Dave Elliott: Renewables now supply around 33% of UK electricity, but the regional inputs per capita are very uneven. Most of the 43 GW or so of UK renewable capacity is in England – more than 25 GW, led by wind and biomass. But in 2017 Scotland, with 7.5% of the total UK population, got 68% of its power from its 10.5 GW of renewables, with 73% of that coming from wind. Around 12 GW more is on the way, so Scotland may yet meet its ambitious 100% by 2020 power target. While, combined, the UK is doing quite well on power, the English share per capita is low. And even getting to that has been a struggle — one that’s continuing, with new onshore wind projects still blocked across the UK by the Westminster government, apart from on remote Scottish Islands. The UK government says it has to avoid passing large costs on to consumers and so has cut support for renewables like onshore wind and PV, which it says no longer need subsidies in any case. The cost of new balancing technology to deal with the variability of some renewables is also falling. That’s true not just for batteries for short-term storage, but also for Power to Gas hydrogen production for longer-term storage using excess renewable power intermittently or even continuous production from dedicated renewable projects. P2G does seem to be moving forward, with new studies suggesting it is already competitive in niche markets and could be so across the board in around ten years. That would be pretty good going for a technology that only emerged from the lab relatively recently, if you date it from the first ITM Power prototypes. A bit gloomily, a study by the UK’s Imperial College London says that it can take decades to move from the early R&D phase to full scale adoption. P2G seems to be doing better than that; it’s moving up its learning curve fast, aided by commercial-scale deployment.
Physics World 26th June 2019 read more »