Renewable links with Isles move a step closer

Last week the abundant renewable energy potential of the Scottish Isles and Islands took a step closer to being unlocked.

A report published last week for the Scottish and UK Governments by consultancy group Xero Energy has highlighted the actions which will need to be taken to ensure that the renewable resources available in areas such as the Shetland and Orkney Islands are available to the mainland. Much work will need to carried out to ensure that grid infrastructure is improved.

The key findings of the report are to considered by the intergovernmental Scottish Islands Renewables Group. These meetings are part of an ongoing collaborative process between the two governments to ensure that both Scottish and UK Renewable Energy 2020 targets are reached. Some of the reports key findings are as follows; certainty has to be provided for developers around the longevity of support from government which underpins the business case for sub-sea grid development,  the stability of grid charges, loan charges, and research funding support for grid connections for marine technologies such as tidal turbines.

One of the proposed sub-sea cables would stretch 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Gravis on the Isle of Lewis to Ullapool on the North-Western coast of Scotland. This cable would then link up to Beauly to Denny powerline. Great strides have been made on the Isles to unlock their renewable resources (work in which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have been involved in) but grid connections have to be improved to allow power to be exported to the mainland.

Commenting on the publication of the report Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing commented:

“I welcome the publication of the Xero report, which will help us to address the critical remaining barriers to new transmission connections for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland Islands.

“The three island groups share significant challenges in getting grid connections off the drawing board in time to access support within the timeframe of the first Electricity Market Reform Delivery due to long lead-times and high costs for sub-sea connections – typically, upwards of four years to achieve approval and to build. The findings from this report will help us deal with these issues.

“There is wide acknowledgement across both the Scottish and UK Governments that the Scottish islands hold huge renewable energy potential, which could make a substantial contribution to both governments’ 2020 renewable energy targets and longer-term climate change ambitions.

“Our collaborative approach is based on this shared understanding, and through the work of the inter-governmental Scottish Islands Renewables Group, we will continue to build momentum towards delivery of these vital connections.”

UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey also released a statement:

“This report will play an important part in the next stage of our partnership work for renewable energy from the Scottish islands. We have already made more progress in the last year than for many years, after the UK Government announced last December additional support for onshore wind projects, with a special higher Scottish Islands strike price. While that initiative itself should unlock much potential green energy, I’m determined to tackle remaining issues despite the complexity involved.”

Last week also saw the publication of the Scottish Government’s Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Onshore Renewable Developments following an extensive period of consultation. These Principles have been designed to ensure that communities benefit from renewable energy developments in their area. The Scottish Government has already established a register of community benefits to allow communities to make sure they receive an appropriate  level of community benefit.

The key principle which has been unveiled is the promotion of a national community benefits package rate equivalent of at least £5,000 per Megawatt per year – index linked to inflation for the operational lifespan of developments. This would mean that, for example, a 20 Megawatt wind would generate a community benefit of at least £100,000 per year. At this point we are pleased to tell you that all of our developments at ILI (RE) already meet these requirements. All of our onshore wind developments have always included a community benefit which is directed to our local charity partners to ensure that communities benefit from our developments; even at the time when community benefits were not required by either national or local authorities.

Another key proposal of the new guidance is to encourage developers to to submit information on community benefits at the earliest possible stage of development. This is to allow communities to consider any proposals and develop ideas as to where such funding would be directed. Again we at ILI (RE) have always been proud of our community benefits and charity partnerships and have always sought to make local authorities aware of these.

Speaking at the fifth annual Scottish Highland Renewable Energy Conference Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing launched the publication of the Principles:

“Community benefits from renewable energy offer a unique and unprecedented opportunity to communities across Scotland. Today, I can confirm that there is now around 285 megawatts of such capacity operational across Scotland. That puts us well over half way towards the target, and represents an increase of 40 per cent on the previous year’s figure.

“The Good Practice Principles is a landmark moment in encouraging developers to invest in community benefit schemes arising from renewables development and overall contribute to our target.

“This Guidance has drawn mainly on experience from the onshore wind sector but the Scottish Government would like to see community benefits promoted across all renewables technologies.

“This document details good practice principles and procedures promoted by Scottish Government, and is intended as a practical guide to the process but also, through examples of what is already being achieved, as a showcase to inspire success.

“Featured schemes include the Allt Dearg Community Wind Farm, which, through partial community-ownership, generated £130,000 for the Ardrishaig Community Trust in the first nine months of operation to September 2013, and which is expected to generate £100,000 in annual income to the Trust.

“The Scottish Government is very keen to see other communities get the chance to invest in local developments like this, and that is why as part of the Principles we have set up a short-term industry working group to develop guidance to encourage community investment in commercial renewables schemes.”

