Seven reasons why the Government’s ideas on balancing renewables don’t make sense. In its latest call for evidence on how to balance renewable energy, the Government wants to make windfarms and solar farms be responsible for assuring power delivery all the time. This is something that is not even required of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. Apparently fixated on this notion, and also that of ending the current system of incentivising renewables through giving the long term contracts guaranteeing to pay them set electricity prices, the Government ignores the most practical options for balancing fluctuating renewables. Under the title ‘Enabling a High Renewable, Net Zero Electricity System‘, the Government has set down a series of loaded questions encouraging solutions that involve removing the most successful incentives for renewable energy and making wind and solar plant guarantee continuous delivery of power. Our research, based on modeling of Scottish grid constraints, implies that for every TWh of inflexible nuclear generation, an extra 120 GWh of renewable energy generation (the equivalent of 12 percent of the nuclear generation) will be forced off the grid. This is in a system dominated mostly by renewable and nuclear generation. Clearly, the Government could help balance renewables much better by scrapping plans to give more extremely expensive (and wasteful in terms of its impact on renewable generation) contracts to nuclear power plant and instead spending some of the savings on measures which genuinely help balance renewables. Amongst the techniques necessary for balancing renewables that the Government ignores in their call for evidence are: encouraging energy suppliers to bring in half-hour pricing tariffs for all consumers; this can help shape demand to suit the availability of power supplies; giving requirements and ambitious targets to Distribution Companies to hold ‘flexibility auctions’ whereby regional distribution networks hold competitive auctions to enable a range of players to offer demand reductions when needed, so helping balance renewables. These already exist on an experimental level, as illustrated by Western Power Distribution Company; setting up markets, some of them niche development markets, to deliver storage for short, medium terms and long term balancing purposes; Encouraging thermal as well as other types of storage both at the level of the individual building (hot water tanks) and also through district heating systems served by large scale heat pumps with large long term hot water stores.
100% Renewables 27th Feb 2021 read more »