Net-Zero Hopes rest on Flexible Energy System

Net-Zero Hopes rest on Flexible Energy System

Last week the National Infrastructure Committee (NIC) released its annual assessment calling for a clear plan for delivering the “world class infrastructure that the UK needs” This annual report gives an assessment on key infrastructure priorities for the forthcoming year covering  all sectors of economic infrastructure everything from flood risk to digital communications to energy and transport.

The Energy Sector assessment highlighted Nation Grid ESO announcement last year that it would able to operate zero-carbon grid by 2025 and sees this a positive step but if it is to become a reality “this target must be backed by concrete action in line with the Commission’s recommendations.”

Its 4 main recommendations for the energy sector in 2020 are:

  • maintain access to future interconnector projects in negotiations with the EU, and prioritize retaining access to EU power markets and market coupling to ensure that interconnector capacity can be used in an effective way
  • amend the Electricity Act 1989 to define storage as a distinct subset of generation l continue to review the latest evidence on costs of and barriers to access for demand side response technologies in the capacity market
  • proactively facilitate the transition to more actively managed local networks and Distribution System Operators
  •  set out a clear level of ambition for overall system flexibility including a transparent framework to monitor it.”

All of these recommendations are to help the facilitation of the move away from traditional thermal generators and to accommodate further renewables on the system by adding the flexibility needed when you increase intermittent generators.

This increasing need was illustrated in a recent report from Cornwall insight showing the £30.9m that was paid to to windfarms to switch off after the western HVDC link failed in January. The Western HVDC Link is a high-voltage direct current undersea electrical link between Hunterston in Western Scotland and Flintshire Bridge in North Wales.

Lee Drumnone at Cornwall insight said, “The Western Link was designed to accommodate the increasingly high volume of power generated in Scotland and prevent transmission bottlenecks,”

But since commissioning the cable has been fraught with issues.” He added the “availability of the link makes a clear difference”.

“Avoiding constraints not only allows more volumes of renewable power to flow onto the Grid but reduces the amount of money that National Grid has to pay to turn off wind farms in Scotland,” he said. “However, the reliability of the Western Link will need to be solved for its full potential to be realized. As more onshore wind develops, especially in Scotland, the problems of constraints will need to continue to be actively managed.”

Moreover, a new report from the Trade body Energy UK, along with The Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) and BEAMA have claimed that flexibility from storage and side response could save £8 billion per year by 2030 and upto 40 Billion by 2050.

Charles Wood, Energy UK’s head of new energy services and heat, said that a flexible energy system is “essential’ to “get anywhere near net zero.”

“The products, technology and finance are all there but the opportunities and incentives aren’t – meaning business cases for investment aren’t stacking up. Overall demand for power has been falling for some time but the electrification of heating and transport will greatly increase demand at peak times and flexibility will be absolutely essential to cope with this.

“We need to be ready for when that happens which means taking action now – otherwise we risk missing out on the benefits. We’re ready to work with the Government to deliver on all this potential but we need them to give it the priority it warrants.”

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