Finally, this week saw the publication of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s latest (and ninth) quarterly Public Attitudes Tracker. The survey was conducted in over 2,000 UK households in late March and has allowed the government to keep track of public opinion and support for renewable energy. The results of the survey have revealed that public support for renewable energy has remained strong.

Indeed, 80% of respondents stated that they “supported the use of renewable energy to provide the UK’s electricity, fuel and heat”. Public levels of support have remained strong over the two year period in which these surveys have been carried out. This is despite the anti-renewables line taken by some mainstream media outlets over the course of this period. A majority of 59% of respondents stated that they would be happy to have a large scale renewable energy development in their area. This is a 4% increase compared to the survey published in March 2012 perhaps suggesting that more and more people are realizing the necessity of increasing the UK’s renewable energy capacity and the benefits which a renewable energy development can bring to an area.

It is also interesting to note that public support for individual forms of renewable energy generation have been unaffected by negative coverage in some parts of the media. Public support for onshore wind energy has reached an all time high of 70% indicating the public desire for more onshore wind developments. Both solar and offshore wind also saw record levels of support of  85% and 77% respectively.

One reason suggested for the entrenchment of public support for renewable energy is the increasing level of concern about climate change. According to survey climate change and energy security are now the joint fourth “biggest challenges facing the UK today”. The link between renewable energy and concern about climate change was illustrated by the publication of a report by the United Nations a few weeks ago; which outlined in the strongest possible terms that it is only through greatly increased use of renewable energy that disastrous climate change may be avoided.

With the media’s role in shaping public opinion on matters of energy generation under the spotlight it is extremely interesting to read the survey results on shale gas fracking. Some aspects are hugely in favor of shale gas fracking and have promoted it accordingly. Public awareness of the process of fracking has increased. In March 2013 48% of survey respondents were unaware of the process; this has now decreased to 25%. But, increased awareness has not translated into increased support. Under 30% of respondents supported shale gas fracking; very much a minority and very much in contrast to the majority support received by renewable energy.

Reading the news this week one can see the image of a renewably powered UK beginning to take shape. With a majority of the public in favor, community benefit guidelines being established and moving a step closer to unlocking the renewable potential of the Scottish Isles one can see the direction in which we are heading. We at ILI (RE) look forward to playing our part in realizing this.

Wind energy save EU €2.4 billion worth of water a year

A report published last week by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has highlighted the cost to the union of non-renewable forms of electricity generation.

The report, entitled ‘Saving Water with Wind Energy’, has revealed both the amount of water which is used for energy generation within the European Union each year and the amount of money which this costing taxpayers and consumers across the continent.

It should first be noted that wind energy generation is saving Europe around €2.4 billion every year. This figure represents the cost of the water which would have been incurred had the electricity generated from wind power had been generated in more traditional ways. This figure was for the year for 2012. Given the strides that wind power has made across Europe it can be concluded that this figure has risen since then and shall continue to do so.

Startlingly, 44% of the water used within the European Union is used in power generation. It should be noted that the vast majority of this 44% is used in traditional power plants. For example nuclear and coal plants which require vast amounts of water for cooling. Energy production is by far the biggest use of water within the European Union. In comparison agriculture only represents 34% of water demand, the public water supply only 21% and industry accounts for only 11%. In total 4.5 billion cubic meters of water are used by nuclear, coal and gas firing plants every year.

Given that demand for water is increasing due to population growth and density increase as well as pressures placed upon the environment by climate change water efficiency will become an increasingly important issue in the coming years. Already at least 11% of European Union citizens are affected by water scarcity – for example in the South East of England were droughts and hose-pipe bans are now an annual occurrence. Using huge amounts of water to produce electricity only exacerbates these issues.

Renewable forms of energy generation require far less water to operate than more traditional and large scale technologies. Nuclear power uses the most water to produce power; on average 2.7 cubic meters of water are needed to produce a single megawatt hour. Coal is slightly less intensive requiring 1.9 cubic meters of water for every megawatt hour and gas is further less intensive requiring 0.7 cubic meters per megawatt hour. However in comparison the amount of water required to produce a megawatt hour of wind power is minimal. Wind turbines only require water for infrequent blade cleanage and generator cooling.

Indeed the EWEA report estimated that usage of wind turbines in 2012 reduced the EU’s energy industry’s water usage by 1.2 billion cubic meters – the annual water usage of 4% of the EU’s population. Again these figures will have increased given the increase in wind capacity seen throughout the EU’s member states. 1.2 billion cubic meters saved represents €2.4 billion saved. Furthermore given the consensus existing among many economists that water is heavily undervalued the true savings could be far higher.

The EWEA’s head of policy analysis Ivan Pineda commented at the publication of the report:

“Water equivalent to over three Olympic size swimming pools is consumed every minute of every day of the year to cool Europe’s nuclear, coal and gas plants. Increasing our use of wind energy will help preserve this precious resource far more effectively than any ban on watering the garden– while saving us money”.

