The Informer

This week's energy news headlines: A report warns that growing reliance on wind and solar generation means the UK needs to be prepared for extreme weather conditions; Investing in greater energy flexibility is seen as a “no regrets” opportunity to save consumers billions; The first auction under the UK’s new emissions trading scheme sees carbon prices top £50 a tonne.

  • Warning over weather threat to power security

    The UK’s energy system needs to prepare for a once-in-a-decade prolonged period of low wind resources and reduced daylight, according to a new report. Academics from Imperial College London said that recent blackouts in Texas show the danger of overlooking extreme weather risks and underline the need for a more flexible energy system. The report pointed out the UK experienced its longest spell of low wind output in more than a decade during the first quarter of this year. Output from the country’s 24.4 gigawatt (GW) wind turbine fleet fell to as low as 0.6 GW on 3 March, in sharp contrast to the 18.1 GW delivered later that month. Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, and lead author of the quarterly Drax Electric Insights report, said: “Renewable power sources have made our country cleaner and greener, but as they rely on the ever-changing British weather, completing our transition away from fossil fuels comes with serious challenges.” To bridge the gap and deliver a net zero energy system, the report said the UK needs to invest in more flexible capacity, such as long duration energy storage. Meanwhile, strong winds have seen GB set a new all-time high for electricity generated from wind turbines. Between 2am and 3am on 21 May, wind made-up 62.5% of Britain’s electricity mix, beating the previous record of 59.9% from August last year, according to National Grid. Read more

  • Fully flexible energy system could save £16.7bn a year on path to net zero

    Investing in greater flexibility for the energy system is a “no-regrets” opportunity to deliver savings of up to £16.7bn a year, according to new analysis. A more flexible system will also accelerate the benefits of decarbonisation, supported by decentralisation and digitalisation, said the report led by The Carbon Trust. To maximise the benefits of flexibility, the report said households and businesses should be able to play an active role in the development and operation of the country’s future energy system as power use for transport, heat and appliances becomes more integrated. Policymakers also need to act now to maximise future flexibility, such as by building it into ‘smart’ appliances or building standards. Tom Delay, Chief Executive of the Carbon Trust which led the work with Professor Goran Strbac from Imperial College London, said: “It's critically important that industry, business, consumers and the public sector understand the value of flexibility and the benefits that flexibility brings to the British economy. Flexibility always delivers – we should invest in it now.” Read more

  • First trading under UK ETS auction

    The first auction has taken place under the UK’s new Emissions Trading Scheme, with the carbon price hitting more than £50 per tonne. More than 6 million UK allowances were offered for auction and all were sold during the auction. Future auctions will take place every other Wednesday and a floor price of £22 per tonne is in place. The UK ETS replaces the EU Emissions Trading System following Brexit. By setting a cost for emissions over a set cap it aims to encourage major energy users to reduce their carbon footprint. Dr Jonathan Marshall, of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said the results of the first auction “will bring a sigh of relief for industry and for policy makers” as there had been concerns that prices would soar above those on the continent. “Clearing this first hurdle means attention can be turned to the future, taking decisive action to end free permits that undermine the whole purpose of carbon pricing, setting a net-zero-aligned trajectory and thoroughly assessing a link with the EU scheme.” The EU’s carbon price hit a record high of above €50 per tonne earlier in May. Read more

  • UK moves up a place in global renewables league table

    The UK has moved up into fourth place in a table ranking the most attractive countries for investment in renewables. The record prices achieved under the Crown Estate’s latest seabed leasing round, which granted rights for almost 8GW of offshore wind capacity, were cited as a key factor in the UK’ progress in EY’s Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI). Other factors were the consent for the development of the largest battery-storage project, and a £92m pledge in funding for innovative green technologies. The UK had a total RECAI score of 65 in the latest league table which saw the US retain its top spot, followed by mainland China and India. The latest report found that global renewable energy capacity investments grew by 2% last year despite the impact of the pandemic. Carmine Di Sibio, EY global chairman and CEO, said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased global awareness on the urgent environmental challenges faced. "No single country or organisation can do it alone. We need collaboration across industry ecosystems, geographies and governments, harnessing the power of technology to accelerate the world’s transformation to a more sustainable future.” Read more

  • Low-carbon energy bodies call for 2035 grid decarbonisation

    A group of energy industry organisations have called for urgent action to build new wind, solar and nuclear capacity and for a binding target to fully decarbonise the grid by 2035. RenewableUK, Solar Energy UK and the Nuclear Industry Association warned that Britain’s grid is "dirtier now than it was a year ago" with the carbon intensity of electricity about 5% higher year-on-year in the first four months of 2021. To accelerate progress, the associations are also calling for a rise in the carbon price to be consistent with delivering grid decarbonisation by 2035. Melanie Onn, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK said: “We’re urging ministers to set out key milestones in renewable technologies which will help us to decarbonise the grid as fast as possible. In the run-up to COP26, we need a detailed roadmap including specific deployment targets for onshore wind, floating wind, renewable hydrogen and marine energy to be achieved by the end of this decade”.Read more