UK’s First Smart Energy System Takes Shape in Cornwall

Smart Cornwall lays the foundations for an integrated smart energy system.
Published: Wed 08 Jul 2015

A novel approach to the evolving smart energy landscape is being developed in the UK. In the southwestern county of Cornwall, Smart Cornwall seeks to combine the deployment of smart energy technologies in homes, businesses and communities with the presence of businesses involved in the sector to create what it terms the country’s “first fully integrated smart energy system.” [Engerati-Smart Cornwall – Towards A Local Smart Energy Ecosystem]

The goal of Smart Cornwall is that by 2020 Cornwall and the nearby Isles of Scilly will be established as a centre of smart energy expertise and innovation with a leading position in the global market. [Engerati-Interview with Julian German, Cornwall Council] By 2030 the system could localize approximately £100 million of combined energy spend.

If successful this could form a blueprint for many English counties looking to secure energy independence and can be a key tactic in the UK renewables strategy.

The initiative is being supported by the European Regional Development Fund support for Enterprise & Investment to encourage sector development.

Smart Cornwall progress

Initial results reported by the Smart Cornwall Development Company include international interest from companies including Hitachi, which has set up a Cornwall-based operation. Cornwall also has been working closely with the Taiwanese Institute of Economic Research and the Korean Smart Grid Institute. A Memorandum of Understanding in also in place with the Jeollanam-do Province, Korea.

There has been a focus on market development creating a framework and laying the foundation for a delivery mechanism to provide a focus for investment and further development in the new Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Programme. This will also draw in global expertise and research capabilities alongside the local higher education facilities as well as offering business development to small and medium enterprises to help them capitalise on smart market opportunities through collaborations with the Korean and Taiwanese organizations in the future.

“The Smart Cornwall Project has brought many organizations together to create a strategic network, which has provided the foundations on which to design future, realistic and targeted delivery activity,” commented Matthew Vowels from Cornwall Development Company. “The Smart Cornwall Project has developed new collaborations and identified several new investment themes to offer continued support to its evolution.”

Local enterprises supported

At a local level Smart Cornwall has been working closely with small enterprises to inform them on how to benefit from the project. So far 30 businesses have benefitted from assistance, ranging from marketing and promotion of smart energy systems, supporting knowledge transfer with European businesses in the sector and a review of future smart energy investment opportunities.

Green Acorn Energy Solutions, an energy optimization and storage solution provider, relocated from Guernsey to Cornwall in September 2014. In June in partnership with REDT, Green Acorn installed a liquid energy storage system alongside a PV system on a Somerset farm. In the autumn the company will offer the first commercial charging solutions for electric vehicles in the county.

The Wheal Jane Group since 1998 has established an Earth Science Park with Cornwall’s first solar array on a former mine site on the edge of Truro. In order to harness the potential between generation and demand from onsite operations an action plan is under way to create a local energy management system and a centre for other emerging renewable energy such as new biomass and deep geothermal production. With support from Falmouth University and the Taiwan Smart Grid Industry Association, in association with Tatung, pilot sites are being explored for a virtual power plant or microgrid.

Ward Williams Associates delivers a range of project and cost management and associated services in areas including smart and renewable energy within the development sector across the UK. With business support, the company has established a new series of strategic programme and project management services through a dedicated new business, Integrated Ward Williams Associates (iWWA).

Smart Cornwall delivery

The Smart Cornwall delivery plan has identified key investment themes that are likely to have the greatest impact. These are:

  • Distributed generation and energy storage and their integration into the electricity grid
  • Network-focussed smart grid projects using a range of new technologies to assist in making the electricity grid less constrained
  • Alternative fuel vehicles, in particular the deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) and charging stations and their links to the electricity grid
  • Customer-focussed smart energy projects in domestic, commercial and industrial settings
  • Local energy markets to enable local electricity producers and consumers to actively trade and balance generation and demand at a local level.

Alongside these policy and regulation, research and development, community, business and supply chain support and ICT and data infrastructure are identified as key enablers.