Potential Savings in renewable energy generation

A new report from Scottish Renewables claims that the cost to produce renewable energy via wind in Scotland could fall by 20% if certain new policies are adopted. These include reforming the planning system, using the latest technology, the ability to redevelop existing sites, plus changes to the grid and how it operates.

The most effective change would be to install planning guidelines that promote the newest technologies with larger rotor diameters and hub heights which could cut the cost by £11 per MWh. The redevelopment of existing sites could add 1GW of capacity to the existing network. Also new network reinforcements could be avoided by reforming the charging system and deploying new smart connections. Energy storage could be the catalyst to new revenue revolution if barriers preventing wind and storage to participate in the capacity market are removed.

Lindsay Roberts, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables speaking at the launch of the report said “The cost of onshore wind has come down significantly over recent years, and it is now one of the most competitive forms of new electricity generation in the UK.”

The next set of subsidy auctions (Contract for Difference) in the UK to place later this year will not feature onshore wind as confirmed by the UK government. It has yet to be confirmed which technologies will be entitled to bid for the subsidies in this year plus future auctions.

Lindsay Roberts backed up the report’s finding that it makes no sense for onshore wind generation to be left out by stating that “without it, we will all be paying for more expensive alternatives.”

Zoe Barnes, head of the Scottish office of Everzon the consultancy firm that carried out the study upon which the report is based said it “is about identifying concrete actions for government, industry and relevant stakeholders to find common ground to enable onshore wind to fulfil its potential in Scotland – delivering reliable, affordable and clean energy at the heart of the power sector.”

Despite this however a new poll of over 1,000 members of the Institute of Directors (IoD) found that 70% felt that the previous three UK governments had failed to provide an adequate energy policy or reasonably priced energy.

There were some positive results though as 60% agreed that the governments had been successful in increasing energy sources while 45% were satisfied with the efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

It also suggests that those polled support more renewable energy in order to meet environmental goals. They also stress however more must be done regarding energy supply and affordability.

Dan Lewis, senior infrastructure policy advisor at the IoD, said that the newly-created business and energy department should seize this “ideal moment” to reconsider the direction of energy policy.

“Renewables are a significant, and growing, source of energy … but technology based on the weather doesn’t work all of the time, so the UK needs a mix of renewables, nuclear and the cleanest hydrocarbons,” he said.

The results also showed a split on the proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley with many stating that the government was correct in taking a final look before signing the deal off as less than half believe that the development will increase the UK’s economic competitiveness.

The cost of onshore wind technology has already been falling for some time and last weekwe discussed how it along with solar is expected to be the least expensive form of energy generation by 2025. These additional saving methods proposed by Everzone and Scottish Renewables will go further to make wind generation the least expensive in a shorter period of time.

However in order for this to be achieved we must all be pulling in the same direction. The absence of onshore wind from the CfD auction leaves an air of uncertainty over the entire industry despite concerted efforts to move it forward and help it grow.

Previously we spoke of the government’s choices regarding Hinkley and the alternatives. With pressure now coming from many different industries as demonstrated in the IoD survey now is the time for new policy to promote and encourage a clean energy future.

 

Wind and Solar projected to be cheaper than nuclear

A new yet to be published report by the UK government’s energy department states that it expects electricity generated by wind and solar to be less expensive than nuclear power by the time the UK’s new nuclear power plant Hinkley Point C is operational.

The new Conservative front bench decided to delay the final decision on Hinkley in July until later this year which has led to reporting on potential alternative energy sources should the final decision not be in favour of the multi-billion pound development.

The energy department report shows projected costs for onshore wind and solar to be approximately £50 – £75 per MWh by 2025. The cost of nuclear energy is expected to be between £85 and £125 per MWh at the same time. The guaranteed price offered by the government to EDF, the Hinkley developer is £92.50. This is first time that the government has stated that electricity generated from wind and solar will be less expensive than nuclear. Previous forecasts showed nuclear to be the cheaper option.

The National Audit Office’s July report on nuclear energy showed the figure with eh NAO stating “The [energy] department’s forecasts for the levelised cost of electricity of wind and solar in 2025 have decreased since 2010. The cost forecast for gas has not changed, while for nuclear it has increased.”

According to the NAO the current forecasts came from the energy department in March 2016 and that the full report is to be published shortly.

