Menu

‘Forget blackout Britain: Flexibility will solve capacity issue’

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 10.15.02Policymakers should reject calls for the UK to return to double digit margins of power capacity over demand and let flexible plant and agile companies deliver a leaner electricity system, a new report suggests.

The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a non-profit thinktank funded by climate and environment bodies, suggests that National Grid’s Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR), put in place to shore up thin capacity margins ahead of launch of the capacity market, was a £180m waste of money.

It argues that the fact SBR was not once called upon over three years underlines the reliability of the UK power system. Now the capacity market is up and running, “that should be the final nail in the coffin for blackout fears in the UK,” states the ECIU, pointing out that the chances of the grid totally failing are remote.

“A reliability of 99.999993% corresponds to a less than one-in-ten-million chance of the grid failing to deliver power, roughly equal to the chance of winning the lottery in each UK draw,” states the ECIU. “It is also around a thousand times less likely than asteroid 2013 TV135 – which would cause an explosion 50 times more powerful than the most powerful nuclear bomb ever used – hitting the earth.”

The thinktank believes storage, interconnectors, demand-side response and peaking plant can deliver a leaner, more responsive power system that will cope with ever thinner margins as older plant retires.

“The new [decentralised] system would operate more like a traditional market, where demand can flex to supply as well as vice versa,” it suggests.

That view appears to be gaining traction at both government and regulatory levels. BEIS and Ofgem recently issued a call for evidence on the shift towards a smarter power system, and the regulator’s most senior networks partner Andrew Wright has consistently stated that the value of flexible kilowatts will increase significantly over the coming years.

Meanwhile, traditional utilities, rather than committing to large new power stations, are in the main developing smaller plant to capitalise on peak prices.

However, to significantly scale demand-side response participation from UK companies, it may be that price signals will need to be sharpened.

Download the report here.

Related articles:

Society must rethink its approach to electricity use, says Ofgem networks chief

SSE urges smart meter rethink as costs spiral and benefits tank

Capacity market ‘will continue to incentivise engine farms without simple fix’

Minister green lights up to 200MW extra DSR in transitional capacity auction

Government sets out smart grid stall – moots peak power pricing for everybody

Artificial intelligence for smart grids: Can UK start-up beat Google?

Ofgem: Power flexibility will become more important than energy efficiency

Scottish Power asks Ofgem to change classification of batteries in capacity market

Gateshead Council signs £1m demand response contract with Flexitricity

Capacity market too low for new gas but gigawatts of DSR, storage and CHP win contracts

Capacity breach: Public leisure facilities face closure due to energy policy costs

Battery storage: Positive outlook?

Centrica: Floodgates to open on battery storage in 2017

UK must prioritise smartgrid, says National Infrastructure Commission

Government: Energy storage ‘top priority’ ahead of smart systems consultation

Public facilities ‘shutting down’ due to rising energy costs

Businesses ‘shutting down from 4pm-7pm due to peak power costs

National Grid mulls rolling all frequency balancing services into one scheme

Free report: DSR and battery storage

Free report: Financing energy efficiency

Free report: 2017 business energy risks

Free report: The heat report 2016

Click here to see if you qualify for a free subscription to the print magazine, or to renew.

Follow us at @EnergystMedia. For regular bulletins, sign up for the free newsletter.