The report projected that by 2030 wind energy will save the EU between 4.3 and 6.4 billion cubic meters of water per year. This would represent a financial saving of between €11.8 and €17.4 billion per year. Given the expectation that water usage and efficiency will become an increasingly part of resource management governments across the European Union are being urged to factor such considerations into energy policy. Industry trade body RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber commented:

“Water is a very precious resource – water restrictions were imposed in the UK in the summer of 2012 in areas hit by drought. One of the many benefits of wind energy is that it requires hardly any water to keep generating. This report is a timely reminder of the environmental impact of other technologies which use vast amounts of water for cooling. When Governments set energy policy, they should take this into account – it’s not just the carbon footprint that matters, but also the water swallowed up by these other thirsty generators”

In other news, this week SSE exported power from it’s offshore wind testing facility to the National Grid for the first time. The facility, sited on the North Ayrshire coast is the UK’s first, and currently only, onshore test site for offshore turbines. The site was established with support from both the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change and Scottish Enterprise.The Ayrshire site has similar wind conditions to those found offshore. The currently operational turbine is a 6MW Siemens 154 direct drive machine, some 177 meters high. Work has already begun to install the site’s second turbine; a 7MW Mitsubishi model. This is expected to be operational by the autumn.

The commencement of power exportation has been enthusiastically greeted. Clark MacFarlane, Managing Director, Siemens Wind Power Offshore UK&I said:

“We are delighted with the news of first power for our 6MW turbine at Hunterston. This is another important milestone for our next generation wind turbine technology. The SSE and Siemens team has worked extremely hard to get to this point and should feel proud of their achievement in delivering this important clean energy project.”

Ian Flannagan, SSE’s Project Construction Manager, said:

“It’s great to see the Siemens wind turbine generating electricity for the first time which is testament to the hard work and commitment shown by everyone involved in the project.

“We are busy preparing the site ahead of the second turbine, a Mitsubishi SeaAngel 7MW offshore wind model, arriving in a few months time.”

UK Energy and Climate Minister, Greg Barker said:

“SSE Renewable’s test site for offshore wind turbines is an exciting and innovative project. It will help the country take another step towards delivering £110 billion investment into our energy sector while helping to support local jobs.”

The success of the offshore turbine testing site is good news for the UK’s wind industry ensuring that it’s world leading position is maintained.

The report published by the EWEA serves to underline the many benefits which wind energy generation has; increasing both energy and water security, reducing CO2 emissions and combating climate change and helping to keep energy bills down by reducing reliance upon fossil fuel imports. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are proud to be doing our part to increase the UK’s wind energy generation capacity.

Construction begins on £1bn Grid Link

Construction work has begun this week on the new £1 billion grid link between Hunterston in Ayrshire and Connah’s Quay in Wales. This marks the commencement of what is expected to be the first of several major grid upgrade projects which are to be carried out across the UK.

The 260 mile (418 kilometer) long undersea electricity transmission line is expected to be fully operational by 2016. The project will directly support 450 jobs during the construction period. This is a joint venture between Scottish Power and the National Grid. The new link, the first sub-sea link between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, could increase the capacity of electricity moving between Scotland and England by 2,000 megawatts. This represents enough electricity to power more than 4 million British homes.

The inter-connector, known as the Western Link HVDC (high-voltage direct-current) project is intended to open up the potential for Scottish wind energy to be supplied to areas of high population density, high-energy demand and low renewable generation potential found over the border. Such a move not only creates a bigger market and more demand for Scottish wind power but it also helps both the UK and Scotland meet their renewable energy targets. A similar project is being planned for the East Coast.

Announcing the commencement of construction Scottish Power’s chairman Ignacio Galan commented:

“We are pleased to mark the start of construction on this hugely ambitious sub-sea electricity connection project.

“Our engineers are currently delivering some of the most important upgrades to the electricity network for more than half a century, with billions of pounds being invested and thousands of jobs being supported and created.

“The Western Link project will act as a benchmark for similar developments around the world, as the deployment of this technology at such a large scale has never been undertaken before.

“This will help to increase energy security across the UK, and will benefit the people of Scotland, England and Wales.”

UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon also stated:

“The western link is a perfect symbol of the single energy market, of which Scotland is part. It will enable English and Welsh consumers to access Scottish renewables and enable Scots to benefit from base load power when the wind doesn’t blow. This world leading, billion pound under-sea connector shows the strength of our current integrated system.”

