The Informer

This week’s headlines: strong investor appetite for renewable projects is highlighted by new figures; changes to the Capacity Market will make it easier for new technologies to bid for contracts; and a new report says flexibility is becoming increasingly important for security of supply.

  • Robust renewables pipeline highlighted

    Continued strong appetite for renewables investment in the UK has been highlighted by figures showing almost 40GW of renewable energy projects are now in the pipeline.

    Research from Cornwall Insight identified 38.7GW of projects across 845 locations, with the majority of projects classed as ‘awaiting construction’.

    The Renewables Pipeline Tracker report highlighted standalone battery projects as a key technology for developers, accounting for the largest share by technology type in a majority of distribution network operator regions, followed by solar PV.

    Offshore wind is expected to dominate transmission connections, but more large-scale onshore wind and solar PV assets are likely to seek transmission connections due to the economies of scale new sites are looking to achieve, especially those going subsidy-free.

    Lucy Dolton, an analyst at Cornwall Insight, said confirmed routes to market will be “integral to the development of the pipeline.”

    Meanwhile, RenewableUK has forecast the UK could source 76% of its power demand from green energy by 2050. Despite setbacks to the sector amid the coronavirus pandemic, the trade body says the growth in renewables will continue at pace.

    It said the UK’s offshore wind sector can attract a further £54bn in private investment which would help quadruple offshore wind capacity in the UK to 40GW by 2030 to provide more than one-third of the nation’s electricity. By 2050, capacity could grow to 90GW.

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  • Capacity Market changes unveiled

    Plans to remove barriers for demand-side response and battery storage to compete in Capacity Market auctions have been confirmed by the Government.

    The changes announced by BEIS also include reducing the minimum capacity threshold from 2MW to 1MW.

    Demand-side response will now be able to apply to prequalify to bid for all the agreement lengths in the capacity market.

    Reporting and verification for the introduction of CO2 emission limits will also be brought in, with emissions limits set to apply to capacity which existed before 4 July 2019 from 1 October 2024.

    Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association, welcomed the changes which she said will make it easier for “cutting-edge clean technologies to compete."

    “In particular, we welcome the introduction of emission limits with mandatory reporting and verification. This should help push out some of the highest carbon-emitting plants and redirect funding to cleaner means of ensuring the security of supply. Reducing prequalification rules will also be helpful, as will allowing demand-response projects to bid for longer contract lengths. The reduced capacity thresholds will additionally ensure a greater number of smaller sites can participate.”

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  • Flexibility keeping GB’s lights on

    Flexibility across the energy system - including greater use of demand-side response - is playing a key role in ensuring security of supply, according to a new report.

    The report by academics from Imperial College London highlighted how volatile the country’s electricity system was in the first quarter of 2020, but also how a variety of energy technologies rose to the challenge of maintaining stability of supply.

    Output from wind farms soared, up by 40% compared to Q1 2019, as severe storms meant Britain experienced its wettest and windiest February since records began. But it was flexible power stations and action from businesses, able to reduce their electricity usage in January, which helped prevent blackouts during cold, calm spells.

    Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London which carried out the research for the Drax Electric Insights report, said: “Britain’s electricity system is under pressure like never before, with both the country’s weather getting more extreme and a global pandemic testing its resolve."

    “So far in 2020 we’ve seen companies reducing their demand for electricity to help keep the grid stable when supply from wind power rapidly decreased, and then the Covid-19 lockdown caused many businesses to shut up shop, reducing electricity demand and creating new challenges with oversupply of power."

    “Having flexibility within the power system at these critical moments is crucial to keeping Britain’s lights on.”

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  • Ofgem confirms £60m Hinkley link savings

    Ofgem has confirmed a decision to reduce the proposed cost of the new Hinkley Point C grid link by £60 million.

    The £716m link, which is due to be completed in 2024, will connect the new nuclear power station to the electricity grid.

    The regulator says the move will save UK consumers money on their bills over the next 45 years.

    Ofgem’s minded-to position in October proposed to cut costs on the project by £80m.

    However, following consultation and analysis of new evidence, it said it was satisfied that some of the costs are appropriate and provide value for money.

    Most of this investment for the link will be covered by RIIO2, the next network price control that takes effect from March 2021 to 2026 for electricity transmission.

    Ofgem has said the “tough” new price controls will deliver lower rates of return of investors, lower capital costs and significant savings for consumers.

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  • Scientists generate electricity from shadows

    Researchers have found a way to generate electricity from shadows, raising the possibility of energy being produced in indoor environments.

    Academics from the National University of Singapore have developed a device that can harvest energy under low-light conditions.

    The ‘shadow-effect energy generator’, which resembles a traditional solar panel, harnesses the contrast in illumination that arises on its cells from shadow castings.

    This contrast induces a voltage difference between shadowed and illuminated sections of the device, resulting in an electric current.

    Research team leader Assistant Professor Tan Swee Ching said: “Shadows are omnipresent, and we often take them for granted. In conventional photovoltaic or optoelectronic applications where a steady source of light is used to power devices, the presence of shadows is undesirable, since it degrades the performance of devices. In this work, we capitalised on the illumination contrast caused by shadows as an indirect source of power.”

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