Monday 13/08 – The SNP highlights that the number of community-owned renewable energy projects in Scotland has increased by 62% since 2011. Scottish Labour pledges to target net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Tuesday 14/08 – Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks submits a “final needs case” to Ofgem, looking to obtain permission for a 600MW subsea cable transmission link between the Western Isles and the Scottish mainland.
Wednesday 15/08 – Energy UK hails the 10-year high in EU Emissions Trading System prices, highlighting how recent reforms, partly driven by the UK, are continuing to restore confidence.
Thursday 16/08 – It is confirmed that Canada and the UK are among six countries preparing the first carbon trades under the Paris Climate Agreement.
Friday 17/08 – The UK Energy Research Centre’s latest findings outline Great Britain’s hourly local demand for natural gas and the scope of the particular challenge of providing energy for heating and hot water throughout the winter.
A paper was published by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) on Friday, 17 August, for the first time measuring GB’s hourly local demand for gas, identifying future challenges for the gas and electricity grids.
The data covers the UK cold weather event on Thursday, 1 March 2018, providing insights into the scale of hourly energy flows through both networks. A peak hourly local gas demand of 214GW occurred at 6pm on 1 March, which compared to peak electrical supply of 53GW occurring at the same time. A forecast drop in gas pressure during the weather event was averted as market players brought more gas onto the system and withdrew less gas from the system than was originally forecast.
The data reveals that this peak demand was only marginally higher than that of the previous day (+4GW higher), but there was significantly increased demand between the hours of 10am and 3pm. With many schools and businesses closed, homes were occupied throughout the day leading to a greater demand for heating, increasing the load on the system considerably – one of the contributing factors to the issue by National Grid of a Gas Deficit Warning; a call for major gas users to lower demand and for gas producers to provide more supply.
The data highlights a “critical challenge” – managing the 3-hour difference in demand from 5am to 8am on the local gas network during the heating season. Whilst flexibility in the gas system is provided using a change in pressure to store extra energy in the network to meet increasing demand, the electrical system has no comparable intrinsic equivalent.
The steepest rise during this 5am-8am period was recorded on Wednesday, 28 February with an increase of +116GW. This is by no means atypical; a quarter of all days during the 2017-18, heating season measured an increase in demand of +100GW between 5am and 8am. For comparison, the peak supply of the entire electrical system over 2017-18 heating season was 53GW, and the highest 5am to 8am increase was +16GW.
Dr Grant Wilson, a UKERC Researcher from the University of Birmingham, and report author commented: “This research provides additional evidence to take into consideration when modelling and planning low-carbon heat strategies. The sheer scale of the variability in demand was particularly surprising. It highlights another important challenge for the decarbonisation of heat and provides even more evidence of the wider system benefits of improving the energy efficiency of homes throughout Britain.”
In terms of challenges for the future, the research identified that alongside reduced overall demand, thermal storage of various kinds will undoubtedly play a “much greater role” in future systems to help smooth the difference in demand, as will other technical solutions such as hybrid heat-pumps using renewable gas and hydrogen-based technologies. However, as a multidisciplinary challenge, the concurrency of heat demand or thermal routines from a behavioural perspective also needs to be further explored further.
BEIS published the results of the 26th wave of its quarterly Public Attitudes Tracker (PAT) survey on Thursday, 16 August.
It revealed that public support for renewables had declined slightly to 82%, down from its peak of 85% in March 2018, but is still 5% higher than at the same time in 2017. Opposition to renewables remained low at 4%. Support was particularly high amongst those living in Northern Ireland (93%), in higher social grades (90%) and with a household income over £35,000 (90%).
There has been little change in awareness of fracking, which was at 78% in July 2018 and has remained consistently between 70% and 80% since December 2013. However, most people feel that their knowledge is limited, with just 14% of people claiming to know a lot about the process. Those living in Northern Ireland had a high level of awareness at 88%, as well as those aged 55-64 (91%) and those with household incomes between £25,000 and £34,999 (88%).
However, this wave did not contain questions on whether respondents are in support of fracking or not, which previous waves have consistently done. These questions will now be included in a larger survey which will be undertaken annually from spring 2019 onwards.
The Guardian reported that some stakeholders believe that this exclusion is part of the government’s initiative to back fracking. Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said: “This is scandalous as the government knows full well that there is overwhelming public opposition to fracking.”
There were several other changes to the survey which were introduced at this wave of surveys. Questions on the government’s Clean Growth Strategy were introduced.
It found that public awareness of Clean Growth is low with 71% of people reporting that they had never heard of the initiative and only 5% saying they knew a lot or a fair amount.
In other changes to the survey there is also now an increase in the number of respondents surveyed from 2000 to 4000. Moreover, previously, the PAT consisted of one annual survey every March and three shorter surveys, in June, September and December. The survey now consists of quarterly waves of similar length, and new topics have been introduced to reflect BEIS’s full remit.
Prices in the EU’s carbon market – the EU Emission Trading System (ETS) – hit their highest level in a decade on Wednesday, 15 August.
Under the ETS, power facilities and factories are charged for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit. Each member state has a certain number of permits it can auction every year, which companies then purchase or trade to cover their emissions.
Prices have been low in recent years though over-supply, but reforms, principally the “Market Stability Reserve” have served to raise prices.