The Western Link project is a part of Scottish Power Energy Network’s wider £2.6 billion investment plans for their transmission network covering the 8-year period from 2013 to 2021. The plans are intended to deliver the following; direct creation of up 1,500 new jobs, facilitation of offshore and onshore wind generation in Scotland of around 11 GW (enough to power over 6 million British homes), reduced carbon emissions of 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, replacement of over 800 km of overhead power lines and an increase in export capacity from Scotland to England of nearly 4 gigawatts. Such an ambitious investment program demonstrates both the potential of Scotland’s renewable energy resources and the commitment to realizing them.

In other news this week, data published this week by Eurostat (the European Union’s statistics office) revealed that renewable energy met 14.1% of total energy demand within the European Union in 2012 (these are the most recent figures available). This represents an increase of 5.8% compared to 2004 when renewable energy met 8.3% of the Union’s total energy demand.

During this time every single member state of the Union has increased their renewable energy capacity. Perhaps somewhat startlingly, several member states have already reached and went beyond their binding 2020 renewable energy targets.

Sweden, Austria and Denmark were the three countries which underwent the largest growth in renewable energy capacity between 2004 and 2012. Sweden, which in 2004 derived 38.7% of its power from renewables, lifted that to 51% in 2012. In Denmark, the share of renewables rose from 14.5% to 26%, while in Austria it jumped from 22.7% to 32.1%. Three countries have already met their individual 2020 targets; Bulgaria, Estonia and Sweden. These three countries had 2020 goals of 16%, 25% and 49%, respectively. At the end of 2012 they had achieved respective renewable energy shares of 16.3%, 25.2% and 51%. Of course it should be re-iterated at this point that the figures published by Eurostat do not cover the year 2013 – a period of remarkable growth in UK renewable energy capacity, particularly wind generation capacity. It should also be remembered that several countries, particularly Sweden, started with far, far higher initial renewable energy capacities than the UK due to abundant hydro-generation resources.

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to see ambitious and extensive upgrades being carried out to the electricity transmission network, particularly given our own efforts in this field. Such work not only improves the country’s infrastructure but also allows Scotland’s renewable energy potential (the envy of Europe in this regard) to be fully realized. Long range energy transmission also serves to reduce instances of renewable energy generation technology having to be turned off at times of low demand. Finally it helps to further reduce the United Kingdom’s reliance upon fossil fuel imports at a time when the vulnerability of such markets could not be clearer.

 

 

 

 

National Grid to publish constraint payment information for all forms of energy generation

Last week, industry trade body Scottish Renewables announced that it had been in contact with the National Grid to request more balance in it’s reporting of constraint payments to wind turbine developers.

Constraint payments are payments made to energy generators at times of low demand. When there is a surplus of power in the National Grid generators are paid at a pre-agreed rate to shut down until power demand increases. Constraint payments act as compensation for revenue lost from ceasing to generate and supply power.

Scottish Renewables request to the National Grid was made following the publication of an article in the Scottish Times. The article attempted to detail the level of constraint payments which have been made to wind energy generators at times of low demand. It transpired that the article had been based upon “highly contested” projections of future wind constraint payments rather than actual data. One industry insider was quoted as describing the article as “tosh”. Indeed, the National Grid itself, whose projections the article had been based upon, described the article as highly misleading.

In the last financial year £28 million was paid out to wind energy generators in constraint payments. Whilst this apparently large sum makes for good headlines it should be placed into context. £28 million was paid out to wind energy generators whilst £138 million in constraint payments was paid out to coal, gas and other generators – almost six times as much. No breakdown of these costs has ever been published making it impossible to accurately state how much in constraint payments has been paid out to any form of energy generation technology apart from wind.

Following their contact with Scottish Renewables the National Grid has now confirmed that they have agreed to publish breakdown cost of constraint payments  for other forms of energy generation. The first publication of this information is expected before the end of February. A spokesperson for the National Grid made the point that until now it had only ever been wind energy constraint payment information that anyone had requested. This rather revealing comment  suggests that articles on constraint payments in many mainstream media publications have been motivated by an anti-wind energy sentiment rather than an urge to seriously examine the issue of constraint payments and the true cost of the various forms of energy generation which supply the National Grid.

Following discussions with Scottish Renewables a National Grid spokeswoman made the following comment:

“We have discussed this issue with Scottish Renewables and we are more than happy to meet this request in full. It’s vital that we provide clear information about how we constrain energy generation to balance the power grid.”

Niall Stuart, Chief Executive for Scottish Renewables made the following statement:

“Wind was responsible for 14% of all constraint payments in the first half of this financial year, with coal, gas and hydro accounting for the vast majority of the other 86%.

“Total constraint payments were equal to £161.2m and the cost of constraining wind was £23.3m, meaning that coal, gas and other generators received £137.9m – six times the amount paid to wind.

“Despite this, National Grid only publishes detailed figures on payments to wind, with no breakdown given for the other sectors.