Niall Stuart, chief executive of the trade body Scottish Renewables, said: “These numbers speak for themselves: onshore wind and solar will be significantly better value than all other large scale sources of power in the UK by 2025.

“It is time to start backing the two technologies to deliver the clean power we need to hit our climate change targets and the cheap electricity required to keep bills down for consumers.”

Green party MEP Molly Scott Cato said: “These latest figures confirm what many of us have been saying for years: that the Hinkley project is a dud.

“The cost of renewables is tumbling and Hinkley will become a giant white elephant as it struggles to compete with cheaper renewable options. Research has shown that solar power would be a less costly way of generating the equivalent amount of power, and now the government’s own projections show that onshore wind too will be cheaper than nuclear by the time Hinkley is built.”

In our previous blog we spoke of Scotland’s record breaking renewable energy day and earlier this week the UK government confirmed that over 25% of the electricity consumed in the UK from January to April this year was generated by renewables, approximately half of which came from both on and offshore wind combined.

We have previously spoken of the falling cost of wind and solar generation and that in order to achieve our climate control and carbon reduction targets these technologies would be in the long run the most cost effective method of delivering it. Now the government are also agreeing with us.

With a decision due on Hinkley later in the year we wait to see what the final decision will be with interest. The new report will certainly give those making it food for thought.  The final piece in the renewable energy jigsaw is energy storage and it is our belief that a revolution in that is just around the corner. We will discuss that in more detail in future blogs.

In the meantime we hope the government takes it all of this into account when making the decision which will shape our energy future for years to come.

 

Scotland’s wind energy supplies more than demand

On Sunday the 7th of August 2016 for the first time ever Scotland’s wind turbines generated more electricity than was consumed within the entire country. The relatively unseasonable windy conditions saw the turbines generate 106% of the total amount of electricity used by all home and business in Scotland that day. Analysis by conservation group WWF Scotland confirmed the findings.

Lang Banks, WWF Scotland director said “While Sunday’s weather caused disruption for many people, it also proved to be a good day for wind power output, with wind turbines alone providing the equivalent of all Scotland’s total electricity needs. This major moment was made possible thanks, in part, to many years of political support, which means that across the year now, renewables contribute well over half of our electricity needs.

“However, if we want this ensure we reap the many benefits of becoming a low-carbon economy we need to see this political support for renewables continue. On the path to a fully renewable future, this certainly marks a significant milestone. It should also be remembered that wind power is not the only renewable power source Scotland has at its disposal.

“If we continue to take steps to reduce our energy demand, invest in storage, and increase our use of renewables we can hopefully look forward to many days that are fully powered by nature.”

Wind turbines in Scotland supplied 39,454MWh of electricity to the national grid for 24 hours on the 7th. The total consumption for that day was 37,202MWh.

Earlier this year the German renewable energy industry generated enough electricity to meet 100% demand at certain periods but never for a full 24 hours. Last year Denmark’s wind turbines generated 140% on the country’s demand.

A report released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance in 2015 stated that wind power generates the least expensive electricity in both the UK and Germany.

James Court the head of policy at the Renewable Energy Association has spoken out against the government’s cuts which have threatened the entire industry.

“The UK already has 25 per cent of generation from renewables, and that was from a standing start 10 years ago,” he said.

“We are now at a point where renewables such as solar and wind are already cheaper than new gas plants; biomass and energy-from-waste are comparable to new nuclear; and grid-scale energy storage is being deployed commercially in the UK without subsidy.

“Now that renewables are cost competitive with fossil fuels, we need Government to level the playing field. Renewables are being blocked to market by Government policy, just at the time they are commercially viable.”

After last week’s record breaking generation the Scottish Government said in a statement that the “abundant energy resources play a vital role in delivering security of electricity supply across the UK. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting onshore wind, which is one of our most cost-effective low carbon energy technologies.

“We remain fully supportive of low-carbon technologies, which offer a huge economic opportunity for Scotland and have a key role to play in our fight against the threat posed by climate change to our society and natural environment.

“We have a clear policy for an energy mix to provide energy security for the future and will set out our ambitions for an integrated approach to low carbon technologies within our draft energy strategy later this year. This will include exploring the option of setting a new renewable energy target.”

