The Informer

This week’s headlines: measures to reduce the risk of blackouts are to be put in place after a major outage last year; green power outstripped fossil fuels for the first time over a full year in 2019; the new Government sets out its environmental commitments; and the UK’s largest subsidy-free solar farm starts generating.

  • Government acts to strengthen network after blackout

    The Government is to take steps to strengthen the resilience of the energy network in the wake of last year’s blackout that caused significant disruption.

    Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom said she would implement all ten recommendations from a Government-based report into August’s power cuts.

    The recommendations from the Energy Emergencies Executive Committee include assessing the need for improvements to the governance, monitoring and enforcement processes for generators and helping support essential services owners and operators to put in place more robust business continuity plans.

    Leadsom said the steps would make the network more resilient but also stressed the number of power cuts has shrunk significantly since 1990 alongside a 60% cut in the length of outages.

    Meanwhile, the Hornsea One offshore wind farm and RWE’s Little Barford gas-fired power station have agreed to pay £4.5 million each into Ofgem’s redress fund after failing to stay online following the lightning strikes on 9 August. UK Power Networks will also pay £1.5m.

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  • Britain enjoys cleanest year on record for energy

    Last year was the cleanest on record for Britain’s power supplies as the amount of zero carbon power outstripped that from fossil fuels for the first time.

    A combination of renewable energy, nuclear power and interconnectors provided 48.5% of Great Britain’s electricity during the full year, compared with 43% from fossil fuel-burning power stations, according to figures from National Grid. The remaining 8.5% was supplied by burning wood pellets and other forms of biomass.

    The figures came just days after the latest Energy Trends data from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy showed renewables generated 38.9% of Great Britain’s electricity between July and September, squeezing ahead of gas’s 38.8% for the first time.

    Adding in nuclear power took the total to 57.3%, thanks to an increased contribution from wind farms.

    Rebecca Williams, trade body RenewableUK’s Head of Policy & Regulation, said: “We’ve reached a historic tipping point with renewables outperforming gas for the first quarter ever.”

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  • Queen’s Speech highlights green investment plans

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his Government’s Queen’s speech to signal more cash for carbon capture and storage, offshore wind, nuclear energy and electric vehicle infrastructure.

    Details of his green investment plans are expected to be unveiled in Chancellor Sajid Javid’s maiden Budget, which is poised to be delivered in February following the UK’s scheduled exit from the European Union on 31 January.

    The Budget will be accompanied by the new National Infrastructure Strategy.

    Commentators welcomed signals of further green investment but decried a lack of detail in the speech.

    Audrey Gallacher, Interim Chief Executive at trade body Energy UK, said: “It is critical we take action now and avoid further delay so we urge the UK Government to bring forward the energy White Paper as soon as possible to set out the clear policy framework that will allow the necessary investment and innovation to follow.”

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  • Largest subsidy-free solar farm opens

    A former airfield on the Bedfordshire-Cambridgeshire border has become home to the UK’s largest subsidy-free solar farm.

    The Staughton farm has begun feeding electricity into the grid and will be able to supply 15,000 homes.

    The 50MW site was constructed by NextEnergy Solar Fund, which opened the subsidy-free 5.4MW Hall Farm II in Leicestershire in August.

    The fund’s next subsidy-free solar farm at High Garrett is expected to come online this year.

    NextEnergy aims to build a portfolio with a capacity of 150MW and already has 55.4MW connected to the grid.

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  • Hydrogen injected into gas grid in ground-breaking trial

    Keele University has become the first site in the UK to use hydrogen gas to heat its buildings in a pioneering trial.

    Up to 20% of the gas used to heat 100 residences and 30 buildings is now hydrogen under its “HyDeploy” demonstration project.

    The figure is the highest in Europe, matching a similar project being run by Engie in Northern France.

    Keele’s £7 million pilot project is backed by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition.

    Professor Mark Ormerod, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost at Keele University, said: “HyDeploy is a pioneering landmark national demonstration project, using our campus as a genuine ‘living laboratory’ for low carbon and energy-efficient technologies.”

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