A New Smart Grid

Traditionally the UK’s electricity network has been a one way supply with a number of large power stations generating electricity and supplying it to the grid. The rise of renewable energy generation from more numerous small scale installations plus a rise in demand for power for electric vehicles however has created a demand for the new smart grid capable of operating efficiently in the 21st century.

SP Energy Networks, one of the UK’s network operators is currently in the process of developing new technologies which will help create this smart grid. Other network operators including SSE Networks and UK Power Networks are also involved and all believe smart technologies could help create mini regional energy markets across the country in addition to the national transmission system. Under the cross industry plans, power from solar panels on properties or from electric vehicles could be sold back to the network, or even directly to neighbours using block-chain technology.

For example a new type of network power transformer transformer, the LV engine project, which can closely control network voltage and power flow and can provide a direct current (DC) power supply – essential for electric vehicle charging – and developed by SP Energy Networks will go through a five year trial funded by Ofgem. LV Engine will be delivered by SP Energy Networks in collaboration with fellow electricity network operator UK Power Networks.

SP Energy Networks will also lead a separate research scheme called FUSION to be trialled in the East Fife area. The project will create the UK’s first intelligent local energy marketplace where energy flexibility can be bought and sold by consumers in an open and competitive market.

Jim McOmish, SP Energy Networks Head of Distribution Networks, said: “Business and residential customers are seeking to maximise the efficiency and lower the cost of their energy use, and the flexibility of their demand for energy is a marketable commodity.

“At the moment there is no open accessible transparent market to buy and sell this flexibility, and the challenge is building one which unlocks that value for everybody – electricity providers on one side and consumers on the other.”

This project could see consumer savings of over £200million and carbon emission reductions of over 3million tonnes.

Frank Mitchell, CEO of SP Energy Networks, said: “These globally innovative projects will enable customers to be fully engaged in the electricity market, creating additional income through local generation and storage, whilst unlocking additional network capacity to make a truly nationwide network of electric vehicles a reality.

“I am delighted to secure this additional funding on behalf of our customers. These awards, which come hot on the heels of another recent Ofgem funding award to roll out the latest network monitoring and control technology in the Dumfries & Galloway area, demonstrate our continued leadership in commercial and technical innovation together with our ongoing ambition and capability to innovate in the best interests of our customers, communities and wider stakeholders.”

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) said Wednesday’s plan is the culmination of almost a year of small-scale trials and marks the start of a “rapid increase” in energy mini-markets in the next six years.

David Smith, boss of the ENA, said the overhaul will help networks to meet the challenge of balancing more complicated energy systems, provide a cash boost to customers, and deliver a £17bn benefit to the UK economy in the coming decades. The economic benefit could rise to as high as £40billion according to Government estimates.

Without doubt there is an energy revolution on the way. The increase in use of electric vehicles is expected to sky rocket over the coming years with traditional petrol and diesel based vehicles being phased out around the globe. As this happens not only will demand rise but the ability to store it will also.

All this demands a new smart grid to ensure that the electricity can flow as readily as needed and stored efficiently when not. The new technologies and projects proposed are therefore very welcome. The long term advantages of creating a new smart grid network will benefit us all and open up more clean, renewable and less expensive electricity to all of us.

 

Scotland’s innovative renewable projects

Scotland is on track to meet its target of 100% of electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020. Since the turn of the century we have gone from producing 10% of electricity from renewables to 60%. We hit our emissions reducing target five years earlier than anticipated and look set to preserve that momentum going forward.

Our transition to renewable energy has been made without any negative impact on the country’s finances demonstrating that there is no need to choose between ecological and economic considerations.

Wind power has played major role in this success with both onshore and offshore developments contributing significantly. Solar has also added its share although not to the same level as wind, as any resident will tell you, it is much more windy than it is sunny here.

It is not only these two major components which are providing clean electricity as more and more innovative ideas and projects are being realised throughout the country. With the reduction of new onshore wind and solar developments to almost zero over the past year it is these new type developments which will keep us on track for hitting and maintaining our targets.

For example in Glenrothes, Fife councillors have granted planning permission for a vast network of underground pipes to be installed throughout the town as part of the Glenrothes District Heating Scheme.

Although the councillors were concerned regarding the extent of pipe laying required committee members were reassured the pipework generally followed the route of roads and unless absolutely necessary would avoid existing utilities and greenspaces with all excavated land being replaced as it is.

The £17million project is being organised by the local council in conjunction with energy company RWE and the Scottish Government with the aim to provide low-carbon heat to both residential and business premises. It will use heat capacity from the local biomass plant and transport it initially to the council’ Fife and Rothesay House. A further 327 homes have been identified as potential beneficiaries as has Rothes Hall, a local library, a social club, a church and a number of shops.

