The energy value chain is being rebalanced, from production through to consumption. The pressure of simultaneously keeping prices low – while meeting the need for new capacity – and making the low-carbon transition is driving an energy revolution, write Andrew Jones of S&C Electric Company Europe and Nick Heyward of UK Power Networks.
The UK’s switch to low-carbon energy has driven a multi-billion-pound investment in new renewable energy generation assets over the last decade. In contrast to our current electricity supply, which mostly originates from centralised locations, a large proportion of new generation, such as offshore wind, will be located in remote regions.
This year, when the electricity market reform (EMR) comes into force, the guaranteed prices (contracts for difference) offered to new nuclear and offshore wind energy will drive an influx of even more green energy on to the grid. To allow for the switch to distributed energy and for the benefits of those and future investments to flow through to energy users, it’s vital that a resilient power grid is in place.
Energy supply from these green energy sources fluctuates and, unlike current power stations, much of its supply will come from remote onshore and offshore areas. In order to run an ‘always-on’ economy using renewables, we must embrace advanced grid technologies which balance intermittent green energy with existing fossil fuel sources. If we want a power grid that supports the UK’s low-carbon transition then we need to make demand meet supply, not just making supply meet demand, as it does today.
To make green energy work for us, we need, at times, to deliberately increase demand (to absorb the large surges of energy that renewables produce) and then to reduce that demand when supply drops. To achieve this, we need everything from consumer engagement through to innovative technical and commercial solutions, such as energy storage.
The role of storage in the energy mix
The energy sector is the only supply chain business model that doesn’t ‘warehouse’ its product. Yet energy storage is crucial for making green energy technologies viable.
Storage effectively enables grid operators to move electricity capacity from one time of day to another: smoothing the peaks and troughs created by low-carbon technologies, and thereby avoiding the need to upgrade, or replace infrastructure while reducing our reliance on carbon-emitting generation resources.
As well as balancing the power grid, large energy users could use storage to buy power off-peak, then store and use it as needed, which would cut bills dramatically; helping to reshore businesses in the UK.
From a macro-economic point of view, Imperial College estimates that 25 gigawatts (GW) of storage capacity located on the electricity network would create savings on UK energy spend of up to £10 billion a year by 2050. Aside from these savings (and other whole system benefits, such as capital deferral on expensive copper grid reinforcement and enhanced resilience), the reality is that the grid will not have the capacity to plug in the volume of low-carbon technologies promised by the EMR without adequate energy storage.
Why then, given the chancellor’s aim to “make the UK a world leader in energy storage”, does the UK currently rely on just 3GW of energy storage capacity, over half of which comes from a single hydro-electric storage site built in the 1970s?
Learning by doing
The answer is that grid-scale energy storage is still a relatively immature and expensive technology, apart from pumped hydro storage (which has limited options for new capacity). However, that picture is changing fast.
Also, the full benefits of installing energy storage on the network are not fully understood. Currently, there are limited large-scale energy storage projects in the UK, leaving a confidence gap.
To address this, UK Power Networks in partnership with S&C Electric Europe and other project partners recently announced a cutting-edge trial of energy storage technology to establish the impact on the grid of absorbing energy, then releasing it at peak times to meet demand. The trial will establish the ability of energy storage to help support capacity constraints and to balance the influx of low-carbon technologies onto the grid. This will be Europe’s largest battery energy storage system.
The £18.7m project – of which £13.2m comes from Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund – will be based at the electricity substation serving Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire and will deploy a battery storage facility, using advanced lithium manganese technology from Samsung SDI.
When the facility becomes operational later this year, the UK Power Networks’ substation will have a 6-megawatt (MW) storage capacity, which is expected to defer more than £6m on traditional network reinforcement methods, such as cabling and additional transformers.
For the first time, this project will demonstrate storage across multiple parts of the electricity system, outside the boundaries of the distribution network, allowing National Grid and energy suppliers to explore the shared benefits of storage.
By demonstrating 6MW/10 megawatt hours (MWh) of storage, the project will explore the value of using storage to manage dynamic consumption patterns and supply to make the network more resilient and responsive to fluctuations, while cutting infrastructure and cabling costs. Once proven, the replication of the method across all of the UK network operators could conservatively provide savings of more than £700m by 2040 compared to business-as-usual approaches.
Perhaps most excitingly, the trial is expected to show how a smart distributed energy system, supported by storage, could enable distributors to take on a multi-dimensional role; receiving and absorbing ‘wrong time’ green energy then redistributing it when needed, providing benefits up and down the energy value chain.
This type of thinking is an evolution beyond the classic utility mindset of energy being generated and controlled from large central locations. Certainly, a common-sense approach must be taken to ensure that this type of technology is used to effectively serve consumers’ interests – providing the best value for use of low carbon technologies.
As we make the low-carbon transition, it’s vital that we safeguard reliability, resilience and certainty of supply. As utilities face-up to the challenge of bringing even more new technologies, such as solar and wind, on stream, the networks need to be ahead of the game in testing and adopting smart technologies, like storage, to make the grid flexible enough to cope with future change.
The time is ripe for the power system model of the last century to evolve, driven by new generation, consumption habits, technology and regulation. As with any step change, it’s vital that, before making the leap, we have tried and tested the new world that we are moving into, only then can we embrace it with both hands.
Andrew Jones is managing director of S&C Electric Company Europe, and Nick Heyward is project director for the Smarter Network Storage project at UK Power Networks. For more information about the project, please visit www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/innovation.
Photo: Andrea Kratzenberg via freeimages
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
What is going green?
Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.
The first step in going green
There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.
Making needed changes within the company
After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.
Reducing the common paper waste
Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.
Make money by spreading the word
Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.