“In the interests of transparency and an open debate about the costs and benefits of all forms of electricity, it is time for the grid operator to publish details of payments to other individual sectors – not just to wind.

“Constraint payments are an essential part of managing the grid, but the public deserves to know where their money is being spent, and the fact that payments to wind are significantly less than those made to coal and gas generation.”

This week, Scottish Renewables also published a report produced by consultancy group O’Herlihy and Co. The report aimed to ascertain the amount of people employed in the Scottish renewable energy industry. 540 companies were surveyed making this the most comprehensive study of its type yet produced.

The report found that 11,695 people are currently in full time employment in Scotland’s renewable energy industry. This represents a 5% increase on last year’s findings and demonstrates both the growth and employment potential of the industry. Interestingly, 5% growth represents a higher level of job creation than the Scottish economy more generally. The study also broke down employment by region and industry sector. The majority of jobs in renewable energy (54%) are located in the Central Belt. The Highlands & Islands (17%) and the North East (14%) are also renewable energy employment hubs.

Onshore wind energy was found to be the industry’s biggest employer with 39% of jobs in this sector. Offshore wind was the second biggest employer with 21% of jobs in this sector. Wave/Tidal and Bioenergy were also significant employers, both providing 9% of the renewable energy industry’s jobs. All other sectors were classed as insignificant employers (at least in terms of number of jobs compared to other sectors).

The data for employment by area and employment by sector were then cross examined. This revealed that Onshore wind and Hydro energy are the biggest renewable employers in the Highlands & Islands. Onshore wind ‘dominates’ employment in Glasgow and is also the ‘most significant employer in the South of Scotland and Lothian. Finally the North East is the country’s hub for Offshore Wind with ‘key concentration’ of jobs in this sector located in this region; taking advantage of the regions long standing experience of marine engineering.

The report also surveyed the 540 renewable energy companies to gauge their expectations for the coming year. 294 organisations (54%) felt their level of employment would increase in 2014. 229 organisations (42%) felt their level of employment would remain the same and just 9 organisations (1.6%) felt their employment level would decrease in 2014. The remaining organisations either did not know or did not respond. From this survey it can taken that Scotland’s renewable energy industry is expecting to continue to grow over the course of 2014.

Joss Blamire, Scottish Renewables Senior Policy Manager made the following statement at the publication of the report:

“These latest figures show the renewables industry has seen steady growth in the number of people being employed despite an uncertain year.

“The breadth of job opportunities for project managers, ecologists and engineers has led to a wide range of people seeing renewable energy as a sector where they can use their skills and training.”

From the news this week we can see that the Scottish renewables industry is looking ahead to a bright 2014. Growth and job creation are expected to continue, generation levels are expected to continue their upward trend and it is hoped that the quality of reporting, particularly on the wind industry, will improve. We here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) look forward in playing our part in moving Scotland closer to it’s renewable energy generation targets.

 

New UK Wind Energy Records Set

Last week it was announced by industry trade body RenewableUK that the month of December 2013 had seen several wind power records being broken. The announcement followed the publication of electricity generation statistics for December by the National Grid. Despite the high-winds experienced in the UK over the course of December it should be noted that the setting of new records does not simply represent a particularly blustery month but rather the continuation of an upwards trend.

The first record which was broken was the amount of wind power generated in a single month. December saw 2,481,080 MWh (Megawatt hours) of electricity being generated from wind power. This level of generation is enough to power 5.7 million British homes at a time of year which traditionally sees an increase in power usage and demand. The previous record was set in October 2013 when 1,956,437 MWh of electricity was generated from the wind. Crucially, however, this increase in generation led to an increase in the use of wind power by the UK. In December 2013 10% of the UK’s total power demand was sourced from wind power. In comparison, October 2013 saw 8% of the UK’s total energy demand being sourced from wind.

Records were also broken for the amount of electricity generated from wind power over the course of a single week and a single day. The week beginning Monday the 16th of December saw 783,886 MWh of electricity being produced from wind power. This level of power generation represented 13% of the weeks total electricity demand. The 21st of December was the day on which the single day generation record was broken. 132,812 MWh of electricty was generated from wind power representing a notable 17% of the days total electricity demand. The single day generation record had set as recently as the 29th of November. The regularity with which new records are being set reveals the progress that the UK’s wind industry is making in increasing capacity and reducing the country’s dependence upon fossil fuel imports. Indeed around 500 Megawatts of new wind capacity was installed and connected into the National Grid between June and November 2013.

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK made the following statement whilst announcing the new records:

“This is a towering achievement for the British wind energy industry. It provides cast-iron proof that the direction of travel away from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable sources is unstoppable.

“In December, we generated more electricity from wind for British homes and businesses than during any other month on record – and we also hit weekly and daily highs.