Another example is a pioneering Scottish Government funded trial currently taking place in Aberdeenshire into the use of hydrogen technology to reduce and hopefully eliminate carbon emissions from tractors and other farm vehicles.

A number of farmers are taking part in the trial including David Barron who will using the hydrogen electrolyser technology on his JCB loader tractor. The special hydrolyser has been retrofitted and although it will not replace the vehicles diesel use it will reduce it significantly meaning a reduction in its carbon emission output.

The unit puts an electric current through distilled water to create oxy-hydrogen which is then put through the engine helping to keep it extremely clean. As well as reducing carbon emissions the hydrolyser unit reduced the machine’s fuel consumption by approximately three litres per hour.

Based on a fuel cost of 50p a litre, this equates to a saving of £1.50 an hour and a potential annual saving of £1,500 if the machine is used for 1,000 hours during the year.

Phil Davies, of Water Fuel Engineering Ltd, which fitted the hydrolyser to the loader, said Mr Barron’s JCB was the first agricultural machine in the UK to be fitted with this new technology. He said: “What we have created is an electrolyser which produces oxy-hydrogen on board and on demand.

“We have turned a standard diesel vehicle into a hybrid to clean up the emissions – it takes out about 80% of the emissions.”

He said the company was confident that the technology would be mass produced and commercially available to farmers, at an affordable price, from 2019.

“We are really excited because in the past five to 10 years the government has made a lot of noise about emissions in cities, but in rural areas it’s more significant. What perhaps we will need to be thinking about is how heavy industrial traffic could actually contribute to cleaner air. There’s a danger sometimes that we might take clean air for granted.”

Alan Bruce, of SAC Consulting’s office in Turriff, oversees Nether Aden’s involvement in the government project. He confirmed improved efficiency and reduced carbon emissions went hand in hand.

Mr Barron’s farm is one of nine taking part in the Scottish Government’s Farming for a Better Climate initiative which helps farmers find ways to make their businesses more profitable and efficient, while in turn reducing their carbon footprint.

As well as installing the hydrolyser on his JCB, Mr Barron has discussed a wide range of issues with fellow farmers attending meetings at Nether Aden as part of the Farming for a Better Climate initiative. In addition, Mr Barron has enrolled Nether Aden in the government’s Agri-Environment and Climate Change Scheme and green manure has been incorporated into cropping plans as part of this.

Over the coming years there will be many more creative ideas and inventive projects launched to utilise our renewable sources and continue to reduce our carbon emissions. However small they may seem they all add up and contribute significantly to us meeting our renewable energy generation and carbon emission reductions.

Whilst wind and solar are incredibly important for us is achieving these it is the combined contribution of the small projects that will take us over the line and keep us there.

 

The Balancing Act

A new study from battery developers Eaton in partnership with the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that the cost of generating energy from wind and solar in the UK is expected to halve by 2040 which in turn is expected to lead to more opportunities for energy storage.

The study confirmed that the intermittency of wind and solar energy generation will create extremely varied outputs. This is likely to produce periods when output exceeds demand and also when demand outstrips generation levels.

The study does state that while battery storage is a viable solution to short-term volatility issues it is not well suited to providing long term back-up of weeks or months. To meet these longer-term gaps hydro, interconnectors and gas generation are the only solutions that can ease flexibility economically. Other technologies such as hydrogen storage would require significant cost reductions by 2040.

Speaking at the launch of the study report BNEF’s head of global analysis Albert Cheung said: “This study highlights a seismic shift in how power systems will operate in future. As wind and solar become the cheapest options for power generation, the race is on to develop and deploy the flexible resources that will complement them.”

This new study follows on from the BNEF New Energy Outlook report published in June which stated that renewable energy generation will account for approximately 75% of the projected $10 trillion of global investment in energy technologies by 2040.

The expected back-up capacity is expected to remain relatively flat up to 2040 with current levels being approximately 70GW. This could be balanced via dispatchable resources, generation, storage, flexibility and interconnectors. In the highest output months, the UK could source 70% of its needs from wind and solar and some associations claim that bioenergy could be used to provide the remaining baseload.

Another solution could be found in the Nordic countries where a larger percentage of the energy generation and storage is produced and maintained via hydro-power. While the Nordic countries are expected to produce 67% of their energy in generated by hydro by 2040 the figure in the UK is currently projected to be much lower leading to claims that more hydro generation and hydro storage options are required.

“Massive increases in future renewable power generation mean that industry and government must start planning now to ensure low-carbon, cost-effective ways of balancing demand and supply,” the REA’s chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said.

“We believe that there is a role for fuelled renewable technologies such as bioenergy and energy from waste to provide the complementary baseload generation that will be required, to avoid the need for carbon intensive generation at all.”

