“Low electricity demand levels in 2020 gave us an unprecedented peak at a future electricity market dominated by renewables and we learnt that we can do it”.

2020 has precipitated a previously unimaginable shift in working practice, with a huge number of employees working from home for the first time. Although a significant proportion of these might be looking forward to a return to the office, many others have benefited from this new way of life. 
 
This new way of working has fast become accepted. Background family noise is now the norm for call centres, ironically adding an element of humanity to the call. For many businesses, the focus on face-to-face meetings is consigned to history. The convenience of online meetings and the multilateral nature in which this was enforced means expectations of face-to-face courtesy have gone and hence this new standard is here to stay. As a result, it is unlikely that we will see a complete return to pre-pandemic working patterns. Instead, we will see a continuation of the hybrid working model, with more flexibility in terms of when and where people do their jobs. 
 
This shift has significant implications for energy consumption. Over the course of 2020, energy use changed in dramatic ways and markets were forced to respond rapidly. A drop in demand during the summer led to an extended period of renewables over-supply – not anticipated for some years – highlighting the need for continued innovation in the way the system is balanced as renewable volumes increase.
 
In response to the anticipated drop in demand, National Grid ESO developed a new service, Optional Downward Flexibility Management (ODFM), to improve access to downward flexibility. We also saw the rollout of dynamic containment, which we expect will continue in 2021. The market has demonstrated that it can pivot at pace to create new products and this agility to react to shifting energy markets will be essential over the next eighteen months. 
 
Author: Stephen Stead, director of Strategy & Digital Services at SSE Enterprise