The Informer

This week’s headlines: the UK energy sector has an unprecedented window of opportunity to transform the way it operates and develop new products and services; a pioneering energy storage project secures government backing; and academics have developed an intelligent wind system which they claim will reduce the risk of power cuts.

  • ‘Golden opportunity’ for energy sector to build back better

    The impact of Covid-19 presents an unprecedented opportunity for the energy sector to help transform the UK economy for the better, according to an industry body.

    EnergyUK said the pandemic had disrupted the entire energy value chain from generation to retail but has also given an insight into the energy system of the future and the impact on production and consumption trends.

    Measures called for in a report compiled in partnership with PwC include incentivising the electric vehicle market by increasing grants and investing in charging infrastructure, driving the development of greater use of flexibility and a national energy efficiency programme.

    Janine Freeman, PwC’s new energy leader, said Covid-19 has led to significant changes to working practices, customer behaviour and demand for technology.

    “The crisis has also made us think differently about the way we live and the world we want to live in. And the energy industry sits right at the heart of this possible new future. There is now a golden window of opportunity for the industry to transform service models, develop new products and services in response to a greater focus on technology and sustainability, and to strengthen their relationships with customers."

    Audrey Gallacher, Energy UK’s interim chief executive, said: “Our industry stands ready to build further on the £14 billion it already invests every year to power our economic recovery and help meet the net zero target.”

    Meanwhile, system operator National Grid ESO has set out the policy areas it sees as vital for a green recovery and said it was ”crucial that net zero is hard-wired into any plans”.

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  • £10m boost for liquid air battery

    The UK Government has provided £10m in backing for a cutting-edge electricity storage facility.

    The CryoBattery project at Trafford in Manchester will be run by energy storage company Highview which says its system offers a means of storing excess energy on a far larger scale and for longer than existing batteries.

    Energy and Clean Growth Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “This revolutionary new facility will form a key part of our push towards net zero, bringing greater flexibility to Britain’s electricity grid and creating green collar jobs."

    “Projects like these will help us realise the full value of our world-class renewables, ensuring homes and businesses can still be powered by green energy, even when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing.”

    The CryoBattery works by using electricity to cool and compress air, turning it into liquid and storing it in industrial sized containers. It then feeds the liquid through a turbine, turning it back into electricity and pumping it back into the grid when it is needed.

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  • ‘Smart’ wind system reduces risk of power cuts

    A ‘smart’ system that controls the storage and release of energy from wind turbines will reduce the risk of power cuts and support increased deployment or renewables, according to UK researchers.

    University of Birmingham Enterprise has applied for a patent to protect the system which uses the variable speed of the rotors in wind turbine systems to more closely regulate the supply of power to the grid.

    When electricity demand is high, stored kinetic energy in the turbines can be used intelligently to keep the grid stable.

    The academics behind the project say that as more wind turbines are integrated into the system, it becomes more difficult to balance supply and demand and keep the system stable.

    Lead researcher Professor Xiao-Ping Zhang, Director of Smart Grid in the Birmingham Energy Institute, said : “By 2030 wind is expected to provide half the UK’s power, so it’s important that we can use the wind farms provide a vital safety mechanism of controlling frequency dips of UK’s national power grid.

    “Our proposed frequency control system for wind turbines could revolutionise the UK’s power grid’s frequency control and, importantly, uses our existing infrastructure of wind turbines and it will not need additional devices and investments.”

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  • Ofgem sets July 1 date for return to new normal

    Normal regulatory rules will apply across the energy industry from the start of next month, Ofgem has announced.

    The only exceptions will be where companies cannot deliver their usual standards of service because of the need to comply with government Covid-19 guidance.

    However, the regulator said it recognises there will be ongoing practical challenges, such as where face-to-face interaction with customers is required, and said it will take a pragmatic approach to compliance with obligations in these cases.

    Ofgem CEO Jonathan Brearley said the industry had risen to the “huge challenges” faced included protecting customers and ensuring security of supply, while having significantly fewer staff, and maintaining the safety of customers and staff when work had to be carried out.

    Brearley said now it is time to move to the next phase of managing the crisis - in particular, for the industry to return to providing the usual level of customer service to all consumers.

    He said in the weeks ahead Ofgem will set out how it intends to return to important areas of policy development, “but we will be mindful of continued extra pressures on the industry.”

    “We will be ambitious, but realistic,” he said.

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  • EV's could create £24 billion opportunity

    Electric Vehicles (EVs) could offer a sizeable opportunity in the UK according to a new report from the Advanced Propulsion Centre.

    According to the report, the UK is "well placed" to take advantage of the nascent market.

    £22bn of the £24bn will reportedly be accounted for through batteries (£12bn) and power electronics (£10bn) sectors which the UK can take advantage of due to existing expertise.

    The report also claimed that the UK will need to increase its existing electric car production capacity between ten and twenty times in order to meet demand for EVs by 2025.

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