New figures released by National Grid last month show that Britain is heading towards a serious energy capacity issue. Demand is increasing, power generation spare capacity is decreasing, and this leads to an increased likelihood of the lights going out.
The main cause of this power problem is the UK’s Soviet-era energy infrastructure.
The National Grid has an obligation to provide a reliable and future-proof power grid. However, it is also a listed company and therefore has responsibilities to its shareholders, and must be driven by commercial considerations.
Like all businesses, it needs to make money; which it does from projects such as building interconnectors and managing power grids in the US.
However, for many years, the National Grid has failed to invest in forward thinking technology.
Worse, the grid has been neglected for so long that it is currently in a state where new capacity cannot be added without major upgrades.
The development of new energy generation is sorely needed, but building new power stations is a lengthy process as well as a significant investment.
Annual power and gas contracts were down in June. The annual October 15 gas contract rose early in the month, reaching a high of 47.0p/th, before falling to an average of 46.0p/th. This was 1.5% lower than in May. The initial increase was due to worries over the imposed Groningen production cap, limiting the supply outlook; however, higher LNG and Russian supplies compensated for the losses. The winter 15 power contract followed lower, dropping 0.6% to average £45.9/MWh, the lowest level since the contract opened.Spot power and gas contracts also increased initially, as gas generators were running at their highest level in many months. There was a marked decrease in both wind and coal powered generation.
The ability to store solar power for use when the sun isn’t shining would be a dream come true for home owners who have invested in solar panels.
Many thousands of houses are now using hi-tech blackboxes to store solar energy for use at night.
At the moment, solar panels provide “free” energy to households while it is being generated, but they must still buy power from the National Grid at night like everyone else.
Now though, manufacturers are claiming that the blackboxes could cut energy bills as much as 60 percent.
It has been discovered that subsidies being granted on household energy bills have caused a boom in polluting “diesel farms” across the UK so the grid can meet periods of high electricity demand.
One programme for the National Grid has almost a quarter of Britain’s back-up power provided by tiny fossil fuel power stations – some of which have been built on what was previously farmland by opportunistic entrepreneurs.
When there is a surge in demand for power, for example during large sporting events such as the World Cup or Wimbledon, the mini-power stations are brought online by grid managers.
The finalists for this year’s Energy Live Consultancy Awards have been announced and we are delighted that Catalyst have been shortlisted in the Business Person of The Year award and Unsung Hero award.
Congratulations to Chris Hurcombe and Debbie Francis for reaching the final selection which will be made by the panel of independent and well respected judges and announced during an exclusive black-tie event on the 25th June.
We are competing against other brilliant enterprises, but regardless of the results we our hugely proud of our nominations.
When Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled his company’s new battery division last week, he hailed the beginning of a “complete transformation of the entire energy infrastructure of the world.”In reality, Tesla is joining a crowded field of companies already invested in on-site energy storage, and experts are split on just how much those systems will impact the energy market.Beginning this summer, Tesla Energy will sell at-home battery systems at a starting price tag of $3,000. The debut press conference featured Musk heralding a dramatic step forward in the ability of homeowners to store energy generated from potentially fickle renewable sources — namely, rooftop solar panels.
Brent crude oil, coal and carbon prices returned to downward trends in March, impacting GB commercial electricity and gas contracts. Oil prices dropped 2% to average $57.4/bl as concerns increased that US storage levels were reaching full capacity.
The falls fed into coal prices, which dropped 4.9% over March and hit a five-year low of $56.9/t. The coal market was also affected by falling global demand levels, which have increased oversupply in the market.
The carbon market was also bearish, with priced dropping 7% to average €6.8/t as talks on proposed market reforms slowed. Prices hit a five-month low of €6.3/t in the month.
A UK law has quietly passed through Parliament which allows for radioactive waste dumps to bypass the planning system, local authorities or public opinion. The new legislation is opposed by anti-nuclear activists.
Under the new law, Britain’s radioactive waste from medical use, weapons and power stations which has been stockpiled for 50 years may be dumped, circumventing local requirements.
Sites will be chosen by the secretary of state for energy and climate change. As of last week they are considered “nationally significant infrastructure projects.” While the planning inspectorate could recommend sites for the nuclear waste piles, the secretary does not necessarily need to follow the advice. Local communities and councils can dispute the details, but can’t stop the process.
The law was passed in the Parliament’s last working hours before it was prorogued for the general election and was noticed only by anti-nuclear activists and local opponents.
Solar panels costs have plunged though, so the government revised its numbers. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey made some key remarks about what the UK’s solar future might look like: “He said he expected up to 14 GW of solar by 2020 – up from 5 GW at the end of 2014. That equates roughly to 1.5% of total UK annual electricity to just under 4%. He said he expected it to grow further in the next decade.”
However, the government will no longer subsidize large-scale solar farms. These are facilities with 5 MW of solar or more. Of course, we all know that national economies are emerging from the worst recession in decades. Supporting a fledgling industry like solar power seems to be both reasonable and future-forward, especially considering that new solar installations create jobs that are skilled and generally pay decently.
Both solar and wind power need support at the policy level, but politics too often has a way of interfering with the development of renewable energy. Conservative politicians frequently have ties to the fossil fuel industry, and some of them work strenuously to hold back anything that could hurt it.
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford Univ. have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material in order to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say.
The new cell uses a layer of silicon—which forms the basis for most of today’s solar panels—but adds a semi-transparent layer of a material called perovskite, which can absorb higher-energy particles of light. Unlike an earlier “tandem” solar cell reported by members of the same team earlier this year—in which the two layers were physically stacked, but each had its own separate electrical connections—the new version has both layers connected together as a single device that needs only one control circuit.
The new findings are reported in the journal Applied Physics Letters by MIT graduate student Jonathan Mailoa; associate professor of mechanical engineering Tonio Buonassisi; Colin Bailie and Michael McGehee at Stanford; and four others.