“This gives us a great sense of confidence for the year ahead, when we will continue to increase the amount of clean power we generate from wind, onshore and offshore.

“As we do so, we are lessening our dependence on excruciatingly expensive imports of fossil fuels which have driven people’s fuel bills up. British wind energy is providing a better alternative – a stable, secure, cost-effective supply of home-grown power”.

Of course it should be remembered that the figures released by the National Grid do not represent the full amount of wind energy being generated in the UK. There are a large amount of wind turbines in the UK, particularly within the small to medium scale (the scale at which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) specialise in) which do not feed power into the National Grid. Such turbines will be supplying power locally or on-site. The owners of such developments are not required to supply real time output data to the National Grid and as such will not have been included in their figures.

It should be noted that UK wind power breaking such records as this is set to become a regular occurrence in the near future as more turbines are consented, constructed and begin to supply power into the National Grid. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are looking forward to playing our part in this process as more of our developments are completed in the very near future.

In other news, figures released by Spain’s national grid operator have revealed that wind power has become the country’s dominant electricty source in 2013. Red Electrica de Espana (REE) published a report which revealed that for the very first time wind power contributed more to meeting electricty demand within the country than any other source. Over the course of 2013 wind met 21.1% of Spanish electricity demand. This was enough to produce more than Spain’s fleet of nuclear plants which met 21%. In total 53,926 GWh (Gigawatt hours) of electricity was produced from wind power in 2013. This represents an increase of 12% over 2012.

It should be noted that other forms of renewable energy also saw an increase in their output. Hydropower generation soared to 32,205 GWh; a 16% increase on the historic average helped by high levels of rainfall. Solar energy also contributed more due an increase in capacity. In 2013 173 MW of  new wind power capacity was introduced into the grid, 140 MW of solar PV and 300 MW of solar thermal capacity were also added to the system. These increases mean that renewable technologies now account for 49.1% of installed Spanish capacity.

The success of the Spanish embrace of renewable power can also be seen in the reduced output of more traditional forms of electricity generation. Output from traditional gas fired power plants dropped a dramatic 34.2%. Output from coal fired plants dropped 27.3% and even nuclear output dropped  by 8.3%. These reductions combined with a 2.1% drop in total power demand and increased use of renewable power has meant that the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the Spanish power sector are estimated to have dropped an incredible 23.1% last year to 61.4 million tonnes. These figures demonstrate that an electricity supply system based upon renewables not only works for end users but also serves to increase energy security and reduce carbon emissions.

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to have played a part in setting new wind generation records. We also look forward to helping set new records with our already installed turbines and also those of our developments which will have completed construction in the near future.

Scottish renewable energy offsets C02 emissions from transport

The significant strides that the Scottish renewable energy industry is making towards addressing climate change were revealed last week in the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Government Energy Minister Michael Fallon was asked how successful Scotland’s renewable energy developments had been in displacing carbon dioxide emissions in 2012.

His answer revealed that Scotland has managed to displace approximately 10.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2012. This represents an increase of 24% from the year 2011.  Renewable energy industry body Scottish Renewables would later announce that this level of displacement accounts for just under the total level of carbon dioxide emissions produced from Scotland’s rail and road transport networks. Given that the emission levels from these two networks has remained much unchanged between 2011 and 2012 we can then see that the 24% increase in carbon dioxide displacement can be nearly entirely attributed to the expansion of Scotland’s renewable energy generation capacity. Furthermore, given that the majority of new capacity stems from wind energy we can see that it is Scotland’s wind industry (companies such as ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) which is driving the displacement of carbon dioxide.

Mr Fallon also provided figures for carbon dioxide displacement in England, Wales and the UK as a whole. England displaced 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2012, Wales 1.6 million tonnes ans as whole the UK displaced around 29 million tonnes. 29 million tonnes of carbon dioxide represents an increase of nearly 38% over 2011. As discussed in last weeks blog nearly all of the UK’s biomass generation is in England. Despite this Scotland accounted for more than a third of the UK’s entire carbon dioxide displacement.

The news was greeted enthusiastically by the renewable energy industry and other interested groups. Scottish Renewables Chief Executive Niall Stuart commented:

“Last week’s climate change report reinforced the need for concerted action to reduce carbon emissions if we are even to limit the impact of global warming, and these figures show that investment in renewables is already delivering results.

“Ten million tonnes is the equivalent of removing 99.1 per cent of carbon emissions generated from every car, bus, lorry and train journey in Scotland.”

“Renewables now generate the equivalent of 40 per cent of the demand for power from every home and business in the country, support thousands of jobs across Scotland and are making a massive dent in carbon emissions.

“The sector is delivering exactly what government wants – jobs, investment and lower carbon emissions from our economy.”

