The Informer

Works gets underway on a digital energy map to harness the power of data to support the push to net zero; a High Court judge quashes Government approval for a 1.8GW offshore wind project; and a think-tank says the Texas blackouts highlight the need for GB to be ready for ‘Black Swan’ events.

  • Digital energy map will harness power of data to support Net Zero

    Britain’s electricity and gas network operators have joined forces to build a digital map of the UK’s energy system.

    The project aims to harness the power of data to support the path to Net Zero and will test the model the Energy Networks Association (ENA) is developing for a full National Energy System Map which will include network assets, generators, and energy intensive users.

    Ordnance Survey (OS) and 1Spatial are helping on the proof-of-concept project which will pull together network data from all Britain’s electricity and gas network operators. The map will provide customers with information about energy network assets, where they are located and who owns them.

    The project aims to improve investment decisions, support new markets such as local flexibility, and help bring new renewable connections to the energy networks.

    Dan Clarke, Head of Innovation at ENA, said: “This ground-breaking project proves how we can harness the power of data to deliver the technologies which will define the industry’s net zero future."

    "Providing more transparency of the electricity and gas networks will help companies in and out of the energy industry to make investment decisions more intelligently. Crucially it can support emerging markets and help projects like new renewables sites or electric vehicle fleets connect to the networks.”

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  • Government urged to act after major wind farm blocked

    A High Court judge has blocked permission for a huge project which was set to play an important role in meeting the UK’s ambitious targets for offshore wind growth.

    Mr Justice Holgate overturned a decision to grant development consent for Vattenfall’s 1.8GW Norfolk Vanguard project after legal action from a resident living near a planned cable route.

    BEIS said it was disappointed by the outcome and that it will be considering the judgment carefully before deciding next steps.

    The legal challenge came after the resident argued that ministers had not taken into account the "cumulative impacts" of the onshore infrastructure for the project and a related scheme, Norfolk Boreas.

    RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive, Melanie Onn said projects such as Norfolk Vanguard were important if the UK is to achieve its target of 40GW of offshore wind by 2030.

    “Developing new offshore wind projects will bring billions in new investment to the UK and create tens of thousands of high-quality jobs after the pandemic."

    "We hope the Government will examine the judgement carefully and respond in a way that supports meaningful action against the most dangerous threat to our planet - climate change. This is especially important in the year when we are hosting COP26, as new projects are vital to maintain the UK's global lead in offshore wind".

    Vattenfall UK Country Manager Danielle Lane said the ruling relating to the process for granting consent and is “not about the merits of our world class Norfolk Vanguard project”.

    “It’s vital that the Government now acts to redetermine consent, with regard to the judge's ruling, as quickly as possible."

    “That way we can continue to invest in the region and remain on track to begin generating low cost, renewable electricity by the late 2020s.”

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  • Texas blackouts highlight need to plan for ‘Black Swan’ events

    The power blackouts in Texas have highlighted the importance of Britain being prepared for ‘Black Swan’ events particularly as coal and nuclear capacity continues to fall, according to a think-tank.

    Several million residents in the US state have been left without power after record-breaking low temperatures which have led to problems at many generators.

    The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said that the issue has highlighted how power systems need to be resilient to rare events, whether they are weather-related, medical pandemics or a computer hack.

    The think-tank said that during the last two ‘Beasts from the East’ wind generation remained high, but that may not be the case in the future when coal and nuclear capacity would also be lower.

    “If a continental high-pressure weather system extends across the North Sea and the wind stops blowing, we could suffer the same fate as the Texans,” it said.

    Although more interconnections will help ensure supplies most of the time, it said GB cannot bank on it being summer in Europe when it is winter here.

    “Our planners need to ensure that adequate supply is always available from domestic sources. This is likely to be a mix of predictable renewables, storage, modular - and preferably dispatchable - nuclear and back-up generation,” it said.

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  • Gas demand jumped by a third during cold snap

    Energy industry leaders have praised the gas and electricity networks’ response to the challenges posed by Storm Darcy.

    Heavy snow and plunging temperatures saw gas demand increase by a third, but the reliability of the local gas networks remained at 99.9%.

    The Energy Networks Association (ENA) said local electricity network operators had also prepared for issues such as breakages on overhead power lines by putting additional staff on standby and ensuring that their fleets, which included specialist vehicles, were ready to be deployed.

    David Smith, Chief Executive of the ENA which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses said: “Even though demand for gas soared by a third as people looked to heat their homes, the networks responded very well which is a result of the dedication of the frontline teams as well as strategic planning."

    “I am very grateful to all those who have been out working in very challenging conditions to keep energy flowing for customers all across the UK.”

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  • Pumped hydro could save £690m in system costs

    Long duration pumped hydro could achieve significant savings in energy system costs if barriers to investment are overcome, a study has argued.

    The study by Imperial College London found that 4.5GW of hydro capacity with 90GWh of storage could save up to £690m per year in energy system costs by 2050.

    In its recent Energy White Paper, the UK Government set out that long-duration storage technologies such as pumped hydro would play an essential role in decarbonising UK’s electricity supply by integrating renewable energy and maintaining security of supply. Long duration storage, compared to short duration batteries, is able to continuously charge up with excess renewables and also discharge power to the grid for several hours or days when wind and solar output is low.

    However, the report says the current policy and market framework is unlikely to bring forward investment in many new projects because the long duration and low carbon capability of pumped hydro storage is not sufficiently valued.

    SSE Renewables, which commissioned the report and which is behind the proposed Coire Glas project in the Scottish Highlands which would be the UK’s largest pumped hydro energy storage scheme, said the technology has a big role to play in achieving net zero in the most cost-effective way possible.

    “However, there are commercial hurdles that we still need to overcome if such a large civil engineering project is to become a reality. The current policy and market framework are not yet suitable for attracting investment in such large-scale storage projects, although the UK Government has set out its intention to address those barriers to investment,” it said.

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