They did however add the warning that “recent decisions taken at UK level have been damaging to key areas of the industry. Going forward we need both a long-term commitment and greater visibility on funding to provide certainty and confidence to developers and investors.”

As new renewable energy capacity levels start to stagnate as they are expected to from next year it will become less likely for records like these to be attained. However in the meantime it is worth celebrating such milestones as we can be proud of what we have achieved over the past ten years.

Scotland is now leading player in the wind generation industry. Those involved are sought throughout the world for their expertise and experience. Our capacity and infrastructure is looked upon with envy by other nations. Our resources are limitless. With the right support we continue to lead and create a safe, clean energy future.

Offshore Wind Potential in the UK

In our previous blog we mentioned that offshore renewable energy could be appealing to the UK government as it offered long term employment solutions in areas with long term employment issues. This week a report commissioned by the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) states that offshore wind has the potential ability to revitalise areas on Scotland’s east coast with facilities at Dundee, Methil, Rosyth, and Nigg having the capability to support a number of projects due to be constructed in the North Sea over the next few years.

The report also confirms that with the correct approach numerous new jobs will be created and the entire east coast will become hub for the European Offshore Wind Industry. Benjii Sykes of Dong Energy the co-chairman of OWIC said at the launch of the report “This review brought together a jointly-led industry and government team to look at some of the fundamental issues which need to be addressed if we are to maximise the benefits of offshore wind development on the east coast of Britain.

“It will provide a springboard for further work to achieve a more co-ordinated approach as we seek to anticipate future demand, promote economic activity at existing ports and continue to build the supply chain.”

The OWIC have been working in partnership with the UK government since 2013 with the aim to develop the offshore wind industry and this latest report was announced by the then energy minister Andrea Leadsom in February.

Greg Clark, the current Secretary for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy said “The UK is the world leader in offshore wind and it’s important we make the most of the many jobs and business opportunities that arise from this growing industry. We’re making £730 million available for renewable electricity generation this parliament, sending a clear signal that the UK is open for business as we build a strong supply chain here.”

Scotland, North East England, and East Anglia were all scrutinised to judge their capability at hosting such developments with the Scottish Government, the Department for International Trade and other agencies to were urged share findings and work together to maximise the economic benefits.

Fabrice Leveque of WWF Scotland said: “This report shows offshore wind could stimulate new economic activity in a number Scotland’s east coast ports, bringing new jobs as well as helping us meet climate targets.

“Although recent decisions by the Westminster Government have created uncertainty for the sector, the Scottish Government should drive progress by setting a new goal to generate 50 per cent of all our energy needs, across electricity, heat and transport, from renewables by 2030.

“This would help ensure that Scotland harnesses its natural resources and captures the benefits of moving to a zero-carbon society.”

The RSPB announced that they are on board with offshore wind especially those in deep water including floating turbines as they would strengthen support for renewables by mitigating wildlife and habitat impacts. In their recently published 2050 Energy Vision report they highlighted the need to meet energy and climate targets via renewable energy projects without risking wildlife in the UK.

The report also claimed that floating offshore wind projects could generate 5,800TWh of energy annually more than four time the country’s annual energy consumption.

Melanie Coath, senior policy officer at the RSPB said “The RSPB is clear that continued Government support for carefully-planned renewable energy into the 2020s is critical to the UK’s long-term energy strategy. There is also an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of innovative technologies like floating wind turbines, if we seize the opportunity now, and make sure we invest in understanding the impacts of those technologies so they can be rolled out in harmony with nature.”

The UK government has indicated that it is willing to support less conventional methods of renewable energy generation including offshore wind. The RSPB have stated they would support projects that have less impact of wildlife. Also they noted that support for offshore projects as well as other renewable energy generation models is vital to revive investor confidence that had dwindled since the government cut back on the support subsidies.

Although we believe that the development of onshore wind hasn’t been exhausted in this country and that it is still the most cost effective method of renewable energy generation we agree that less conventional methods of generation should be supported and promoted by our government.

Offshore wind generation and particularly floating wind turbines is an area which should be thoroughly utilised. As mentioned above the capacity could be massive, giving us the opportunity to sell green energy to the overseas markets. In addition they are kinder to marine wildlife plus they will help regenerated specific areas in the country, boost the local economy and provide jobs.

We wait with interest for the government’s next move.