The Informer

This week’s headlines: the UK’s energy networks have stressed they will be able to keep electricity and gas flowing during the coronavirus emergency; planning applications for renewable projects hit a four year high; the Budget receives a lukewarm reaction from the energy industry; and a report calls for ‘unprecedented innovation’ to achieve net-zero.

  • Networks reassure on energy supplies

    The UK’s energy networks have said they are well-prepared to ensure electricity and gas flows are unaffected by the impact of coronavirus.

    The Energy Networks Association (ENA), which represents the UK’s electricity and gas network companies, stressed there are “well-practiced contingency plans” in place and that robust measures to protect control rooms and contact centres had already been implemented.

    “To provide additional resilience, engineers have been trained across multiple disciplines and backup centres exist should operations need to be moved if, for example, deep cleaning is required,” it said.

    National Grid ESO expects demand to reduce in the event of long-term mass self-isolation of the UK’s workforce, mainly due to a fall in industrial and commercial demand, which would likely be greater than the increase in domestic demand as people stay at home.

    David Smith, Chief Executive of the ENA, said: “The UK’s electricity and gas network is one of the most reliable in the world and network operators are working with the authorities to ensure that their contingency plans are reviewed and delivered in accordance with the latest expert advice.

    Meanwhile the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said it is vital the green energy transition should not be thrown off track by the coronavirus emergency.

    Executive director Fatih Birol said the challenge of climate change and global emissions must not be compromised by the “severe but likely to be temporary” impacts from the pandemic.

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  • Renewable project pipeline hits four year high

    The pipeline of renewable projects in the UK has hit a four year high, according to new figures.

    Analysis by PX Group, which operates and maintains some of the UK’s largest industrial facilities, said planning applications for UK wind, solar, and anaerobic digestion plants have increased by 75 per cent over the past three years.

    Chief Executive Geoff Holmes described the growth in the project pipeline as "extremely encouraging."

    "As more of these projects get off the ground, the faster the UK can get to a point where clean, green sources provide an even greater share of the UK's energy," he said.

    However, there are now concerns that the impact of the coronavirus could stall project plans. Bloomberg New Energy Finance has already warned that investment will inevitably be curtailed by the economic impact.

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  • Budget ‘underwhelming’ on green economy measures

    The energy sector has welcomed funding for carbon capture and storage (CCS), research into nuclear fusion and further details of investment in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in last week’s budget but criticised a lack of focus on renewable energy.

    The Chancellor earmarked £800 million to open one CCS plant in the mid-2020s and another in the 2030s and unveiled more information about £500m already promised for rapid EV charging.

    Chris Hewett, Chief Executive of the Solar Trade Association, welcomed a review of business rates, which he highlighted as a barrier to roof-mounted solar panels, but added: “Unfortunately, this Budget is thin on measures to tackle climate change and support the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

    Jayne Harrold, Environmental Tax Lead at accountancy firm PwC, pointed out: “In terms of commitment to the environment, and particularly net-zero, this Budget didn’t ‘get it done’ but signposted bigger things to come in the Autumn Budget following publication of the net-zero strategic review in advance of COP26.”

    But Chaitanya Kumar, Head of Energy & Climate at the Green Alliance, warned: “All in all, today’s budget is an underwhelming start to the year of climate action.”

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  • ‘Unprecedented innovation’ needed for net zero

    A new report from the Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) has heralded the needed for “unprecedented innovation” in order for the UK to reach net zero by 2050 – and warned that reaching the target earlier would not be possible without “spectacular” steps such as banning aviation.

    Electricity generation will need to double to 600TWh to electrify the heat and transport networks, and could need to triple if hydrogen is produced by electrolysis. Hydrogen may need to supply around 300TWh per year of power – equivalent to the UK’s entire electricity production at present.

    Up to 90GW of wind capacity could be needed to generate 370TWh of electricity, with up to 80GW of solar providing 73TWh and some 30GW of atomic energy under the “maximised nuclear” scenario.

    Scott Milne, Insight & Evidence Lead at the Energy Systems Catapult, said: “What stands out is – no matter which pathway the UK takes – innovation, investment and incentives across low carbon technology, land use and lifestyle is essential to achieve net zero.”

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  • Renewable generation overtakes gas for first time

    Renewable energy generated 28.8TWh of power between July and September, beating the 28.6TWh provided by gas for the first time.

    Renewables delivered 38.9% of the electricity generated during the third quarter of the year, with wind alone providing 19%.

    Offshore wind generation soared by 43% quarter-on-quarter, with onshore wind up 24%.

    The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) hailed the offshore wind sector deal for boosting output.

    Bioenergy generated 12% of the UK’s electricity, up by half a percentage point year-on-year.

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