The Informer

This week's energy news headlines: The system operator and Ofgem both name digital transformation as a top priority for the year ahead; Increased renewable generation and lower demand helped UK energy emissions fall sharply last year; Most business leaders believe they should be doing more to measure and monitor their environmental impact

  • Digital transformation a top priority for system operator and regulator

    National Grid ESO has named digital transformation as the top priority for its innovation strategy for the year ahead.

    The system operator said that a more complex, faster-moving electricity system needs much faster decision-making, and that harnessing the power of data was key to capturing the benefits of the transition to zero carbon. It also said as electricity networks become more reliant on data and aging technologies, the risk of cyber-attacks and the need for a faster response to such attacks becomes greater.

    Carolina Tortora, Head of Innovation Strategy at National Grid ESO, said industry stakeholders were relying on it to lead the way in digital. “The scale of the challenge, against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving energy sector, is significant – but we’re equal to the task. “This means harnessing data and digital technologies to enhance our operations, whether that’s accurately forecasting wind power or sending the right signals to the market – and consumers – to help balance the grid efficiently.”

    Meanwhile, unlocking the benefits of data and digitalisation is also a key area of regulator Ofgem’s new strategic framework which it will work on this year. It said its work on data and digitalisation aims to ensure better regulatory decisions are taken and that data is used more effectively by the market.

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  • UK energy emissions fell by almost 12% in 2020

    Greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector fell by almost 12% last year as consumption dropped and renewables made a growing contribution to supply.

    The fall contributed to an overall drop in emissions for the country of 8.9%, the biggest fall since records began in 1990. In its preliminary report on emissions, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said: "This large fall in 2020 is primarily due to the large reduction in the use of road transport during the nationwide lockdowns and the reduction in business activity.”

    Emissions were estimated at 414.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020, down from 454.8 million the previous year, the data showed. However, environmental group Greenpeace said the Government must focus on the long-term picture to ensure its climate targets are met. "It's important the Government does not celebrate this, instead it must ramp up action to genuinely slash emissions in a meaningful way from every sector of society," said its UK Policy Director Doug Parr.

    Meanwhile, Scotland came within a whisker of hitting its 2020 target of generating the equivalent of 100% of the country's gross electricity demand from renewable sources. Last year 97.4% of Scotland's electricity consumption was met by clean power. The 100% target was set in 2011, when renewable technologies generated 37% of the country’s electricity demand.

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  • Most business leaders keen to reduce environmental impact

    Over half of UK CEOs believe they should still be doing more to measure and report the environmental impact of their business, according to a survey.

    PwC’s 24th annual CEO survey also found majority (60%) of UK CEOs plan to increase their long-term investments in sustainability and ESG initiatives over the next three years.

    Almost half (49%) of UK CEOs think reducing climate change and environmental damage should be a top three government priority, compared to 34% globally and 50% said it should be a top three UK business priority (34% globally).

    However, only 45% of UK CEOs believe it is likely that the government's recovery plan will effectively balance short-term economic needs with long-term environmental goals, while 33% believe it is unlikely that the recovery plan will achieve this.”

    Kevin Ellis, Chairman at PwC, said: “Climate has become a fundamental business issue, and CEOs recognise they need to step up. Companies are starting to transform their business models, supply chains, products and services.

    “This is driving investment, better measurement and reporting of environmental impacts, which should in turn fuel further action.”

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  • Warning over global coal use despite renewables growth

    Much more needs to be done to ensure global coal generation keeps falling as electricity demand recovers, according to a new report.

    Research by energy think-tank Ember showed that output from new renewable energy projects helped to force a record fall in global coal power of 346 TWh in 2020.

    However, the report cautions that this was only possible because the pandemic paused the world’s rising demand for electricity. Since 2015, rising electricity demand has outpaced growth in clean electricity and led to an increase in fossil fuels and emissions.

    Dave Jones, Ember’s Global Lead, said: “With coal use already rising in 2021 across China, India and the US, it’s clear the big step-up is yet to happen.”

    “As electricity demand resumes and increases, the world will need to do a lot more to ensure coal keeps falling.”

    Wind and solar showed resilient growth despite the pandemic, up by 15% (+314 TWh) in 2020, which is more than the UK’s entire annual electricity production. Wind and solar now supply almost a tenth of global electricity, mirrored across many G20 countries, including India (9%), China (9.5%), Japan (10%), Brazil (11%), the US (12%) and Turkey (12%). Europe is leading the way, with Germany at 33% and the United Kingdom at 29%, which Ember says gives confidence in how wind and solar can be quickly built and integrated into the electricity system.

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  • Option fees raised for Scottish offshore wind sites

    The maximum option fee for offshore wind sites under the Crown Estate Scotland’s ScotWind leasing process has been increased by up to tenfold. The seabed agency has set the top option fee for a site at £100,000 per square kilometre, compared to the original £10,000 level. The increase comes after a review following the outcome of a similar leasing round for England and Wales earlier this year.

    A total of 8,600km2 of Scottish seabed is potentially available for development. Money raised will be used by the Scottish Government for public spending to drive the green recovery and other priorities.

    The closing date for applications will be in July 2021, instead of the original end-March deadline. CES Chair Amanda Bryan said: “Throughout the development of ScotWind Leasing we have sought to secure best value for communities and help place Scotland as a competitive destination for the investment needed to turn potential projects in to reality. This review achieves both of these goals."

    Scottish Renewables Chief Executive Claire Mack said it is now up to individual developers to decide if the new price of the leases “reflects their assessment of the value of the contracts which they will need to secure from the UK Government”.

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