Tag: Solar Power

The UK Experienced Its ‘Greenest Year For Electricity Ever’ In 2017

The UK enjoyed its greenest year ever in 2017 in terms of how it produced its electricity, the National Grid has revealed.

Proving that renewable and clean energy has been enjoying stratospheric growth, the country managed to break an impressive 13 records around renewable energy.

These included the first day since the industrial revolution where the UK was able to generate electricity without any coal power.

Other records include the first time where over half of the UK’s electricity needs were met by renewable energy.

“It’s been an exciting year managing the many ‘network firsts’“said Duncan Burt, Director of the System Operator at National Grid.

List Of Broken Records In 2017:

  • First 24 hour period without coal generation since the Industrial Revolution – 21 April
  • Longest period without coal generation (40 hours 35 minutes) – 28-29 October
  • Greenest summer ever, with almost 52% of our electricity generation from low carbon sources – 21 June to 22 September
  • The lowest amount of carbon produced by electricity production at any one moment (73 gCO2/kWh) – 2 October 
  • The largest amount of  electricity produced from renewable sources at any one moment (19.2 GW) –21 March
  • Most electricity production from solar power at any one moment (8.9 GW), a quarter of Britain’s electricity supply – 26 May
  • Highest percentage of solar produced relative to national demand (26.8%) – 2 July
  • Most wind power produced in a day (285GWh)– 7 December
  • Most offshore wind generation at any one moment (4.3 GW) – 1 October
  • Most electricity production from all wind generation at any one moment (12.4 GW) – 6 December
  • Most electricity production from hydropower at any one moment (4 GW) – 27 February
  • Record low strike price at the second Contracts for Difference subsidy auction of £57.50/MWh, well below Government guarantee for Hinkley C – 11 September

Figures from MyGridGB reveal the true extent of how renewable and low-carbon energy have transformed the UK’s power grid.

British wind farms generated more electricity than coal plants on more than 75% of days this year, figures show.

The continuing rise of renewables and the decline of the most polluting fossil fuel also saw solar outperform coal more than half the time.

Overall, renewables provided more power than coal plants on 315 days in 2017, or more than 90% of the year, figures up to December 12 show, while coal was beaten by wind on 263 days and by solar on 180 days.

British #electricity has been 46% low carbon over the last 12 months with carbon emissions below 280gCO2/kWh.

That’s down from 486gCO2/kWh in 2012. Source: https://t.co/Fl0ODGaJN4pic.twitter.com/zLFBsoYfo6

— MyGridGB (@myGridGB) December 19, 2017

Coal generation only exceeded solar on 10 days from the beginning of April to the end of August.

In total, renewables generated more than three times the amount of electricity as coal over the year to December 12.

The figures reflect a year in which a number of “green” records have been set for the power sector, including the first full day without any coal power on the system, new high levels of solar generation and tumbling prices for new offshore wind farms.

While the UK as a whole has benefitted from this growth in green energy, it is Scotland in particular that has achieved some of the most impressive results.

In October, Scottish wind power created double the amount of electricity needed to power every home in Scotland.

Strong winds and the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia helped send a staggering 1.7 million megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity to the National Grid.

WWF Scotland’s Director Sam Gardner said: “We’re blown away by these figures but they are part of a pattern of increasingly green power production made possible thanks to many years of political support in Scotland. Across the year, renewables now contribute over half of our electricity needs.”

But with daily output from wind only outstripping gas on two days of the year, and renewables overall – including wind, solar, biomass and hydropower – beating the fossil fuel on just 23 days, there were calls for more support for low-carbon power.

Dr Andrew Crossland from MyGridGB and the Durham Energy Institute said: “The Government has focused on reducing coal use which now supplies less than 7% of our electricity.

“However, if we continue to use gas at the rate that we do, then Britain will miss carbon targets and be dangerously exposed to supply and price risks in the international gas markets.