Analysis from the Carbon Trust suggests that energy storage could contribute £2.4bn to UK electricity system savings by 2030, but only if a range of ‘necessary regulatory reforms’ are introduced to steady the UK’s energy market.

“These solutions could include continued promotion of smart metering, reforms to increase market openness and transparency for all grid ancillary services and long-term grid service contracts and pricing schemes. We will also analyse the benefits of various policy options for the future of the energy market that include storage,” Eaton’s distributed energy segment manager Louis Shaffer said.

Energy storage is fast becoming one of the hottest topics in generation circles. As countries continue to increase their renewable output viable storage solutions become equally important As with energy generation successful storage will require a mix of different technologies to cater for different situations.   Battery storage will certainly work on a local short-term level. However large scale nationwide supply will require more suitable technologies.

Pump Storage Hydro is considered to be one of the most advanced largest capacity form of grid energy storage that currently exists. This proven technology can help reduce renewable energy curtailment and therefore promote grid stability. For example ILI Group is currently working on three potential large scale developments in Scotland which combined could export over 1.2GW of energy to the grid.

Renewable energy is the answer to clean, safe energy generation. Renewable energy storage will help us overcome intermittency issues and guarantee that whatever the weather we will have a continuous flow of clean energy.

 

A Perfect Match

Wind power was the toast of Scotland again in October as over the course of the month turbines throughout the country produced enough electricity for almost double the amount of homes.

1.7million megawatt hours of electricity were generated by Scottish wind turbines in October according to data collated by WeatherEnergy, enough to power 4.5 million homes with more than 100 per cent of the total domestic electricity requirement generated on 28 out of 31 days.

WeatherEnergy’s Karen Robinson said: “October was an extraordinary month and provides more evidence that greater investment in both renewables and storage is the way forward.”

Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: “No-one will be surprised that October proved to be a spectacular month for wind energy, with some high winds, including the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia.

“Fortunately our infrastructure coped well with the windy weather which provided enough to power nearly twice the number of households in Scotland and almost all of our electricity demand.

“Scotland’s renewable sector is thriving, but to have continued growth of clean, cheap power the UK Government needs to allow onshore wind and solar to compete for contracts on a level playing field.

“This is backed by everyone from the Scottish Government to the National Infrastructure Commission to Ofgem and, most importantly, the general public.

“Renewables, including onshore wind, are riding high in the polls with record levels of support. Consumers, the industry and the planet would all benefit from their continued deployment.”

Stephanie Conesa, policy manager at industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland is home to approximately 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resource and we are now starting to build projects which will harness this potential.

“The Beatrice project in the Moray Firth is forging ahead, Statoil’s world-leading Hywind is now generating electricity and the contract awarded to the 950MW Moray East project by the UK Government in 2017 showed the impressive cost reductions which are possible in the sector.

“Scotland is also emerging as an international centre of offshore wind innovation. The 196 metre Levenmouth turbine in Fife is the world’s most advanced open access offshore wind turbine dedicated to research, while the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre – an 11-turbine scheme off Aberdeen – is set to trial next-generation technology and boost the industry’s drive to produce competitive clean power.

“The economic impact of these projects is already being felt. Ports like Nigg and Wick and coastal towns, including Campbeltown and Stornoway, are seeing investment, development and jobs.

“Other parts of the supply chain, too, are developing apace, with companies such as Edinburgh’s Limpet Technologies developing innovative systems to protect the offshore wind workforce of the future.

“The Scottish Government has shown its ambition to generate the equivalent of half of all energy consumed from renewable sources by 2030 and offshore wind can play a key role in meeting that ambition, as well as the UK’s wider climate goals and our international commitments under the Paris Agreement.”

In other wind generation news the Crown Estate Scotland, who are responsible for leasing the seabed to developers, is to start discussions with the renewables industry and the government to prepare for potential new offshore wind farms.

The proposed new leasing will potentially see more sea bed used by developers to build commercial-scale (100MW+) floating and / or fixed offshore wind farms and follows figures released in September showing a sharp fall in the cost of offshore wind electricity.

John Robertson, senior development manager at Crown Estate Scotland said: “We have now started to consider if and how to issue new leasing rights for commercial-scale offshore wind projects.

“This will include speaking to local, Scottish and UK stakeholders in 2018 to understand their views on our proposed approach.

“The waters around Scotland have fantastic potential, particularly for developments in deeper waters.

“With costs being lowered and jobs created throughout the supply chain, new leasing has the potential to benefit communities, consumers and the climate.”

Scottish Government minister for business, innovation and energy, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, said: “The potential benefits of offshore wind energy are enormous, given Scotland’s very extensive maritime area and estimated 25% share of Europe’s wind energy potential.