WWF Scotland‘s Director Lang Banks also stated:

“These figures clearly show that renewable energy is making a massive contribution to reducing Scotland’s climate change emissions. This contribution will only continue to grow as we move ever closer to securing all of our electricity from pollution-free sources.

“They certainly nail the lie by those who claim renewables, such as wind power, don’t make a difference. Renewables certainly do make a difference: cutting emissions as well as creating jobs.”

Also, this week a survey conducted by PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers) was published, revealing that 94% of energy companies are expecting ‘complete transformation of, or important changes to’ the power utility business model by 2030 as a result of growth in renewable energy and increases in distributed energy generation.

Distributed energy generation marks the move away from power coming solely from large scale power plants or even indeed large scale renewable energy developments. Small and medium scale renewable energy developments (such as those handled by ILI (Renewable Energy)) are becoming increasingly common up and down the country. Whilst the majority of these are providing power into the national grid others are generating power to be used locally; whether by communities or at on-site business developments. Such developments are expected to be become increasingly common in the next few years due to the existence of incentives such as the feed-in-tariff and falling technology and development costs.. PwC’s survey has already identified such developments as eating into the revenues of traditional power generation.

However, it should be noted that 82% of those surveyed view the increased use of distributed power generation to be an ‘opportunity’. Only 18% of those surveyed viewed it as a ‘threat’ to their business. It was also felt that energy-efficiency and smart grid technology could potentially have a similarly transformative effect upon the industry in the future provided barriers on the financial and technological side could be overcome.

PwC’s UK power and utility leader, Steve Jennings urged businesses within the power industry to seize the opportunities such changes present:

“Power utility companies will need to respond to these changes to not be eclipsed by technological and market change, while strategies that identify the best revenue opportunities in changed and, potentially transformed future market landscape, will be key to survival,”

These two pieces of news reveal the transformative effect renewable energy is having not only upon the power industry but this country as a whole. Great strides are being taken, by coompanies such as ourselves, to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy security and insulate the UK energy system from the volatile international fossil fuel markets.

 

UK’s first large-scale grid battery connected in Orkney

Last week a new type of storage battery was connected to the local electricity distribution network on the Isle of Orkney.

The new battery has the potential to be hugely important to the UK’s renewable energy ambitions as it could allow for far easier management of energy demand and would address the issue of power intermittency in renewables.

The battery was installed by Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD). The two megawatt lithium ion battery was installed at Kirkwall Power Station and represents the first use of a large scale storage battery anywhere in the UK. The battery was provided by Mitusbishi Power Systems Europe and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry after extensive trials in Japan. A similar piece of technology has been in constant use in Nagasaki for the last two years. Additionally similar battery technology, on a smaller scale, has been taken up by the electric car industry and has begun to enter the UK market. The battery will be operated by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). The level of cooperation involved in this trial is worth noting. Domestic energy companies, overseas developers and manufacturers, government and regulators have all been involved in this project. This demonstrates the importance with which storage and smart grid technology is being taken. Such technologies could be key to Scotland and the wider UK achieving their renewable energy targets and are being pushed hard at all levels.

The battery has been integrated with Orkney’s Active Network Management scheme. This network, or smart grid, has been in place since 2009 and was also delivered by SHEPD. Indeed, it was a world first. The Active Network Management scheme was implemented due to the relatively high level of intermittent renewable energy generation which existed on Orkney. Of course the level of renewable energy developments on the isle has only increased since then. The scheme allows the grid operators greater flexibility in managing and balancing loads and grants quicker access to back up power. This scheme has also proven highly beneficial to renewable energy developers as it has allowed them cheaper and quicker access to the grid following the completed development of a renewable energy project.

Reaction to the installation was universally positive. SHEPD’s Head of Commercial Mark Rough commented:

“This exciting trial will provide valuable research into the viability of using batteries for electricity storage. This is likely to become increasingly important to help balance the variable output from renewable forms of generation as we move to a largely decarbonised electricity generation mix.

“Although the installation of the battery will not provide an immediate solution to the current constraints on the Orkney distribution network, it is hoped that in the long term the result of the studies will help demonstrate that batteries could provide a cost effective way of freeing up capacity on the network to help facilitate new connections of low carbon generation.”

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney remarked:

“Today’s announcement by SSE reinforces that Scotland is leading the way when it comes to developing and testing new ideas that may help us meet the electricity and energy needs of the future.  Smart grid technologies such as these being pioneered in Orkney are increasingly important as we move to a low-carbon economy.

“Scotland has an incredible wealth of energy resources from a range of generating technologies, capable of both meeting our energy needs and significant exports to parts of the UK and Europe.  We have a responsibility to make sure our nation seizes this opportunity.”

