The Informer

This week's energy news headlines: More of the UK’s electricity came from renewables than fossil fuels for the first time last year; MPs warn that actions need to be taken now to avoid EV charging causing blackouts; New figures show the market for flexibility services including DSR is booming.

  • Renewables hits new record as fossil fuels shrink

    Renewable energy sources generated more electricity in the UK than fossil fuels for the first year ever in 2020, according to new figures from BEIS. The proportion of the energy mix accounted for by renewables reached a record 43.1% last year as fossil fuels’ share fell again. Together with nuclear power, low carbon generation accounted for 59.3% of the energy mix, The proportion of fossil fuels in the energy mix reached a record low in 2020, dropping to 37.7% compared to 75.4% in 2010. Coal fell to just 1.8%, down from 28.2% a decade ago. However the data also showed that growth in new renewable capacity slowed in 2020, blamed on the impact of the pandemic on investment and construction activity. Total electricity generation levels fell 3.6% compared to 2019, with industrial demand for electricity falling by 9.3% but domestic consumption rising by 3.9% as more people worked from home. Dan McGrail, CEO of Renewable UK, described the latest data as “stellar news” ahead of COP26. “It shows that this country is playing a leading role in the global energy transition, with renewables becoming the dominant source of new power generation – outstripping fossil fuels for the first time ever and setting new record highs across the board,” he said. Read more

  • MPs voice concern over EV charging blackouts

    The huge growth in electric vehicles (EVs) in the years ahead could see the UK face the risk of blackouts, MPs have warned. The Transport Committee said unless charging habits change or the grid infrastructure is strengthened, demand from power for EVs could threaten security of supply. The committee has urged the government to work with National Grid to identify locations where the grid won’t be able to cope with additional usage. A report from the MPs also questions whether the Government’s current plans are enough to deliver the public charging infrastructure needed across all regions of the UK and whether it will benefit everyone. It said drivers who live in rural or remote areas or who do not have off-street parking are at risk of being left behind. Huw Merriman MP, Chair of the transport committee, said: “Putting guarantees in place on infrastructure is crucial, but one report after another flags concerns to Government about the provision of electric car charging infrastructure. “Let ours be the last; it’s time that ministers set out the route map to delivering a network of services for everyone across the UK.” Read more

  • Flexibility tenders surge in 2021

    Record levels of local flexibility have been contracted by Britain’s electricity distribution networks this year, according to new figures. A total of 1.6GW has been contracted since the beginning of 2021, an increase of 45% over the whole of 2020 which saw 1.1GW. The Energy Networks Association (ENA) said the figure will rise further in the coming months as more flexibility is tendered out. The ENA said the flexibility will free up capacity on the networks during peak periods, the equivalent of connecting 32,000 rapid EV chargers to the grid or half the size of the proposed nuclear power station at Hinckley Point C. It said network operators were adopting a “flexibility first” approach to seek alternative solutions to traditional investment that would otherwise be required to solve congestion on the grid. Customers are paid for services, including reducing their energy usage at certain times of the day or using battery storage to inject power into the grid.
    Randolph Brazier, Director of Innovation and Electricity Systems at the ENA, said: “Local flexibility services are a relatively new market but one that has seen an incredible growth over the past three years alone in Britain.” Read more

  • Government moves ahead with next generation nuclear

    Plans to develop a fleet of small nuclear power stations which could be built at a fraction of the cost of conventional projects have moved a step closer. The Government has published a Call for Evidence setting out its suggested approach to building the first advanced modular reactor (AMR) demonstrator. This will specifically explore high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs) as the most promising model for the demonstration programme, which ministers are investing £170 million into delivering by the early 2030s. It is hoped that as well as powering homes, HTGRs will also be able to generate low-carbon hydrogen. Energy Minister Anne Marie Trevelyan, said: ”While renewables like wind and solar will become an integral part of where our electricity will come from by 2050, they will always require a stable low-carbon baseload from nuclear. That is why, alongside negotiations with the developers of Sizewell C in Suffolk, we are pressing ahead with harnessing new and exciting advanced nuclear technology. “Advanced modular reactors are the next level of modern nuclear technology and have the potential to play a crucial role not only in tackling carbon emissions, but also in powering industry and driving forward Britain’s economic growth, as we build back greener.” Read more

  • New carbon pricing system urged to accelerate net zero push

    A new carbon pricing system could be used to help businesses switch to green technologies, a think-tank has suggested. A report by Bright Blue argues that the current carbon pricing system across different economic sectors in the UK is “inconsistent, regressive, unclear, and cannot put the country on the path to reach net zero emissions by 2050”. It believes that a new system should be introduced which would see every unit of carbon emitted across the economy subject to a similar carbon price. Part of the proceeds could be used to help businesses and low-income households invest in low carbon solutions. Josh Buckland, the former energy advisor to the Prime Minister who authored the report, said:
    “Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is a monumental challenge, one that will require the Government to utilise every possible option for driving down emissions in a fair and economically productive way. “Carbon pricing is a critical tool in its armoury, but the current system is inconsistent and in places regressive. Significant reform is needed, but any changes must be accompanied by a plan to deal upfront with the political challenges that taxing carbon properly will create.” Read more