The Informer

This week’s headlines: demand on the GB transmission system falls to its lowest-ever level; MPs have urged action to remove barriers to greater deployment of offshore wind; and the regulator has stressed the importance of delivering more investment for less as it prepares to set out new network price controls.

  • Transmission system demand hits new low

    Demand on GB’s transmission system hit a new low of 13.4GW during the last weekend in June, according to an update from the system operator.

    National Grid ESO said it had considered using its new Optional Downward Flexibility Management (ODFM) tool which pays embedded generators to stop exporting power or large energy users to consumer more electricity.

    However, it said the exports via interconnectors and the use of pumped storage helped it manage the reduced demand levels which had been 1.2GW lower than the control room had forecast.

    The system operator is now looking for input from industry as it looks to prepare for the Winter period.

    A consultation asks flexibility providers if they foresee any challenges this winter around areas such as plant reliability, delays to commissioning new capacity or the UK’s exit from the European Union.

    It also asks what participants whether they think the peak level of triad avoidance will increase or decrease in winter 2020/21. The consultation closes on 29 July.

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  • MPs urge action on offshore wind growth barriers

    The UK Government needs to remove barriers to enable offshore wind to build on its leading position and grow significantly in the years ahead, according to MPs.

    The Environmental Audit Committee says offshore wind is a “brilliant British success story” but argues a more strategic approach and steps to deal with issues such as grid connections can help it make a much greater contribution to the energy mix and to become a major export industry.

    The committee also said it found demand for deep water ports is increasing but that capacity of sites in the UK was already being reached which could limit further progress.

    In a letter, the committee asks BEIS to take steps including asking Ofgem to ensure that its review of offshore connection structures provides an independent recommendation for expanding capacity that focuses on the most efficient long term use of infrastructure and ensures changes can be implemented quickly.

    It also suggests a separate strike price for floating offshore wind in the next round of CfD auctions Committee chairman Philip Dunne , said: “The government rightly has set ambitious targets to increase offshore wind energy generation, but achieving and exceeding them will require the government to support the sector even more."

    “From ensuring the grid is capable of taking energy from expanding sites, to paving the way for deep water port infrastructure necessary for larger turbine blades, we can seize the opportunity to generate more energy through offshore wind as we move to a low carbon economy.”

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  • Ofgem urges ‘collective spirit’ from energy industry

    Ofgem has said energy firms need to take the public with them to build a greener future for the nation as the regulator prepares to set out tough new price controls for network operators this week.

    Chief Executive, Jonathan Brearley said huge investment was needed to enable more renewables and greater electric vehicle use, but that in an economic downturn it was even more important to ensure consumers pay the lowest cost possible.

    In an article in The Times, Brearley said network companies will have to reduce their ongoing costs significantly and accept much lower returns. But he said the proposed settlement will open up the energy system to global investment so it can deliver a low-carbon future for the country.

    He said that under the current price control settlement consumers have paid more than they should have, partly because returns have been too high.

    “By accepting a more balanced settlement this time round, they can help maintain the public support needed to meet the country’s climate goals — and secure their role in delivering them."

    He urged the industry to apply the “same collective spirit” that has characterised the response to Covid-19 to help get Britain building and to protect consumers from climate change.

    Brearley said the wider energy industry also has an opportunity to build public trust which it will benefit from as customers are more likely to buy new products and services such as smart chargers that cut the costs of charging electric vehicles.

    The proposed price control settlement, which takes effect in April next year, will go out to public consultation before a final decision in December.

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  • New turbine could disrupt wind industry

    An ultralight and sustainable wind turbine blade that will produce up to 9% more energy than conventional blades is going through testing ahead of being launched.

    Developed by Scottish-based ACT Blade, the new technology - adapted from the sailing industry - involves replacing the heavier glass fibre design traditionally used for wind turbine blades with a lighter composite structure, wrapped in a sail-like textile.

    The project is being funded through Innovate UK and supported by the Lightweight Manufacturing Centre at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.

    A lighter blade allows for 10% more length, which, in turn, generates up to 9% more energy from the same wind turbine.

    Dr Sabrina Malpede, ACT Blade CEO, said: “This ultralight blade has the potential to be completely disruptive to the renewables sector, allowing for substantial cost savings and increased production of wind energy.”

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  • Smarter homes can flatten evening peak in power demand

    Smarter electricity consumption and deployment of more residential solar could completely flatten the evening peak in demand on the grid, according to a new report.

    The study, produced by partners including Loughborough University and Advanced the Solar Trade Association (STA) highlighted the potential benefits of mass adoption of residential solar, storage and smart controls.

    It found that the most advanced homes, with solar PV, battery storage and intelligent controls installed, could reduce their peak time consumption by 97% annually, with 4.4 million of these homes completely eliminating the evening peak on a typical winter’s day.

    Dr Philip Leicester, Research Fellow at the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology at Loughborough University said: “Our work shows that domestic PV in combination with electrical energy storage offers significant benefits in addition to higher household PV self-consumption. These include system flexibility services, such as management of year-round peak electricity system demand.”

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