Scotland Tackles Climate Change

Scotland Tackles Climate Change

As the climate summit COP24 (Conference of Parties) in Katowice, Poland this week stark warnings emerged with senior figures stating that the “world is at a crossroads” and that climate change was now a “matter of life and death.”

Sir David Attenborough speaking at the summit opening said “The world’s people have spoken – time is running out. They want you, the decision makers, to act now. Leaders of the world, you must lead.”

Key to reaching the required targets on worldwide temperature rises – and going some way in preventing this man-made catastrophe – is for nations to vastly reduce their carbon emissions which mostly come from energy generation and transport.

Yesterday at the House of Lords Strathclyde University launched a paper which states that Pump Storage Hydro, a tried and tested method of energy production (and storage), added to the UK energy mix could see massive savings in carbon emission outputs as well as potential consumer savings.

Renewable energy offers a sure way of reducing carbon emissions normally associated with energy production as it does not burn carbon heavy fossil fuels in order to generate energy. However, the issue with renewable energy production is that is can be intermittent leaving potential shortfalls in the energy system particularly when demand is high. In addition, it is feasible that surpluses may be produced when production is high but demand low.

Pump Storage Hydro, installed at the correct amounts, could both generate energy quickly in order to meet demand during peak times and use surplus renewable energy during low demand periods to pump water back up and “refill its battery” ready for the next period of high demand.

In 2016, Carbon Trust/Imperial College produced analysis on the benefits of storage to the UK power system. This analysis was subsequently used by the National Infrastructure Commission in their 2016 ‘Smart Power’ report and concluded the following;

  • The Carbon Trust/Imperial report concluded that base savings of up to £2.4 billion per annum could be realised by installing around 6GW of additional storage capacity by 2030.
  • The report estimated that consumers would save around £50 per year if the 6GW was built, based on them only receiving 50% of the available savings.
  • This £2.4bn saving is only due to the reduction of investment in gas plant
    and the use of gas.  It does not include saving from reducing investment in networks, or from other savings.
  • The report identified that an additional £5 billion per annum could be saved by better optimisation of the power system, making a total of some £7.4 billion pa. These are partly attributable to the availability of storage to help manage the power system, reducing the need for generation and network investment.

So just 6GW of Energy storage could give a potential saving for the consumer of up to £150 per annum offsetting the increases in energy bills relating to renewable energy subsidies. At present there is 4GW of new Pump Storage Hydro facilities in the pipeline in the UK.

Last week a report from the Institution of Engineers in Scotland (IESIS) claimed that a massive gap in the electricity system caused by the closure of coal-fired power stations and growth of unpredictable renewable generation has created the real prospect of complete power failure which could lead to sustained black-outs and power outages and that longer periods with no power could lead to “deaths, severe societal and industrial disruption, civil disturbance and loss of production”.

The IESIS report also warned that the loss of carbon heavy power generating stations means that having to restore electricity in a “black start” situation – following a complete loss of power – would take several days.

Pump Storage Hydro could ease any black start issues if used should such a situation arise. In addition, the technology is proven and is already in use in the UK and in many installations throughout the world.

The Strathclyde University paper also points out that in order to develop projects at the scale required the UK government must produce policy security in order to attract and maintain the required investment and that it has access to the same markets as other energy generation technologies offering a level playing field from the outset. Like most other technologies it does not require a subsidy.

Professor Karen Turner from the University said: “Our work focused particularly on Pump Storage Hydro as a mature technology, but our conclusions are relevant across the wider portfolio of potential Electrical Energy Storage (EES) options. We draw three main conclusions from our research. First, that there is a need to account for and articulate the value of EES. Second, a market framework that recognises this value is needed. Third, development through both of these stages requires greater policy certainty and clarity round low carbon economic development pathways in general, and the outcomes that may be served by EES in particular.”

Most importantly though is that it will reduce carbon emissions by millions of tonnes every year and can play a major role in ensuring that global temperatures do not exceed a 1.5 degree rise and contribute to the safeguarding of the planet for our grandchildren, their grandchildren and many future generations to come.

Speaking also at the launch former UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson said: “As a long-term advocate of hydro-electricity, I welcome this paper which gives PSH a long overdue place in the debate about how to address the critical issue of intermittency. This is already extremely urgent due to the pressure to increase generation from renewables.

“There is no one silver bullet but PSH certainly has a significant part to play. The fact that Scotland’s terrain can offer excellent sites for these developments, with minimal negative impacts, means that this is a technology which can bring massive economic as well as environmental benefits”


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