“Clearly, refreshed government support for low carbon alternatives is now needed to avoid price and supply shocks for our heat and electricity supplies.”

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Beyond The Tipping Points: Much More Solar And Wind – But Is It Enough For All Our Energy?

The steady revolution of electric energy

We relied primarily on coal power for over 100 years, but it is now rapidly phasing out and being replaced by cleaner sources of generation. This is good for our air, water, and health, but why is it happening? Some people still incorrectly assume or say that it is driven by the “climate change agenda.” However, the rapid draw down of coal is due primarily to economics, as newer technologies have resulted in lower cost sources of energy. Most notably, the steady drop in solar and wind costs has created an economic ‘tipping point’ where clean power – even from our own roofs – has resulted in cheaper electricity in multiple locations around the world. Such steady, but relentless falling costs inevitably lead to a technological ‘tipping point’ – where newer technology suddenly grows and is adopted rapidly. A recent example of this dynamic is the IT revolution of recent years which has resulted in most of us carrying smart phones in our pockets.

The first tipping point has already been reached – and the second is on the way

Energy from wind and solar is already the cheapest option for new power generation in most European countries. That means that as current plants are decommissioned or demand grows, it is solar or wind generation that is being built, even without subsidies or incentives. This economic tipping point means that for new generation, renewables are already winning the race against coal, gas and nuclear. Importantly, a second economic tipping point is coming relatively soon, where existing generation plants cannot compete with renewables. Wind or solar – even rooftop solar – will have the lowest cost of energy, and at that point, renewable energy rapidly replaces fossil fuel generation – and forces nuclear plants to run at a loss or be shut down.

The changing mix of electricity must be managed

A new study, ‘Beyond the Tipping Point: Flexibility Gaps on future high renewable energy systems in the UK, Germany and Nordics’ by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) in partnership with Eaton and the Renewable Energy Association (REA) highlights the speed at which this revolution is happening and the impacts that variable power from wind and solar will have in the UK, Germany, and the Nordics as representative markets. By 2030, all three markets are dominated by renewables.

The good news is that these renewable energy sources will meet demand much more often. However, because wind and solar depend on the weather, the study also explores the volatility this mix will bring over hours, days, weeks, and even months. For example, by 2030, on sunny and windy days, almost all the electricity in the UK or Germany will come from wind and solar. On the flip side, there will be periods where wind and solar cannot provide much electricity at all. Without changes, the need for back-up power from other sources remains similar in 2040 as it is today in these markets. Since these other sources will only be used occasionally, traditional energy sources like nuclear or fossil fuels will cease to be profitable.

As a result, we see the need for new ways to manage the volatility of supply and longer duration “seasonal” gaps. On the plus side, battery storage can address the short term concerns, but for longer gaps, we need to think about different policies, stronger interconnectors between countries and regions, and dispatchable generation such as from bioenergy. This is also the time to consider how to foster and use new technologies such electric vehicles batteries when idle, and long term storage from Hydrogen gas and/or compressed air.

With proper planning, it all works out

The electric system is evolving to lower cost sources. This requires planning and investment starting now to ensure reliable, low-cost electricity in the future. The energy market is a unique hybrid system involving both public power and private capital. The recent review of the UK market by Dieter Helm, ‘Cost of Energy’ proposes that public policy objectives — security of supply and a progressive reduction in emissions and competitiveness — can be met by allowing the market to decide the best solutions. Indeed the BNEF research touches on the fact that battery storage – which should be supported by an organised grid services market – can easily deal with high ramp-up and ramp-down volatility, and also reduce the cost of backup generation.

The next phase of the BNEF study will look in more detail at the economics of various policies and new technologies. Based purely on the cost advantages, renewable sources will grow to be the majority of our power generation and with proper study and planning, we can ensure a reliable, low-cost electricity supply for businesses and consumers.

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Energy Politics | Environment and Sustainability | Solar Power


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