“Investment in renewable energy, such as offshore wind, will not only stimulate economic growth, but can also help to lower electricity prices in the future and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, thereby, mitigate the impacts of climate change.

“We want to maximise the huge potential of this industry and its supply chain here, in Scotland, and so I welcome Crown Estate Scotland’s efforts to identify future licensing opportunities and look forward to working with CES as they manage Scotland’s marine assets directly on behalf of Scottish Ministers.”

UK Government energy minister, Richard Harrington, said: “The offshore wind sector in the UK has shown great ambition and is bringing forward clean energy projects that could power more than 3 million homes, at half the cost achieved in previous auctions.

“Our Clean Growth Strategy sets out that the UK could support another 10GW of offshore wind in the 2020s, with the opportunity for more if it’s cost effective. This announcement today is an important step towards these future projects.”

We have always stated that a diverse renewable energy mix is the best way to generate power and stand by that. However wind generation is very much the leader in Scotland. Its technologies are tested and reliable. Its costs are now below that of the non-renewable traditional generation methods and we have the resources. It is a perfect match.

So while it is not surprising to see it producing such quantities of electricity it is pleasing. With new storage methods coming online the ability to produce, store, and distribute renewable energy to suit the peaks and troughs of consumer demand is not far away.

And with that will come the realisation of 100% of the country’s electricity demand being met by renewables. Then we can start importing to other countries all the while reducing our reliance on carbon based energy and the harmful emissions it can produce.

 

Positives and Negatives for the UK Renewables Industry

New statistics released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) last week revealed an extensive  downturn in solar PV development in the UK.  In particular, the last two months shown, August and September, have seen just 13MW and 12MW installed respectively.

Since the closure of the Renewables Obligation for solar in March 2017 a similar level of new capacity has been added to the grid. In Q1 2017 it is estimated that 541 MW in capacity was added with Q2 and Q3 only deploying 77MW combined.

The government has committed to conduct a review of the feed-in tariff scheme before the end of this year, however resisted the chance to do so within its Clean Growth Strategy which largely ignored solar PV’s possible contribution to a cleaner power system.

However the stagnating solar deployment has been set against a backdrop of record renewables and low carbon generation in Q2 2017, indicating just how successful renewable energy has been at replacing legacy fossil fuel generators within the UK power mix.

BEIS revealed last week that a record 29.8% from renewable energies which was largely driven by soaring wind and PV generation.

James Court, head of policy and external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association, described the record as “another milestone” towards a more flexible energy system and said the success had been facilitated by the fall in costs of solar and wind.

“The government must address the policy barriers which have unnecessarily impeded their deployment over the last year and give the industry clarity around how the market will be structured in the 2020’s.

“We must now also replicate this progress within the heat and transport sectors. This means deploying renewable technologies which are able to utilise resources such as waste, bioenergy and low carbon power, coupled with smarter and more efficient housing. There is no single silver bullet.”

While solar stagnates heat pump technology continues to grow with new pioneering scheme to be developed in Clydebank. The development will use water pumped from the nearby River Clyde and will form part of the £250million Queen’s Quay regeneration project, the site chosen for the scheme has been the now disused John Brown’s shipyard.

Commenting on news that plans have been submitted Sarah Beattie-Smith, Senior Climate and Energy Policy Officer at WWF Scotland said: “Cutting our reliance on fossil fuels for heating our homes and buildings is the critical next stage in the journey to a zero carbon Scotland.  This exciting new project would apply technology already tried and tested by Scottish companies overseas.

“It’s fantastic to think that having played host to the industrial revolution the Clyde can now be the source of renewable heat, helping to stimulate Scotland’s part in the global low carbon industrial revolution.  With Scotland having no shortage of rivers or coastline near our towns and cities this technology could play an important role in helping us ensure half of all Scotland’s energy needs across heat, electricity and transport are met by renewables by 2030.”

Whilst renewable energy generation continues to produce high quantities of clean electricity heat generation is still highly carbon intensive. As heat generation accounts for half of all energy use it is therefore imperative to continue to develop technologies and launch projects in the renewable heat sector.

As more of these types are projects are launched we will see our reliance on carbon intensive heat technologies reduce much in the way we have seen renewable energy revolutionise electricity generation.

The answer will not be as simple as wind turbines or solar panels and the works involved may be more costly and initially on a smaller scale but in the long term the value is incalculable.

Scotland’s floating wind farm officially opens

The world’s first floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland exported electricity to the grid for the first time this week. The ground breaking development fifteen miles from Peterhead in the North East of the country was formally opened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday.

The project, developed by Norwegian state energy company Statoil, consists of five 6MW Siemens Gamesa machines atop Navantia-made floating spar foundations which are suitable for water depths of up to 800 metres. A one megawatt-hour lithium battery storage solution called Batwind will also be installed as part of the project.

