The Informer

The dramatic impact of lockdown measures has provided insight into how the future energy system might look;  a Scottish nuclear power station is to close early; changes to metering regulation are proposed to support more system flexibility; and the Government looks for help to realise the potential of marine energy.

  • Covid-19 impact provides ‘glimpse into future energy system’

    The impact of lockdown measures on demand, prices, balancing costs and emissions has provided a glimpse into how a future lower-carbon energy system might operate, according to a new report.

    The latest quarterly Electric Insights report from Imperial College London said the “complete reworking of society” continued to have unprecedented impacts on the power system.

    Lower electricity demand combined with exceptional weather propelled renewables to their greatest ever share of electricity during the last quarter. That also forced down prices, emissions and the need for nuclear and fossil fuels.

    The spot-market value of Britain’s electricity halved over the last 12 months, as demand remained depressed and wholesale prices hit their lowest in a decade.

    The report said Britain’s electricity over the last quarter was also the cleanest it has ever been. Carbon emissions were a third lower than this time last year, and the carbon intensity of electricity fell to an all-time low on the Spring Bank Holiday.

    Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, and lead author of the Electric Insights report produced for Drax, said: “The past few months have given the country a glimpse into the future for our power system, with higher levels of renewable energy and lower demand making for a difficult balancing act.

    “To help the country decarbonise further it is vital that flexible technologies which provide power and system stability play an increasing role in our grid.”

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  • Scottish nuclear station to close

    EDF has announced that its Hunterston B plant in Scotland is to close earlier than previously planned. The site in Ayrshire will move into its defuelling phase no later than January 2022 with the company saying that the decision had been taken given the age of the station and the desire to “provide clarity for our staff, the community and business partners”. The planned date is subject to a further inspection in Spring 2021 and then regulatory approval for a final six months of operation. Hunterston B started generating in 1976. Matt Sykes, Managing Director for EDF’s Generation business, said the site had “far exceeded its original remit”. “We didn’t know back in the 1960s, when these plants were designed, just how important low carbon energy would become. We owe all those that designed, built, commissioned and still operate the station a huge debt of gratitude. Our focus is on continuing to safely deliver the last period of power generation and then transition the station into decommissioning.” EDF also said it has received approval to start generating again from one of the reactors at the station following a major, two-year inspection and investment programme to prove that the station can respond safely to a range of earthquake scenarios.

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  • Metering regulation changes will support flexibility

    Proposals to enable more smaller asset owners to provide balancing services will help support greater flexibility on the system, according to industry body Elexon. It is consulting on changes to the Balancing and Settlement Code (BSC) so that individual asset meters located “behind the boundary point” can be used for settlement purposes. Such meters measure electricity flows to, or from, assets including embedded generators, demand-side response providers, or owners of electric vehicle charging points. Currently, the BSC does not recognise asset meters because only data on electricity flows from a meter at the boundary point - the location at which complex, multi-use sites connect to a distribution network - can be used for settlement. Elexon said that the proposed modification - P375 - offers more opportunities for smaller asset owners to provide balancing services. “The reforms would give Distribution System Operators (DSOs) more accurate control of their networks and enable them to dispatch assets with more efficiency and control,” it said. “Overall, this will contribute to the transition to a smarter system, recognised as being a major stepping stone to achieving net-zero.” Mark Bygraves, Elexon’s Chief Executive, said: “There is limited visibility of the actions of smaller asset owners at multi-use sites. We believe that including data from individual asset meters in settlement will fill that void, by providing granular information on their activity.” “If the proposals are approved by Ofgem they will ensure that the BSC is ahead of the game. We need the BSC to facilitate the changes that support innovation and initiatives to meet the net zero challenge.”

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  • BEIS looks for help on unleashing potential of marine energy

    A major consultation has been launched aimed at finding the best ways to support marine energy including floating offshore wind farms, tidal stream projects and barrages. The UK Government aims to use the findings to help shape policy proposals to be released as part of the long-awaited energy white paper which is expected in the Autumn. Energy secretary Alok Sharma said: “As an island nation we are perfectly placed to capitalise on clean marine energy, building on our world-leading position in offshore wind. “Examining how to make the most of our natural resources and support marine technologies that are cost-effective for the consumer will be crucial as we build back better, creating green jobs and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.” BEIS is inviting for views on how project costs could be reduced, environmental impacts minimised, and how supply chains can provide benefits across the UK. The month-long consultation will close on 30 September.

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  • Renewables industry urged to adopt circular economy

    The renewables industry needs to adopt the ideas of a circular economy where equipment is reused or remanufactured at the end of its operational life, according to a new report. Researchers said reducing the environmental cost of infrastructure such as offshore wind turbines, solar panels and batteries is vital if the UK is to achieve its net-zero carbon targets. Dr Paul Jensen, of the Faculty of the Environment at the University of Leeds who led the study, said renewable technologies often use copper, rare earth metals and novel composites which are damaging because of the way they are extracted and processed.
    “Low-carbon infrastructure risks falling into the same mistakes as oil and gas, and nuclear infrastructure decommissioning,” he said. “It is increasingly crucial for decommissioning to be seen as a point of system regeneration, not an end point. “In a perfect world we would have in the region of ten years to innovate and scale up industrial solutions that can ensure sustainable and resource conserving solutions for offshore wind farms and many other low carbon technologies. Given the early stage in which many of the end-of-use solutions still are, that is not a lot of time.”

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