Energy UK’s Chief Executive Lawrence Slade commented: “A further rise in the EU carbon price to a 10-year high underlines how recent reforms, partly driven by the UK, are continuing to restore confidence in the world’s largest emission trading scheme (EU ETS). It is crucial that, post-Brexit, the UK remains in or closely linked to the EU ETS and we reiterate the need for urgent clarity from the Government on the UK’s future approach to carbon pricing as we prepare to leave the European Union.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced on Friday, 10 August that £780mn will be invested in funding for high-tech hubs, building on the £180mn announced last month for the North East.
The catapult network supports sectors and technologies that are likely to be in high demand in the years ahead. It brings together UK business, science and engineering to work side by side in research and development to “catapult” products from ideas to market. The funding has been directed towards facilities such as the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC) in Blyth, and the Centre for Process Innovation in Redcar. By 2023, OREC plans to be the world’s leading technology centre for offshore renewables.
Hammond said: “It is by backing innovative British companies to grow and create jobs that we will continue this progress and build an economy fit for the future. Today’s £780mn investment will support innovators across the country to create the technologies of the future, and the better, highly-paid jobs we urgently need.”
On Thursday, 9 August, National Grid issued its Wider Access to the Balancing Mechanism roadmap, setting out the commitments and actions required to improve existing Balancing Mechanism (BM) entry routes and create a new route to market. The BM is one of the tools National Grid uses to balance electricity supply and demand close to real time.
The Electricity System Operator (ESO) said that in the face of new challenges in balancing the system brought by the move towards a decarbonised system, it needs to maximise the resources available on the system in a flexible and economic way. The report acknowledged that more can be done to make the BM more accessible to smaller providers and aggregators and said that increased participation will “significantly help the ESO manage operability challenges, and consequently lead to more cost-effective balancing actions”.
Achieving this, said National Grid, will enable the operability of the system to be maintained, will achieve quality of treatment and access for potential service providers and will reap benefits for customers through competition. On the latter, the report suggested that the economic advantages of increased participation in the BM could see consumers benefit by as much as £100mn-£500mn/ year.
The roadmap set out three ways in which National Grid is seeking to remove barriers to BM entry for small and aggregated units:
improving existing routes to market to ensure their suitability for the participation of supplier aggregators in the BM. Proposed changes for achieving this include amending standard contract terms and framework agreements with the aim of transitioning non-BM contracts into BM contracts
developing new routes to market via changes to existing frameworks to create a new method of entering the BM for parties wishing to provide near real-time flexibility. This would include introducing the Trans European Replacement Reserve Exchange (TERRE). This has been developed through the BSC and Grid Code and will enable access to all types of balancing services providers, and
improving and enhancing IT systems with the aim of improving data flows between the ESO and market participants. This would make them more efficient and better value for aggregated and smaller units and would include improved communications systems and requirements, as well as considering alternatives to the existing Electronic Dispatch Logging and Electronic Dispatch Transfer Systems.
National Grid said that the development of the roadmap was underpinned by its desire to make the BM “open to all technologies and providers”. It went on to set out its roadmap commitments out to April 2020 including increasing participation routes; clearer accession requirements; improved ESO ability to optimise and dispatch aggregated BMUs; clearer and simpler metering requirements; and supporting industry work on accurate settlement for behind the meter. Finally, National Grid stressed the importance of noting that “regardless of future arrangements between GB and the EU, we are committed to delivering wider BM access”.
Supermarket Aldi has announced plans for its UK and Ireland businesses to become carbon neutral by 2019, while Lidl has declared its intentions to install at least 40 electrical vehicle (EV) chargers at its Ireland stores by February 2019.
Aldi will work with climate protection solutions provider ClimatePartner to reach its target. The business aims to build on previous work to tackle its carbon footprint, which has seen it reduce emissions by 53% since 2012 and source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. The company plans to buy carbon credits to offset its remaining emissions from next year and reduce fuel consumption across its operations.
Meanwhile, Lidl’s announcement to become the largest supermarket-based network of charge points comes following an update in Ireland’s climate-mitigation plans, which set a target of increasing the number of EVs on Irish roads to 500,000 by 2030. The chargers at the supermarkets will reportedly be free to use and provide an average 100km of driving range per charge. Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland’s chief executive, Jim Gannon, said that the initiative “will help to provide confidence in the charging network and ensure that there are sufficient charging locations available for a growing number of electric vehicle users.”
On Friday, 10 August, Ofgem confirmed the level of funding for implementing Electricity System Operator (ESO) separation. The regulator stated its view that the appropriate level of costs related to ESO separation is £49.3mn for one-off costs and £9.1mn per annum for annual enduring costs up to the end of the existing RIIO-T1 period in 2020-21 – all costs are in 2016-17 prices.
The notice followed a January 2017 consultation by Ofgem on the future arrangements for ESO role and structure and a later response document, published in August 2017. The latter included detailed cost adjustments that considered the cost implications of ESO separation and scrutinised National Grid’s application to recover the costs associated with the separation of its ESO business. In reaching its funding decision, Ofgem assessed the costs submitted by National Grid and calculated the “appropriate level of economic and efficient costs”. In a detailed breakdown of costs, the regulator attributed the largest proportion to business change, which was followed by information services and buildings costs.
Ofgem said that as part of its ongoing ESO separation work it has consulted on the proposed partial transfer of the transmission licence held by National Grid Electricity Transmission and the necessary licence modifications that will be required to separate the ESO functions. ESO separation is expected to occur on 1 April 2019.
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