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.

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