How standards support energy and net zero innovation

The UK’s energy sector is undergoing a huge transformation, as we move from a fossil fuel-based system towards a low-carbon, decentralized, digitized one.

This unprecedented rate of change is largely driven by the UK’s climate change targets and net zero commitment, as well as other wider drivers such as rising electricity demand and advancements in energy technology.

Reaching these ambitious decarbonization targets across all sectors of the economy will require significant innovation efforts in the years to come.   

In addition to game-changing technologies, we’ll need new business models, market models and tools. To innovate on all these fronts at pace requires robust frameworks and a forward-thinking approach so all parts of the system work together, holistically. Standards have a critical part to play in enabling the rapid transition to a net zero energy system by 2050 through supporting and mainstreaming innovation.

BSI has a longstanding relationship with Government and the UK’s innovation community which helps boost development across all areas of industry, for example through its work with Innovate UK. This partnership is driving the creation of new standards in strategic areas of innovation through programmes like the Energy Smart Appliances Programme, the Faraday Battery Challenge and its work in supporting the UK’s Hydrogen vision.

Moving to a flexible grid

As demand for power increases and more renewable energy enters the grid, grid flexibility becomes crucial to moderating generation, distribution and consumption patterns, thus utilising the grid’s capacity in the best possible way and preventing overloads and outages.

A flexible system allows energy production and consumption to be balanced in real-time to reduce carbon emissions and maintain the stability of power supply. This flexibility ensures maximum efficiency by automatically compensating for periods of peak demand by injecting more energy into the network when required. Within a flexible system, consumers are also be incentivised to manage their energy use, for example by choosing to run their washing machine at a time in the day when power is cheapest and in low demand.

Decentralization, decarbonization and digitalization drives and programmes will shape this transformation.

Decentralization in this context is about energy being generated locally, in some cases by a community, a neighbourhood, and fed back into the grid.

The third ‘D’, digitization, has swept across the energy sector, like many others, in recent years. It’s heralded the use of connected, smart technologies and sensors to measure and control the energy network in transformational and disruptive ways.

Moving from centralized, top-down power grids to a smarter, more flexible and responsive digitized system will enable the UK to accommodate evolving demand patterns and consumer habits. This is particularly true with growing electric vehicle (EV) use as a result of the UK’s transport decarbonization ambitions.

Wider standards support

In partnership with key stakeholders, BSI has taken a system-wide view of decarbonized, digitized and distributed energy trends to inform standards development. It also continues to work in conjunction with other converging sectors like the built environment and transport.

There’s a clear need for standards in several areas to help make this decarbonized vision a practical reality. For example, by providing industry guidance around the manufacture and use of secure, interoperable energy smart appliances, such as charge points for electric vehicles.

Standards can also help plans to improve the availability and quality of energy data for use in such a system, as well as all associated information security and network resilience requirements.

Sebastiaan van Dort, Associate Director, Energy at BSI explains: “Standards are important tools to support the energy transition, helping to communicate and align partners and stakeholders across different organizations on best practice.”

Standards give innovators and policymakers an essential foothold from which to move forward through uncertain territory. They support government and society as we rise to the challenges of the climate emergency, digitization, and social and geopolitical upheaval – as well as the energy industry’s evolution and disruption.

BSI is working across three strategic pillars to deliver on key energy policy and wider net zero ambitions:

  • supporting and enabling a whole-system transition to net zero
  • developing new standards and frameworks to underpin the smart grid
  • accelerating innovation in the energy sector.

Taking each in turn, BSI’s rich and ever-evolving standards portfolio, reflecting market requirements and developments, is proving to be a major support in the transition to a net zero grid by 2050.

BSI designs and delivers strategic standardization programmes and convenes stakeholders to address a wide scope of challenges within the energy sector. BSI is also continually developing new standards in this realm – bringing together global experts to find consensus on pressing issues such as hydrogen transformation, decarbonization of transport and heat, offshore wind, and climate finance.