Floating turbines have been installed on about 2.5 square miles (four sq km) of water in the North Sea, where the average wind speed is about 10 metres per second. At 175m from sea surface to blade tip they extend another 78 metres below the surface and are chained to the seabed to stay in place.

Norwegian energy firm Statoil has been working on developing the project, known as Hywind, for more than 15 years. The floating approach allows turbines to be installed in much deeper waters than conventional offshore wind farms.

This wind farm is positioned in water depths of up to 129m, whereas those fixed to the seabed are generally at depths of up to 50m. Statoil says up to 80 per cent of potential offshore wind sites are in waters more than 60m deep. The company believes floating turbines have the potential to work in depths of up to 800m.

The first minister said the project, which will generate enough power for about 20,000 homes, was testament to Scotland’s “international reputation” for renewable energy.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland has developed an international reputation for modern, renewable energy technologies and Hywind Scotland – the world’s first floating wind farm – is testament to that.

“This pilot project underlines the potential of Scotland’s huge offshore wind resource and positions Scotland at the forefront of the global race to develop the next generation of offshore wind technologies. In addition to the green benefits of renewable energy, it also has a very significant contribution to make to our economy.

“I’m pleased Scottish suppliers have contributed to the Hywind project from the development through to the production phase and are still involved to investigate long-term potential for floating wind. This has been possible through the unique support which we have made available in Scotland.”

Environmental campaigners also welcomed the opening, with Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland, “With around a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind resource in Scotland, it’s great to see the world’s first floating wind farm inaugurated off our coast.

“Offshore wind is already an industrial success story across the UK, cutting emissions, creating jobs and dramatically driving down costs.

“By demonstrating the commercial viability of floating wind, Scotland can help to develop the industry in new frontiers and deeper waters. With this kind of innovation and investment, and continued political support, Scotland will continue to power towards our target of securing half of all our energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.”

Scottish Renewables chief executive Claire Mack said: “Hywind’s presence in Scottish waters is a reminder that, as the windiest country in Europe, and with some of the deepest waters and most promising offshore wind sites, Scotland is perfectly placed to capitalise on floating turbine technology.

“That deployment, through sites like Hywind and the Kincardine project further south will help lower costs for this young sector, increasing the opportunity for Scotland to take advantage of a significant future global market.”

We previously wrote about the Hywind project when the turbines were first floated back in August and we are delighted to report the official project launch. Wind generation has proven to be clean, reliable, and cost effective. When it comes to producing electricity it is the most advanced of the renewable technologies. Wind speeds are higher on average offshore and the extra distance these floating turbines can be set at increases potential capacity even further.

After a period of production it is expected that the technology will be rolled out to all Scottish offshore waters increasing our generation capacity and continuing to make positive strides towards our goal of 100% of electricity generated from renewable sources.

We believe that this week is a landmark in achieving this goal and will be remembered as such for many years to come.

Scotland’s Public Energy Company

At the SNP party conference earlier this week in Glasgow First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to create a new state owned energy provider. The main aims of this new venture would be to promote renewable energy generation and help reduce rising energy costs for consumers.

Energy generated or resold by the new company would be available across Scotland as an alternative to privately owned providers such are Scottish Power, Scottish Gas, and Scottish and Southern Energy.

In her announcement Ms Sturgeon claimed that the company would be incorporated by 2021, supplying both electricity and gas and would give consumers in Scotland the option to switch to a supplier only concerned with securing the lowest price for customers.

Ms. Sturgeon also stated that the company would be fully operational by end of the current parliament and that more details will be set out in the government’s forthcoming energy strategy.

“Energy would be bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland – renewable, of course – and sold to customers as close to cost price as possible,” she said. “No shareholders to worry about. No corporate bonuses to consider. “It would give people – particularly those on low incomes – more choice and the option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for consumers.”

Both the Labour and Conservative Parties have recently announced energy price cap policies with Labour also having recently suggested a not for profit energy provider. Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley accused the SNP of “passing off” his party’s policies as her own and an attempt to address fears among senior SNP strategists of a Labour revival in Scotland. However the SNP had pledged to explore the option of a new publicly owned, not for profit energy company during the campaign for last year’s Holyrood election.

Responding to Ms Sturgeon’s speech, Mr Rowley said: “From a not-for-profit energy company to teacher training bursaries, action on period poverty and promises on public sector pay, this conference shows that it is Labour which is setting the policy agenda in Scotland.”

Emma Grant McColm, energy spokesperson for the Citizens Advice Scotland Consumer Futures Unit last night cautiously backed the announcement. “We would welcome any intervention that genuinely increases fairness for energy consumers,” she said.

