The Informer

This week's energy news headlines: An industry body says ambitious 2030 targets for renewables are needed to put GB on course for net zero; Almost £54m worth of contracts have been awarded to provide system restoration services in the event of a major blackout; Six offshore wind projects capable of powering eight million homes have reached a major milestone.

  • Specific renewables targets urged for 2030

    The UK Government should commit to ambitious targets for 2030 to grow capacity from technologies including onshore wind, renewable hydrogen and marine energy, according to an industry body. RenewableUK argues that the Prime Minister’s new target of slashing emissions by 78% by 2035 and reaching net zero by 2050 can only be achieved by setting out clear milestones. It calls for the setting of a medium-term target of 30GW of onshore wind, enough to power over 19.5 million homes. As well as building new projects, the report highlights the need for policies which enable developers to make the most of existing wind farms by ‘repowering’ older turbines with modern state-of the-art technology. RenewableUK also believes that the Government should double its existing 1GW target for floating wind to capitalise on the UK’s global lead in the technology, and set a minimum target of 5GW of green hydrogen electrolyser capacity by 2030. The report also calls for a 1GW goal for marine energy by 2030. The organisation’s Head of Public Affairs, Nathan Bennett, said: “By enhancing our renewable energy targets, the UK doesn’t just show effective leadership on tackling climate change - we will also drive new investment and jobs in the renewable energy supply chain across the UK. “We’re in a position to be a world-leader in technologies like floating wind, green hydrogen and marine energy, grasping the export potential of each industry’s inevitable global growth”. Read more

  • System operator awards new blackout recovery contracts

    National Grid ESO has awarded eight contracts worth a total of almost £54m to provide recovery services for the electricity system in the event of a major power cut. The contracts for Electricity System Restoration Services, a new approach to what was previously known as ‘black start’, cover the North West and North East of England together with Scotland. The services are designed to restart Britain’s electricity system after a total blackout, something never experienced in Great Britain but which the system operator said it was “ready and regularly reviewing our plans for”. It is altering its approach to black start services to reflect the changing nature of generation as large traditional power stations close and are being replaced by smaller generators. Historically, generators that could kick-start the system, typically coal and gas fired power stations, had individual contracts with the ESO to provide services. It said a new competitive tender approach to the process is aimed at broadening the number of generators able to provide services. Read more

  • Milestone for major offshore wind projects

    Six offshore wind projects, representing 5.5GW of capacity and enough to power over 8 million homes, have reached a major milestone. The projects have passed their ‘milestone requirement’ under the third Contracts for Difference (CfD) round which was announced in October 2019. The stage requires generators to provide evidence of their commitment to delivering the project through investment made to date or contracts entered into. The Low Carbon Contracts Company has also granted extensions to the deadline for four remote island wind projects facing grid connection delays. However, two projects - Bulwell and Small Heath - were unable to achieve their milestones and their CfD contracts have been terminated. Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that fourth round of the CfD scheme will open to applications in December. It aims to double the capacity of renewable energy compared to the last round and expand the number of technologies supported, with offshore wind, onshore wind, solar, tidal, and floating offshore wind projects all eligible to bid. The Government has also confirmed plans to strengthen supply chain rules for projects of 300MW or above entering a CfD allocation round to help boost local economies. Read more

  • Government pledges should cut global warming but more progress needed

    New emissions targets set by governments have brought down projected end of century warming by 0.2 degrees centigrade, according to analysis. According to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), warming under its “optimistic scenario” - which assumes full implementation of all net zero targets put in place by countries - has dropped to 2˚C. The lobby group said it was clear that the Paris Agreement is driving change and spurring governments into adopting stronger targets. However, it warned that there is still some way to go, “especially given that most governments don’t yet have policies in place to meet their pledges”. The biggest contributors to the drop in projected warming are the US, the EU27, China and Japan although China and Japan did not yet formally submit a new 2030 target to the UN. The UK has announced a stronger 2035 target, Canada announced a new target, South Africa has an increased target under public consultation and Argentina has announced a further strengthening of the target it submitted last December. Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute, a CAT partner, said: “The wave towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions is unstoppable. The long-term intentions are good. But only if all governments flip into emergency mode and propose and implement more short-term action, global emissions can still be halved in the next 10 years as required by the Paris Agreement.” Read more

  • ESO proposes new approach to deliver transmission network competition

    The system operator has published its proposals for a new approach to deliver competition into the onshore electricity transmission network. National Grid ESO’s Early Competition Plan is an alternative to the current RIIO-model where the relevant transmission owner designs, builds, commissions and operates new assets in response to system needs. Under the proposals, there’ll be opportunities for other participants to compete to deliver solutions. The plan comes two years after Ofgem asked National Grid ESO to develop a model to encourage more innovation and ultimately better value for consumers. Hannah Kirk Wilson, Network Competition Senior Manager, said the plan was “very much a stakeholder-led effort”. “If approved by Ofgem, it should see new market entrants bring innovation and design ideas that compete to improve outcomes for consumers,” she said. An Ofgem decision on the plan is expected in the autumn, with the earliest competition launch in 2024. Meanwhile, a survey by SSEN Transmission found over 90% of stakeholders support reform of the current transmission charging regime. The company said the existing regime currently results in Scottish generators paying a higher cost for use of the transmission network compared to other areas in the UK. Read more