Key partnerships

When it comes to the smart grid standards development, and the interaction between electricity supply and transport decarbonization ambitions, BSI plays a significant role in two important initiatives – the Energy Smart Appliances Programme (ESA) which it leads, and the supporting the UK government-backed  Faraday Battery Challenge (FBC).

ESA focuses on standards creation for smart EV charge point technology and smart domestic appliances, while the Faraday Battery Challenge standards work addresses the growing demand for batteries to electrification of transport.

BSI is also assisting with research into hydrogen’s potential as an alternative fuel and the use of hydrogen to decarbonize heating. It’s hoped that hydrogen could transition the UK away from natural gas in domestic appliances without significant upheaval for consumers – and, if renewables are used during processing, its production is low carbon.

A pioneering trial at Keele University in Staffordshire saw the institution inject zero-carbon hydrogen into its gas network. The 20 per cent hydrogen and natural gas blend was used to heat 200 homes and 30 faculty buildings and successfully demonstrated the safety and practicality of hydrogen blending, with all residents able to use their existing appliances as normal.     

Other innovations in this area include the first hydrogen-fuelled ferry in the Orkney Isles and zero-emissions hydrogen-fuelled double-decker buses in London. The UK Government’s Hy4Heat programme also continues its work to establish hydrogen’s long-term potential for use for heating in residential and commercial buildings, and for gas- or gas and hydrogen fuelled appliances.

“The Keele University project is a great example of innovative testing in this area. If such a blend was rolled out across the UK, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by six million tonnes – equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars off the road,” explains Van Dort.

“We’ve published guidance aimed at major gas and hydrogen appliances and equipment manufacturers in support of the Hy4Heat programme to define standards for gas and hydrogen-fired and hydrogen-fuelled appliances,” he adds.

Further innovation opportunity

With burgeoning digital and smart technology growth in the sector, standards around energy data outputs are becoming increasingly important. Operators currently use several different methods to manage and characterize energy data and assets, which restricts information sharing and quality across the network.

Standards could help the development and adoption of universal information models, as part of a wider ambition to open up energy sector data to encourage a fairer, more competitive market. Such an approach would also simplify the process of data publishing, access and sharing – promoting the proliferation of higher quality, more reliable, information.

Each iteration is open for consultation and review and is available for use by all stakeholders. Suited to testbeds and trials, BSI Flex Standards allow experts to continually evolve a shared view of good practice. Using this dynamic approach, it’s possible to reach an initial flexible consensus after eight weeks, compared to 9-12 months for PAS standards or over 12 months for formal standards.

The Flex process has already been applied to support rapid innovation in the built environment and transport sectors.

Decarbonising our transport system

Transport is the largest emitting sector in terms of GHG (Greenhouse Gases) and UK government has set out ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions from road vehicles by ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 and the phasing out of fossil fuel HGVs by 2040. Overcoming the barriers to making the transition to zero-emission vehicles including EVs poses challenges and BSI is assisting the industry through both early-stage research and in developing standards to support both the manufacture and operation these new technologies.

BSI has been working closely with the Connected Places Catapult for instance to look at the technology options for decarbonising road freight or HGVs as the UK prepares for advanced trials of these technologies. All of battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and electric road systems (ERS) alternatives to fossil-fuels are being considered and standardization will be critical for delivering the infrastructure for each as well as ensuring enabling technologies are safe and secure.

A critical area of standards development concerns the manufacture of EV batteries and associated charging technologies. In recent years there has been the strong adoption of EVs in commercial vehicles and fleets – such as taxi use and home delivery vehicles – with the consumer market is now starting to see increasing sales. Take-up will rely upon improvements in battery technology, availability of rapid public charge points and greater connectivity across the network to overcome issues such as range anxiety and promote a better user experience. This will need standardization and a rapidly growing market and strong standards are now poised to help accelerate mainstream adoption in several ways.

To support a supply chain for EV battery technologies. BSI has been supporting the safe and environmentally conscious manufacture and use of EV batteries via the Faraday Battery Challenge as the need to develop a supply chain and manufacturing base will be critical to deliver improvements in battery technology that enable increased range, safety and sustainability.