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said a state-owned energy firm could provide a “one-stop-shop” or gateway to accessing public funds.

We at ILI Energy see both positives and negatives in this announcement however it also raises many questions which we believe have to be answered sufficiently prior to it becoming operational. As they plan to generate at least some of the energy it will be providing they will have to own energy generation installations.

Will it be developing these themselves or will they be looking to purchase them from developers? How does this affect planning for such developments especially since the Scottish Government is currently involved in the planning stages of large scale installations?

As they also plan to buy energy and effectively be a reseller much in the same way as Robin Hood Energy and Bristol Energy in England who will they be buying it from and will they have long term power purchase agreements? How will they decide who to buy it from?

Also how will these meet concerns with competition regulations? As stated we are not against this however we strongly believe that a lot has to be satisfied before it can become viable.

That said we are very much for affordable clean energy for all and if this is a mechanism which can achieve this in a way which is commercially fair then it could be beneficial for all of Scotland.

 

Positive news for Islands amid future energy uncertainty

As part of their 2017 election manifesto the Conservative party pledged to support land based wind turbines in Shetland as long as the community benefit from any development. However no timescale was attributed to the pledge.

Local newspaper ‘The Shetland Times’ learned this week that an announcement is due later this month when it is hoped that information relating to the proposal will produce definitive plans for future developments and end the uncertainty over the islands’ energy supply.

Industry regulator Ofgem recently released a proposal stating that a 60MW subsea cable from Dounreay on the mainland could be connected to the islands however this would require backup provided by diesel engines. Alternate plans for a new power station at Rova Head in Lerwick were scrapped as Ofgem claimed it didn’t offer value.

This new proposal has been met with resistance from local councillors who this week published a special report focusing on the limitations of the supply only cable in particular concerns that Shetland’s potential as an exporter of energy will be delayed and even lost if the ability to export electricity to the mainland is lost.

Development committee Chairman Alastair Cooper remains optimistic. Speaking to ‘The Shetland Times’ he said: “Ofgem and National Grid needs the UK government to clarify its position. They’re actually dealing with a situation that is in front of them today. They’re having to deal with the situation as they have it.

“If the UK government would provide clarity on the remote island wind they may even, at this late stage, still be able to take a better decision.”

While Shetland is experiencing issues with potential renewable generation, further south the picture is much rosier. This week industry giant Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) released figures showing the impact renewable energy community contributions had affected the Perth and Kinross area in a positive way over the past year. In total £518,000 was delivered in support of local groups and projects.

Forty eight local projects in total have benefitted from the fund including the Tayside Mountain Rescue Association which was awarded £25,000 from the Griffin and Calliachar Fund to purchase a new communications command vehicle.

The thirty strong volunteer team assist those in need on mountains, local rivers, canyons and cycle trails. The new vehicle will assist in the safety of expeditions until at least 2030 and will also be used to educate the community on staying safe while outdoors.

Stuart Johnston, team leader, said: “The funding will help to protect our mountain rescue volunteers and the people we rescue. Our new incident command vehicle provides essential support for volunteer safety.”

Others to benefit from the community fund included Dunkeld and Birnam Friends of Guiding who received £70,000 towards restorations to their meeting hall and the Alyth Development Trust which received £22,000 to help support the Alyth Town Development Plan.

The SSE report published last week also stated that for every £1 received from the fund, recipients obtained an additional £5.26 in match funding from other sources.

SSE head of sustainability Rachel McEwen said: “We hope that these projects will leave a lasting legacy for the local communities in Perth and Kinross and that the success of these projects will encourage more groups to come forward and apply for funding.”

SSE’s community investment annual review documents every award made from SSE’s 27 community benefit funds. In total, 402 not-for-profit projects received grants to the value of £4,965,322 in the 12-month period.

Due to location Shetland unfortunately missed out on the renewable energy boom of the past ten years so it was very welcome to see the government pledge to support new onshore wind farm developments on the islands. However the delay in any further information plus the recent Ofgem recommendation is concerning.

The islands are particularly windy, even for Scotland, and therefore their ability to generate a surplus of electricity would almost be guaranteed. Add the advancements in battery technology and the right amount of strategic developments and the islands could be powering themselves, and others, cleanly and safely for the foreseeable future. We strongly hope the outcome of the forthcoming announcement is positive for the entire island community.

Further south things are very different. Community contributions have in the past been perceived by detractors as a negative, playing their part in convincing local communities to allow turbines in the area. However time and time again it has been shown the majority of those living close to wind farms do not feel negative towards them whether they benefit from community funds or not.

In most cases, almost everyone does either directly or indirectly and when such worthwhile causes such as Mountain rescue teams receive a boost it is difficult to frame it as a negative.

