Month: May 2019

Coal-Free Generation Week

Coal-Free Generation Week

National Grid announced earlier this month that the UK had its first coal free electricity week in a 100yrs. This is in line with the Government plans to phase out coal entirely by 2025 and marks the first week since the UK’s first coal-fired power station opened the Holborn Viaduct Power Station in 1882.

This builds on the milestones in 2017 where we had our first coal free days since Victorian times and in May 2016 where Solar out preformed coal for the first time.

Fintan Slye, director of National Grid ESO said “We have been working with industry over the last few years to ensure the services we require to operate the network are not dependent on coal,”

“We have been forecasting the closure of coal plant and reduced running for some time – due to us having to manage more renewables on the system.  Transmission owners have invested in their networks accordingly and we have refined our operational strategies and real-time operation of the network to ensure continued secure and economic operation.

“As more and more renewables come onto our energy system, coal-free runs like this are going to be a regular occurrence.  We believe that by 2025 we will be able to fully operate Great Britain’s electricity system with zero carbon.”

The majority of electricity is still generated from fossil fuel, Natural Gas making up 46% of the total with Nuclear at 21.2% and combined renewables making up the 32.8% remainder.

At present there are eight nuclear sites currently generating power in the UK however only one of these is planned to be operating by 2030. There are six sites that have licenses to build new nuclear power stations however, only one of these is under construction with three cancelled and two struggling to get the green light to proceed.

Hopes of gas with carbon capture and storage(CCS) have also fallen by the wayside with no commercial scale applications available or in the pipeline leaving a gap in future generation. The Government’s own recent announcement of 30GW of offshore wind will likely have to increase to take fill the gap from from Nuclear and Gas CCS.

This leaves us with the renewable industry old bug bare of intermittence, as more power is produced from renewable sources the less control we have over when it is generated. This sets the stage for a massive increase in the energy storage needled. Indeed National Grid’s own recent energy scenarios have estimated between 11GW and 28GW of storage needed by 2050. There is currently 2.8GW of Storage available in UK.

To facilitate this increase in Storage there has been a push for new battery technologies that have been deployed across the UK, however to hit the level of storage required, the only proven technology currently available at scale is pumped storage hydro(PSH).

ILI currently have 3 Pump Storage Hydro sites in Scotland the most advanced being a 450MW scheme Red John in Inverness currently in planning. The capacity of these projects would be over 2GW almost doubling the current storage capacity in the UK.

Climate Emergency

Climate Emergency

Last night UK MP’s approved a motion to declare an ‘environment and climate emergency’, this was on the back of the Welsh assembly and the SNP also declaring a ‘climate emergency’ earlier in the week with the SNP also pledging today that Scotland will have a target of net-zero emissions by 2045.

A report commissioned by Greenpeace, the results of which were released today, states that two thirds of Britons believe that there is a current climate emergency and 76% would alter their voting patterns to help protect the planet.

Environmental lobbyists and protests groups have been putting forward a raft of proposals including a reduction of carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 – the existing UK deadline is 2050 – which they claim will help avert future doomsday situations.

Our recent past was focused on coal fuelled power plants capable of generating vast amounts of energy on demand with the negative affect of producing thousands of tonnes of harmful greenhouse gases including CO2.

The UK has been gradually phasing out coal plants with the last of them due to be decommissioned in 2025. This does leave a gap in our generation capabilities hampered more with the recent news that five of the proposed six new nuclear power plants are unlikely to be built and seven of the current eight set to be decommissioned by 2030.

Renewable energy generation offers a solution to the energy gap, but it is not without its limitations. There is currently over 42GW of installed renewable energy capacity in the UK. In Scotland alone the overall renewable energy generation capacity doubled between 2007 and 2015.

A continued rise in energy generation of this type would go far in reducing our carbon emissions but it does offer the flexibility that more traditional generations methods do. This is due to the intermittent nature of renewable energy generation. You can’t will the wind to blow or the sun to shine during high demand peaks. Nor can you ask either to stop when levels of demand drop well below levels of supply.

National Grid now believe that a zero-carbon electricity network is possible by 2025 and recently released proposals on how this could be achieved, however this would require a massive increase in the energy storage available in the system. They have estimated a minimum of 13GW of storage would be required to operate carbon neutral, there is currently 2.8GW of storage available.

Increasing to this level of energy storage does not come easy and we have been looking to new technologies such as batteries to help, but at the scale required the only proven technology currently available is Pumped Storage Hydro.

Pumped Storage Hydro however can offer a viable solution to this issue storing vast amounts of renewable energy ready to send it to the grid on demand. These projects however take a long time to develop both through the planning process and development stage which is why we must act now to promote this practical and workable solution to problem which belongs to us all.

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