was a breakthrough year for electric vehicles with major global organisations committing to EV fleets and investing in electric car charging infrastructure. This was backed up by the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, which pledged £400 million for EV infrastructure and a zero emission road transport plan.

With momentum being carried on into 2018, this could be the year that EV technology reaches a tipping point, as EV demand accelerates while prices simultaneously fall.

This should be facilitated by continued innovations within the EV sphere, such as intelligent transistors, which are set to enable reduced size and weight of vehicles, along with reduced system costs. Improved power density and better battery technology should also see faster, smarter charging become a reality in 2018, further boosting consumer confidence in EVs.

With more EVs on the road, the need for public EV charging facilities will accelerate, opening opportunities for charging suppliers, car manufacturers, and fuel retailers to increase their investments in this vital infrastructure.

At SMS Plc, we aim to be at the forefront in helping expand this national EV charging network through our electricity connections, asset installation and asset finance services.

2) Smart grid advancements lead to greater grid flexibility, more distributed generation

As we are seeing with EV development, much of what will trend in 2018 in the energy space will be rooted in the advancement of the smart grid.

Indeed, alongside electric vehicle charging, other grid flexibility technologies – such as demand response and energy storage – are expected to take significant steps forward in 2018, catalysing a growth that will see distributed energy resource capacity quadruple in size over the next decade.

Technological advancements, better business models, and greater adoption by policy makers and regulators will lead to distributed energy playing a much more prominent role in the deployment of energy infrastructure, marking a significant shift away from centralised electricity grids.

This year, for instance, prepare to see the wider integration of a range of new technologies such as sensors, smart invertors, and smart contracts – all of which will help better facilitate distributed generation.

Meanwhile, the explosive growth witnessed in the UK’s energy storage pipeline in 2017 is expected to translate into even more projects being completed in 2018 and yet more successful business models being revealed.

Thanks to our expertise in renewable energy and storage projects, including the design of large-scale energy storage solutions, we will continue to support the development of this fast-growing market during 2018, helping establish a greater low-carbon electricity capacity for Britain.

What’s more, this year we will also assist energy suppliers in rolling out the next generation of smart meters (or SMETS2) nationwide – a move that will have significant implications for the advancement of smart girds.

Boasting advanced capabilities, enhanced data security measures, and broader interoperability, SMETS2 meters will play a crucial role in the decentralised market, paving the way for integration of innovations such as peer-to-peer renewable energy trading.

3) Improved policy and awareness boost energy efficiency measures

Every year, there is continued global pressure for increased energy efficiency as a result of growing environmental awareness, improved technology, and better governmental approaches. 2018 will certainly be no different.

This year will not only see the implementation of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards and the continuation of ESOS Phase 2 preparations for qualifying organisations in the UK, but also clearer policy detail on the government’s new Industrial Energy Efficiency scheme (which aims to incentive large businesses to drive down overall emissions, and in turn, their bills).

Meanwhile, as businesses become savvier to the economic benefits of energy saving, many are simultaneously facing exposure to increased energy risk. Such risk combines the prospect of rising energy prices with the perennial challenge of how to effectively control consumption and keep operational costs down.

Within this environment, energy-saving has become less about obliging with legislative compliance, and much more of a strategic decision rooted in the premise of profitability, sustainability and productivity.

When you additionally  consider the high rate of ROI that working with an expert energy management service can bring, for most forward-thinking organisations, taking the initiative on energy costs is a complete no-brainer.

It is no surprise to hear, therefore, that 58% of organisations said in a recent major international study that they expected to increase their energy efficiency investments in 2018.

If you have any questions about the themes discussed in this blog, or would like to find out more about our services, don’t hesitate to get in touch

*Infographic data sources: EVs, Distributed Generation, Energy Efficiency