Renewable energy and wind power in particular is now less expensive than the majority of alternative generation sources providing clean, safe energy for everyone. Local communities are benefitting in a number of different ways through funds including skills, education, community facilities and services.

All in all we do not see any negatives and believe that in the future we will be powered 100% from renewable energy. We also believe it won’t be that far in the future.

The cost of Wind Power continues to fall

Like all new technologies when they first enter the commercial market, wind turbines were costly and therefore the cost of generating electricity from them was higher than the more established methods. Over time the cost started to fall as the technology became more widely used and more widely understood and this pattern continued as more turbines were installed throughout the country.

However certain factions continued to claim that the cost of generating electricity via wind was high, particularly in relation to other more traditional methods of generation.  They had their reasons for perpetuating this false claim but such was their influence that when discussing our industry with those on the outside we were often asked ‘isn’t that very expensive?’ and ‘doesn’t that mean higher costs for consumers?’

This myth however was shattered this week in a new round of CfDs (Contracts for Difference) for the energy sector in which two energy companies proposed to build offshore wind farms and generated electricity for export to the grid for a guaranteed price of £57.50 per megawatt hour.

In comparison the proposed new nuclear power plant Hinkley Point C has secured a guaranteed price of £92.50 per megawatt hour.

Emma Pinchbeck, from the wind energy trade body Renewable UK, speaking to the BBC about the latest figures said they were “truly astonishing”.

“We still think nuclear can be part of the mix – but our industry has shown how to drive costs down, and now they need to do the same.”

The nuclear industry unsurprisingly agree and state that due to the intermittency of wind power and the winding down of carbon intensive generation nuclear is needed now more than ever.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) also speaking to the BBC, said: “It doesn’t matter how low the price of offshore wind is. On last year’s figures it only produced electricity for 36% of the time.”

EDF, which is building the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, said the UK still needed a “diverse, well-balanced” mix of low-carbon energy.

“New nuclear remains competitive for consumers who face extra costs in providing back-up power when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. There are also costs of dealing with excess electricity when there is too much wind or sun,” a spokesperson for the multinational said.

They also stated that like wind, energy from nuclear power will become less expensive as markets mature however history has taught us that this isn’t the case as the cost of generating electricity via nuclear power has continued to rise since the 1950s.

Also both EDF and the NIA conveniently forgot to mention the rise of battery storage which in its many forms is tackling the problem of intermittency head-on without the production of dirty nuclear waste and the potential threat of meltdown.

Dong Energy were one of the two companies to successfully bid for the contract for phase two of what will become the world’s largest offshore, the 1.4 gigawatt Hornsea project.

Dong is currently building the first phase of the Hornsea project, which has a capacity for 1.2 GW and was guaranteed a price of £140 per MWh. Phase two of the project, which will be built 89 kilometres off the Yorkshire coast, will produce enough energy to power over 1.3m UK homes. It is expected to be operational from 2022.

“This is a breakthrough moment for offshore wind in the UK and a massive step forward for the industry. Not only will Hornsea project two provide low cost, clean energy to the UK, it will also deliver high quality jobs and another huge boost to the UK supply chain,” said ​Matthew Wright, managing director for Dong Energy UK.

Dong has already started the consultation process for Hornsea project three which will add more jobs and income to the UK economy and if completed along with the first two phases will generate enough power for 3.6million homes.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s figures were released after an auction for subsidies, in which the lowest bidder wins. In 2015, offshore wind farm projects won subsidies between £114 and £120 MWh meaning that in the two years since offshore wind subsidies have fallen by at least 50% with the reductions attributed to the downturn in the oil and gas sector, the availability of larger turbines and a more competitive supply chain leading to lower costs across the renewable sector.

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of energy industry body Energy UK, called on ministers to build on the UK’s lead in renewables.

He said: “This (auction) shows what can be achieved by providing the necessary certainty for investment, which drives down the cost of decarbonisation, benefits customers and the wider economy, and creates highly skilled jobs and stimulates growth in rural economies.”

Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green Party, said the figures achieved should be the “nail in the coffin” for new nuclear; “While clean, green wind power has the potential to seriously cut people’s bills, the Government’s undying commitment to new nuclear risks locking us into sky-high prices for years to come.

“The Government should now commit to this technology – and scale up investment in offshore wind so that it becomes the backbone of British energy.”

I don’t think even the most pro-nuclear power campaigner can say that these figures are good news for their industry. Hinkley, still not built will now receive subsidies for the next 35 years at least 60% more costly than offshore wind.

New nuclear power plants in Suffolk and Wales are expected to be less than Hinkley but even then it is highly unlikely to be less than £80 per MWh, still much more expensive than the most recent offshore wind figures.

