The Informer

The UK’s electricity system has decarbonised twice as fast as any other major economy; Utilita describes a warning from Ofgem over smart meter installations as 'grossly unfair'; and the UK’s biggest battery storage project gets the green light.

  • UK power system leads global decarbonisation

    Dramatic growth in renewable capacity has seen the UK’s electricity system more than halve its carbon intensity in the last decade, decarbonising twice as fast as any other major economy, according to a new report.

    Renewable power has grown six-fold in the last decade, meaning British households have reduced their CO2 emissions by three quarters of a tonne per year, said academics from Imperial College London.

    Although significant progress has been made, the research carried out for the Drax Electric Insights report also said the UK will need to rapidly develop more energy storage capacity if it is to continue its progress and achieve ambitions to grow offshore wind to 40GW by 2030.

    Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, and lead author of the Electric Insights reports, said: “The UK has decarbonised its power grid at an astonishing rate. Over the last decade the country has transformed itself from relying on coal to keep the lights on, to having its first coal-free month since the industrial revolution."

    “While this progress in the power sector has been rapid, we now need to decarbonise wider society by using electricity to heat our homes and power our cars to achieve net zero by 2050. As the world marks five years since the Paris Agreement the UK offers an example of how fast energy transitions can be made.”

    Meanwhile, the latest EY Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index has seen the UK rise by one place to fifth, thanks in part to major commitments to new offshore wind.

    The US held onto the top spot as a result of Covid-19 stimulus packages and a pending commitment to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement following the election.

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  • Energy supplier hits out at Ofgem over meter warning

    Energy supplier Utilita Energy has said it is “shocked and disappointed” over a warning from Ofgem that it could be banned from taking on new customers over the installation of smart meters.

    The regulator said Utilita had continued to install first generation smart meters when it should have installed second generation ‘SMETS2’ meters. Ofgem said customers who wish to switch with first generation smart meters may lose functionality, undermining the smart meter rollout.

    It is consulting on issuing Utilita with a final order compelling it to install second generation devices meters for new and replacement meters, or be banned from taking on new customers.

    However, Utilita said that Ofgem’s statement on the issue was “grossly unfair”.

    It said more than 90% of its customers are smart meter installed – roughly double the industry average.

    “Our decision to continue to install first generation meters is a moral one made solely with the best interests of our customers at heart,” it said.

    “Forcing Pay As You Go customers – tens of thousands of whom are vulnerable – to use unproven SMETS2 meters, which have major connectivity issues across large swathes of the north of England, and are clearly not user friendly, is unjustified.”

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  • Green light for UK’s largest battery energy storage project

    The Government has given the green light for the building of the country's largest battery energy storage facility on the banks of the River Thames.

    InterGen has been granted consent by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to build the 320MW project as the DP World London Gateway deep sea port and logistics hub.

    The company said it could ultimately deliver 1.3GWh of electricity, enough to power up to 300,000 homes for two hours.

    Construction is likely to start in 2022, with the battery plant becoming operational in 2024.

    InterGen is also looking at another large battery project at a site in Spalding, Lincolnshire. Chief Executive Jim Lightfoot said: “Our mission is to deliver the flexible electricity solutions that everyone relies on in a low-carbon world, and this project is a major statement of intent."

    “We are excited to be entering a new phase in our growth as an organisation, and will continue to explore opportunities to develop projects which can support the energy transition.”

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  • Network innovation projects secure £58m

    Five pioneering projects, including one to help the grid better manage more intermittent renewable generation, have secured up to £58m to help support the net zero transition.

    Ofgem has awarded the funding to electricity and gas projects under its 2020 Network Innovation Competition.

    The competition, part of the current network price controls, sees companies bid for funding to test new technologies and approaches which help cut both carbon emissions and costs for consumers.

    Jonathan Brearley, Chief Executive of Ofgem, said: “The winning projects were those which showed the most potential to make the game-changing leaps in technology we need to build a greener, fairer energy system at the lowest cost to consumers.”

    This year’s winners include a project put forward by UK Power Networks to develop new platforms to digitally upgrade electricity substations to better manage variable low carbon power generation and surges in demand, even when communication links to central systems are lost.

    Electricity North West also won funding for work to integrate standalone voltage control schemes into a single system to create a “self-balancing” network which unlocks capacity and reduces the need for network reinforcement.

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  • Government urged to commit to stronger carbon pricing

    More than 50 businesses and organisations have called on the UK government to commit to stronger and more consistent carbon pricing.

    The Zero Carbon Campaign has put forward a declaration calling for carbon pricing to be included in the UK's national climate plan, which is due to be submitted to the UN, and for the country to work to secure a global agreement on carbon pricing.

    Hannah Dillon, head of the Zero Carbon Campaign, said that everyone was already “paying the price” for not effectively curbing greenhouse gas emissions to date.

    “The longer we wait to put a proper price on pollution, the worse the cumulative effects of climate change will become, and the more expensive it will be for us to address them. The UK is uniquely placed to lead an ambitious international agenda on carbon pricing, but our leadership is only as strong as the example we set at home."

    “We hope that the range and calibre of signatories to this declaration will encourage our government to take this call for ambition incredibly seriously.”

    The Zero Carbon Campaign also wants to see a "high ambition club" of countries who are willing to demonstrate leadership in advancing carbon pricing mechanisms.

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