MSP for Orkney Liam McArthur stated:

““This is an exciting initiative and I am delighted to see Orkney leading the way in the development of energy storage options.  “Our islands have huge potential for generating renewable energy, but a lack of sufficient grid capacity is a growing problem. The active network management system has freed up capacity to allow many local projects to be connected to the grid in recent years, but new solutions now need to be found if Orkney is to realise its full potential in renewables. “I am certain that battery storage has an important role to play in ensuring we make best use of the resources at our disposal. While it is not a short term solution, the work being undertaken as part of this initiative could deliver significant and long-lasting benefits to Orkney and more widely.”

Peter Clusky, Senior Manager Renewables and Head of Government Relations for Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe said:

“We are delighted to be working with our strategic partners SSE to bring this globally significant R&D project to Orkney. We are confident that this Orkney-based project will make a significant contribution to the further development of Lithium-ion battery technology. Mitsubishi is grateful for the ongoing support of SSE, NEDO, and Ofgem.”

The battery project was funded by industry regulator Ofgem through their Low Carbon Network’s fund. Through this vehicle Ofgem has provided funding for several storage and smart grid projects across the UK. Again, it is worth re-emphasising the level of cooperation that has been involved in this scheme. It gives a very strong indication that the UK continues to view renewable energy as the future. Smart grid and other storage technologies will be key to realizing it.

This can also be seen in two other pieces of recent news. Firstly, UK Power Networks has announced it’s intention to trial a six megawatt battery system at  the Leighton Buzzard substation in Bedfordshire. When completed, which is expected to occur in 2016, this will be the largest battery system in Europe. Secondly, last week, UK Business Secretary Vince Cable announced the creation of a new Catapult Centre (centre for technology and innovation).The Energy Systems Catapult is expected to begin operation in 2015/16 and is intended to help accelerate the commercialization of smart grid and storage technologies, serving to reduce costs. Mr Cable gave the following comment:

” By committing to investment in new technologies now, we are laying the foundations for the high-growth businesses of the future. This will allow them to grow, take on more employees and keep the UK at the forefront of global innovation.”

The various developments which have occurred in this field over the last few weeks have demonstrated the commitment that the UK and Scottish Governments have to renewable energy technologies. Smart grid and storage technologies, such as the battery system currently being trialed in Orkney, will be key to unlocking the full potential of the UK’s renewable energy resource. The more energy which can be stored the more renewable energy developments can be utilized and less baseload backup will be required. Recent research produced by Imperial College London has estimated that large scale use of energy storage technologies could save the country £3 billion a year in the 2020s.

 

SSE to carry out £200 million grid upgrade in Argyll and Bute

It was announced this week that Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) is to carry out over £200 million worth of upgrades to the electricity transmission network between Argyll & Bute and North Ayrshire. Much of the investment will be directed towards a new subsea link between Kintyre and Hunterston.

The announcement was made after SSE’s plans received approval from industry regulator Ofgem. However, spokespeople for SSE have revealed that pre-construction work on the network upgrade has already commenced. The project is estimated to be completed by 2016.

The news is significant for both the local and the renewables sector. 150 Megawatts of capacity will be devoted to renewable energy developments. Renewable energy is an industry which has long been considered to have significant potential for economic growth within Argyll & Bute. However, some renewable energy developments in the area have been constrained by a lack of available grid capacity. Whilst investment in the area’s transmission has long been mooted now both local businesses and renewable energy developers can now proceed with certainty.

The network upgrade is good news for other reasons as well. Parts of both Argyll & Bute and North Ayrshire suffered from prolonged power outages earlier this year due to extreme weather conditions. The work to be carried out by SSE will serve to increase the local grids resiliance and make such events far less likely in the future.

SSE’s Director of Transmission, David Gardner commented:

“The announcement from Ofgem signals another significant step in our plans to reinforce the transmission infrastructure throughout Scotland.

“Along with completion of key projects within our approved budget of £1.4bn, this project demonstrates that we are gaining momentum on our capital expenditure programme which will connect significant amounts of renewable energy to the grid; contributing to energy security, economic growth and decarbonisation of electricity generation.”

The work to be carried out in Kintyre is only one small part of the £5 billion investment SSE intends to make into Scotland’s energy transmission network. Such levels of investment will provide a huge boost to Scotland’s renewable energy industry. There are currently developments across the country which are being delayed by a lack of available grid capacity.

However, in some cases, smaller renewable energy projects such as the medium scale wind developments carried forward by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) can make use of alternative solutions to a lack of grid capacity.

Ofgem’s approval of this grid upgrade work is the first to be issued under their new Strategic Wider Works (SWW) programme. SWW was introduced to consider funding for specific major transmission projects on a case by case basis in a timely fashion. A large number of transmission network uprgade programmes are being considered. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) and within the wider renewable energy industry look forward to further approvals.