In helping to accelerate the phase out of fossil fuelled road freight BSI has been working closely with the Connected Places Catapult to investigate the technology options for decarbonising road freight transport as the UK prepares for advanced trials of zero-emission HGVs later in the decade. All of battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and electric road systems (ERS) alternatives are being considered and standardization will be critical for delivering the infrastructure for each as well as ensuring enabling technologies are safe and secure.

In terms of public EV charge points, to ensure charge points are designed to be accessible for all users, work is now in progress on a new standard supported by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, part of the UK Department for Transport, and Motability the consumer charity. Work on PAS 1899 started in late 2021 and will provide guidelines for manufacturers, designers and operators of public charge points to ensure the needs of people with disabilities are considered in the design and installation of charging facilities. For example, making sure the charge point can be used by wheelchair users. 

Nick Fleming, Head of Transport & Mobility at BSI “Electric Vehicles are one piece of the puzzle when it comes to decarbonising our transport system but potentially a critical part. Overcoming technical and behavioural challenges, such as improving consumer confidence given issues such as range anxiety, will be vital to help make that shift to Electric Vehicles and improve uptake. Standards will play a big role in supporting that transition and helping to make the consumer experience of using an EV a positive one.” 

One issue for EV drivers is different charging systems, with plugs and sockets changing as the technology evolves. Currently, different charging plugs fit different vehicles, the main systems being: CHAdeMO, CCS (Combined Charging System) and Type 2 for rapid charging. Various international standards incorporate both the CHAdeMO and CCS DC charging connection systems with these ISO and IEC standards currently under revision. Most new cars accommodate CCS sockets for charging others may use CHAdeMO.

With CCS now being favoured by new manufacturers, drivers needing a CHAdeMO charger are likely to find it more difficult in the future to find an available charger to plug into and charge up. Whilst supporting drivers of older EV cars on the road, a future-focused unified approach with agreed standards to support all drivers in this maturing marketplace is needed. Whether they choose to charge up at home, at a charge point on the street or in a service station. This may cause some compatibility issues for drivers as highlighted in the Electric Vehicle Charging Report by Which? in February 2022.

EB Charging is an independent provider of electric vehicle charging and sustainable energy solutions and technologies, working with over 50 UK local authorities and NHS healthcare trusts.

Founder of EB Charging and the company’s CEO, Alex Calnan, said: “Standards can help accelerate the shift to EVs by helping manufacturers achieve regulatory compliance more easily and ensuring EV quality, safety and efficiency.

“From an infrastructure perspective, the use of standards can optimize communication protocols between charger and EV, as well as the compatibility and interchangeability of the related connection hardware.

“Beyond this, standards are also widely used in vehicle-to-grid communication interface design – both physical and wireless – as well as data-link requirements and signalling. There are also standards to govern battery swapping scenarios and ensure user safety. With so many innovations rapidly hitting the market, it's important that we work together as an industry to share best practice and create a long-term charging infrastructure for the nation that will be future-proof.”

As Alex highlights, the latest EV infrastructure and hardware developments are a perfect example of how technological innovation in emerging areas of the energy sector can be accelerated and optimized through appropriate standards development.

Interoperability is also an important requirement for all elements of the EV puzzle. It’s needed between different charging networks, between charging stations and network software, for physical charging interfaces and for vehicle-to-grid connections. Harmonized standards in these areas are essential for mainstream EV adoption.

Alex continues: “It is vital that we continue to optimize and streamline the EV charging experience through increased interoperability and public charging locations. It should be easier for people to charge their EVs in public locations than it currently is to find the nearest petrol station. By surpassing previous convenience levels in this way, we can further remove barriers to EV migration.”

Harnessing potential: net zero and standards

Strategic standards programme development and enduring knowledge creation approaches are vital for policymakers in tackling complex, cross-sector challenges, and promoting a consistent, integrated and industry-wide perspective.

From moving to a flexible, low carbon and smart grid and promoting renewables and advanced battery technology, to accelerating the migration to EVs and cutting carbon emissions in the built environment, standards help enhance and support energy- and cross-sector innovation – enabling businesses to optimize their contribution to global net-zero goals.