The Informer

This week's energy news headlines: Views are sought on proposals for a £3.4bn high-voltage power link between Scotland and England; A new taskforce is launched to help accelerate digitalisation across the energy sector; A report claims tapping into heat deep underground could kickstart the green recovery.

  • Ofgem consults on underwater electricity ‘super highway’

    Regulator Ofgem has launched a consultation on proposals for an underwater electricity super-highway which would be the largest power transmission project ever built in Great Britain. The Eastern High Voltage Direct Current (EHVDC) project would see two 2GW links installed down the east coast from Scotland to the north-east of England. The links, which would by-pass the congested network around the border to England, would cost an estimated £3.4bn. The project would significantly increase the UK’s capacity for renewable power and be capable of transmitting enough electricity for around four million homes. Work to progress each of the links is being split into two projects with SP Energy Networks and National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) working on one, and SSEN Transmission and NGET on the other. Frank Mitchell, CEO of SP Energy Networks, said the consultation marks a positive step forward for a project which would support “hundreds of green jobs and provide part of the essential infrastructure needed to meet the UK’s offshore wind target by 2030 and its Net Zero ambitions by 2050”. Ofgem’s consultation, which closes on 23 June, seeks stakeholder views on the initial needs case stage of the plans ahead of a Final Needs Case, which is expected to start in early 2022. Read more

  • BEIS launches digitalisation taskforce

    A new taskforce has been launched aimed at modernising the energy system to unlock more flexibility and drive clean growth towards net zero emissions. The Energy Digitalisation Taskforce (EDiT) is being established by BEIS in the wake of the Energy Data Taskforce which sparked a wave of innovation across the industry. The new body will consider the market design, digital architecture and governance of a modern digitalised energy system. The taskforce is being set up in partnership with Ofgem and Innovate UK and will be run by the Energy Systems Catapult. Business, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Digitalisation is vital to reaching the UK’s ambitious world-leading climate change target. “We need a smart and flexible energy system to harness energy from low carbon sources such as the sun and wind, to power our homes, businesses and vehicles. This means technologies – from solar panels and electric vehicles, to heat pumps and batteries – will need to be smarter, sharing information with one another.” Read more

  • Geothermal could provide £1.5bn boost to green recovery

    Support for the deep geothermal energy sector could see 12 projects up and running by 2025 to help kickstart the green recovery, according to a report. The backing could help a world leading renewable heat industry develop in the UK, provide a stable transition away from oil and gas, and help meet the Government’s net zero ambitions said the study by the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) and ARUP. Deep geothermal refers to heat resources at least 500m below the ground. At depths greater than 1km the heat energy is hot enough for direct-use space heating or industrial processes. An initial 12 projects would provide a catalyst for the industry to eventually develop 360 sites by 2050 which would provide some £1.5 billion of investment, 10,000 direct jobs and 25,000 indirect jobs, and an annual carbon saving of 3 megatons. Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the REA, said: “Deep geothermal must be central to the Government’s energy policy for the next 30 years, but with real and tangible benefits in the immediate future.” Heat accounts for around 40% of the UK’s energy consumption and nearly a third of UK greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that there is currently enough deep geothermal heat energy to supply all of the UK’s needs for at least 100 years. Read more

  • Nuclear plant shutdowns could derail net zero plans

    Governments have been urged to accelerate investment in nuclear power amid warnings that the planned retirement of many plants could hit the transition to net zero. Global groups including the UK-based Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) have written an open letter to governments calling on them to give the sector the same access to finance as renewable technologies. The groups estimate that more than 100GW of nuclear capacity will retire globally within 20 years. The NIA’s Chief Executive Tom Greatrex said: “Nuclear is absolutely vital if we are to hit net zero as a planet. Nuclear delivers reliable clean power, new opportunities for industrial decarbonisation and good, well-paying jobs for a green economy. “The retirements of existing stations right across the world mean we need to act today, or we will lose jobs and see higher emissions. We are calling on policymakers to make the right choices.” Read more

  • Longer term energy demand impact from pandemic likely to be ‘modest’

    Changes to working and living patterns following the pandemic are likely to have only a “modest” impact on energy consumption in the years ahead, according to a new report from the National Infrastructure Commission. The report said it was “still far too early to draw conclusions” about which behavioural trends may emerge in the long term as a result of the pandemic. But it said although sectors such as public transport may see a significant impact, sectors such as utilities are less sensitive. The report also pointed out that utility networks coped well during periods of high restrictions during the pandemic, with higher domestic consumption offset by lower consumption in non-domestic buildings. The report stresses the importance of a continued commitment to infrastructure in supporting policy goals such as net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and rebalancing economic growth across the UK. “Although uncertainty may point towards delaying decisions on major infrastructure projects, there is also a case for the government to take decisions to reduce uncertainty and increase confidence for the market and for investors,” it said. Commissioner Andy Green said: “The inconvenient fact is that it is always too soon to know what will happen in the future. Responsible investment decisions require honesty about the huge uncertainties that exist in considering which behaviour changes will remain decades after Covid restrictions are lifted.” Read more