A recent study from a prestigious economic research organization concludes what many energy industry officials have long said: Expansion of intermittent wind and solar power still needs backup from electricity generated by natural gas. The Massachusetts-based National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which over the years has been associated with 25 Nobel Prize winners in economics, recently published a white paper on the issue. Major authors of the report were Elena Verdolini, Francesco Vona, and David Popp. It’s an international group of authors with Verdolini being based in Italy; Vona in France and Popp in Syracuse, New York. The report is titled “Bridging the Gap: Do Fast Reacting Fossil Technologies Facilities Renewable Energy Diffusion?” The report has also generated some mainstream media buzz. For example, The New York Times carried an Aug. 11 article headlined “Turns out wind and solar have a secret friend: Natural Gas.” “Fast-reacting fossil technologies (FRF henceforth), which includes most gas-generation technologies, Combined Heat and Power and Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle to name a few, are characterized by mid-merit order, quick ramp-up times, lower capital costs and modularity (meaning that efficiency does not fall significantly with size). They are thus particularly suitable to meet peak demand and mitigate the variability of renewables,” according to the report. “We thus argue that a policy and academic debate centered on the juxtaposition of renewable (clean) and fossil (dirty) technologies misses this important point, leads to an underestimation of the costs of renewable energy integration, and does not contribute to stressing the importance of funding and developing solid alternative options such as cheap storage technologies,” according to the authors.
Power Engineering 17th Aug 2016 read more »
National Grid has slashed its forecasts for the number of big new power plants expected to be built in coming years, while admitting its estimates for the growth of solar farms and other small-scale generators were almost 50 times too low. Just four years ago the company expected up to 33 gigawatts (GW) of new power plant capacity to be connected to its high voltage electricity transmission networks in England and Wales by 2021. But this forecast has now been cut to 14GW, the company said yesterday, due to delays to new nuclear reactors such as Hinkley Point, a hiatus in investment in new gas-fired power stations and delays to some offshore wind farms. At the same time, National Grid appears to have been completely blindsided by the rapid growth in small-scale generation such as solar panels and small wind farms that connect directly into lower-voltage distribution networks. In 2012 it anticipated that just 0.5GW of such generation would be connected between 2013 and 2021. In fact, almost 11GW has already connected and a further 13GW is forecast, primarily due to the boom in subsidised solar as the costs of the technology plummeted. The figures, which underline the radical changes underway in the UK electricity system, emerged after regulator Ofgem proposed cutting National Grid’s budget for upgrades to the transmission network due to “fewer generators connecting to the high voltage grid”. “The system is going through major changes as we move to a low carbon economy. National Grid now has a bigger role to play, for example in planning the future of the grid and managing additional supply and demand balancing services,” Ofgem said. The extra funding includes £4.5m for administering the “last resort” schemes National Grid has had to introduce to help keep the lights on in coming winters by keeping old power plants running or getting businesses to cut their usage. This excludes the payments made to companies taking part in the schemes. Some of the extra cash will also help fund National Grid’s push for “demand side response” technologies, encouraging businesses to increase or decrease their electricity usage at certain times of day to help cope with fluctuations in power supplies from intermittent renewables.
Telegraph 18th Aug 2016 read more »