The Informer

This week’s headlines: an influential Government advisor says the UK should invest heavily to accelerate the electrification of heat and transport to boost the post-Covid 19 economic recovery; a new tool to help ensure grid stability during low demand has been used for the first time; and MPs are to look into the potential of low-carbon hydrogen.

  • Strengthening of energy system urged for Covid-19 recovery

    Networks must be significantly strengthened across the UK to accommodate the electrification of heat and transport and boost economic recovery, according to an influential Government advisory body.

    The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said the post-Covid-19 period presents an precedented opportunity to also accelerate investment in areas such as new hydrogen and CCS infrastructure.

    It said the costs involved in upgrading the system will need to be borne at some point as part of the net-zero transition in any case and could be recovered through modest increases in customer bills over periods of several decades. It also said revenue could be raised by setting or raising carbon prices for sectors of the economy which do not bear the full costs of emitting greenhouse gases.

    In letters to the UK Prime Minister and First Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the body stressed reducing emissions and adapting to climate change are integral to the recovery package needed for the UK.

    CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said: “The Covid-19 crisis has shown the importance of planning well for the risks the country faces. The actions needed to tackle climate change are central to rebuilding our economy. The Government must prioritise actions that reduce climate risks and avoid measures that lock-in higher emissions.”

    The CCC’s comments came as a group of UK business and environmental leaders also called for the Government to invest in a green recovery.

    The open letter called for significant backing for green infrastructure, technology, and skills, and said that polluting industries without credible decarbonisation plans should not be bailed out.

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  • New flexibility tool deployed to manage low demand

    A new service to encourage large energy users and generators to increase demand or reduce generation during periods of low demand has been used for the first time.

    National Grid ESO launched the Optional Downward Flexibility Management (ODFM) service earlier this month and issued a maximum of 238MW of response for delivery last Sunday.

    Demand across the grid is thought to have fallen by around 12% over the weekend compared to levels seen last year.

    As part of its measures to manage the system as the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on demand levels, National Grid ESO also confirmed it will pay EDF to reduce output from the Sizewell B nuclear power station over the summer.

    Last week National Grid ESO also successfully applied to Ofgem for a modification to the Grid Code to clarify its ability to switch off embedded generation in light of low demand.

    Meanwhile, the system operator said that Sunday marked the country's first coal-free month since the industrial revolution. A new record was also recently achieved by solar generation, hitting a high of 9.86GW.

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  • MPs to probe hydrogen potential

    The House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is to look into the potential role which low-carbon hydrogen can play in supporting the net-zero push.

    The EAC’s chairman Philip Dunne although hydrogen could form part of the solution to achieve net zero, “it must be produced, stored and used in ways that do not create harmful emissions and maintain the highest safety standards.”

    “In 2018, 95% of hydrogen was produced using fossil fuels, so it is clear there are significant hurdles that must be overcome for it to become a viable, clean energy source,” he said.

    “During this inquiry, we will be hearing from experts in industry about whether environmentally friendly hydrogen can be produced at scale, or if it is merely a pipe dream.”

    In February, the Government announced £70m of funding for low-carbon hydrogen production plants near Mersey and Aberdeen. A third project will use offshore windfarms to produce clean hydrogen.

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  • EV sales hold up despite car market collapse

    Sales of electric vehicles in the UK held up last month despite a collapse in the wider car market.

    The Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling car in the UK during a month when 1,374 battery electric vehicles were registered, a fall of 9.7 per cent year on year.

    However, that compared to a drop of 98% in petrol and diesel models according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

    The list featured electric cars such as the Model 3 and Jaguar I-Pace and electric MPVs including the Ford Tourneo Custom and Peugeot Rifter.

    The relatively high Tesla sales figures are thought to be down to completion of online orders placed before the lockdown came into force and fleet orders.

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  • Gravity energy storage trial in pipeline

    A £1m demonstrator project for technology to transform old mine shafts into energy storage systems is expected to be up and running later this year.

    A system developed by Gravitricity uses weights totalling up to 12,000 tonnes that are suspended in deep mine shafts.

    Electrical power can be absorbed or generated by raising or lowering the weight.

    The company has signed a land rental agreement to build a demonstrator project within the Port of Leith in Edinburgh. Work on the site will commence in October with Gravitricity aiming to have the project up and running by December.

    Lead Engineer Miles Franklin said: “We calculate we can go from zero to full power in less than a second – which can be extremely valuable in the frequency response and back-up power markets.

    The two-month test programme will provide valuable data for the company’s first full-scale 4MW project which is due to commence in 2021.

    Gravitricity claim that the costs of its energy storage solution will be well below that of lithium batteries, with the output duration able to range from 15 minutes to eight hours.

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