Wind farms are also much cheaper to build than nuclear plants and can be developed in stages. They are also constructed much quicker with UK wind farms boasting an excellent record of on time completion. Yes, there is intermittency but as alluded to above, new storage solutions added to smart grid technologies are expected to negate these issues in the near future.

Wind is proving to be an inexpensive modern viable energy option while nuclear trails somewhere far behind. With the government due to publish a major review on the cost of energy next month our hope is the wind is very much on their expansion agenda whilst at the same time we see an end of new nuclear power plants.

We believe that clean inexpensive renewable energy is the best option for everyone, economically and environmentally it makes sense.

Scotland’s Electric Future

Scotland’s longest road, the A9, is to be fitted with electrical charging points its entire length from Falkirk in central Scotland, through Inverness and on to Scrabster Harbour in the very north of the country. At the launch of the project First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the road will show that electric vehicles can offer important advantages to motorists in rural as well as urban settings.

Speaking at the launch she said “Over the next few months we will set out detailed plans to massively expand the number of electric charging points in rural, urban and domestic settings. We will make the A9, already a major infrastructure project, Scotland’s first fully electric-enabled highway.

“This is an exciting challenge and one I hope all members and the whole country will get behind. It sends a message to the world – we look to the future with excitement, we welcome innovation and we want to lead it.”

The policy which is part of the Climate Change Bill also includes the phasing out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans and promoting ultra low emission vehicles by 2032, eight years earlier the current UK Government proposal.

Scotland currently has more than 1,800 charge points – around 15% of the UK total and the highest of any UK region with further plans to expand Scotland’s EV charging infrastructure right across urban, rural and domestic areas between now and 2022, with promises of financial support for local solutions and small-scale research into challenges surrounding charge points, particularly in domestic tenement properties.

The government also plans to transform public sector car and van fleets by the mid 2020s and commercial bus fleets by the early 2030s.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The A9 already has a number of fast and rapid chargers at strategic locations. We recognise that as electric vehicle driver numbers increase so must our charge point numbers to ensure that drivers have the support and confidence to travel the country without experiencing ‘range anxiety’.

“To support our ambition of phasing out the need for petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032, we will continue to work with each of our delivery partners to further develop the A9, making it Scotland’s first electric highway.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Richard Dixon welcomed the plans as “the greenest programme for government in the history of the Scottish Parliament.

“The Scottish Government has put improving and protecting the environment at the heart of their legislative and policy programme. Promises here will reduce climate change emissions, save people from air pollution and help Scotland become a leading example of a low carbon country. This package is a very significant step towards a fossil-free Scotland.”

Scottish Renewables deputy chief executive Jenny Hogan welcomed “recognition of the economic, environmental and social value of renewable energy.

“The announcement of £60million to deliver cutting-edge low-carbon energy infrastructure like electricity battery storage and sustainable heating systems will build on the success of projects already announced under the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme and further enable our shift to a cleaner, greener economy.

“A focus on ultra-low emission vehicles, and particularly a drive to encourage their uptake by public bodies, will help move our transport system to one powered increasingly by renewables. A new Climate Change Bill which will toughen Scotland’s statutory 2050 greenhouse gas emission target will provide a context for the further development of our industry, enabling renewables to continue to reduce emissions and drive sustainable economic growth.”

While the Scottish Government is planning our carbon free future a new offshore wind farm, which will provide a slice of the clean energy required is according to the University of Strathclyde, expected to contribute £827.4 million to the country’s GDP.

The 450MW Neart Na Gaoithe project could see capital expenditure of up to £2 billion, with around £510 million of this to be spent in Scotland. Operational expenditure is expected to total around £1.7 billion over the project’s 25-year life, with around £610 million of this to be spent within the country.

The wind farm will also support around 13,900 jobs over its construction and operation. The majority of the jackets and piles that make up the turbine structures and half of all maintenance will be procured within Scotland. The facility is expected to go into operation during 2021.

Jenny Hogan, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “These new figures show the huge potential offshore wind offers to Scotland’s economy, in addition to the key role it has in tackling climate change.”

With Scotland producing record amounts of clean renewable electricity it makes sense to promote clean use policies. Our transport energy use is one of the largest contributors to our carbon emissions so an increase in charging points along with a constant reduction in new petrol and diesel cars will greatly reduce our overall emissions.

The definitive reduction targets as part of the Paris climate deal will not be easy to meet but it is our obligation to do so. Government policies like those above are therefore necessary for us to achieve these targets.

We will one day all be driving electric cars that much we can now be sure about. The pace of uptake has pleasantly surprised us and as the technology continues to improve, particularly covering the issue of range, we expect this to increase further.

The government policies will also speed up use and as our carbon emissions reduce everyone will benefit.