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News from the UK Power Industry 16th April 2019

Posted by: James Turner
Industry News

UK smashes coal-free power record

The government’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has confirmed that the electricity grid clocked up 650 hours of coal-free generation during the first quarter of 2019, marking a new record. The figures are more than was achieved during the whole of 2017.

The UK has delivered a string of coal-free days during the summer months in recent years, but the scale of coal-free generation during the winter month is a first for the country's grid.

The update also revealed that so far this year almost two thirds less coal has been used for electricity than was used by the end of April in 2018. Since the start of February, only 0.5Twh of coal has been used, putting 2019 on track to break all previous records.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said the results were a hugely encouraging milestone as the UK continues to work towards ending its reliance on coal power altogether: “We help lead the world in the transition to cleaner technologies. This year we've already gone almost one month without coal to meet Britain's electricity needs - more than the whole of 2017 - as we continue to seize the economic opportunities of moving to a greener, cleaner economy.”

The update follows a flurry of renewable energy generation records during the first quarter, as well as confirmation low-carbon generation provided a record 53% of UK-wide electricity generation in 2018.

BEIS applauded the record-breaking figures but committed itself to further progress in the field of green, renewable energy. 

“We've made huge progress in cleaning up the power and waste sectors but we recognise the uphill challenge of cutting emissions further like transport, heat and industry,” a BEIS spokeswoman said. “That's why we recently set out plans to significantly cut emissions from heavy industry, transition to low emission vehicles and reduce pollution through our Clean Air Strategy.” Full story.

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Crowdfunding drive for unique wind farm ownership model

A UK start-up company hopes to build two onshore wind farms over the next two years from which its customers can directly source renewable electricity.

Ripple Energy has launched a crowdfunding drive to help enable its first wind farm this year, as it seeks to scale up its vision of allowing customers to become both co-owners and direct energy users of onshore wind projects across the UK.

The start-up is seeking to raise over £750,000 in exchange for 23% of the company through an online crowdfunding campaign, which is open to anyone wishing to invest anything between £10 and £1m.

Investment raised will be used to hire more staff at the company and complete development of its business model.

The model is designed to enable people to become co-owners of new onshore wind farms, from which they can then directly source cheaper, clean electricity via dedicated energy tariffs. Funding raised through the crowdfunding campaign will also help market the first pilot wind project later in 2019 with the capacity to supply around 800 households, followed by a full-scale wind farm in early 2020 to supply more than 18,000 households.

As it grows its customer base, the company eventually hopes to build a series of wind farms across the next five years.

Sarah Merrick, founder and CEO of Ripple Energy, said her vision was a clean energy future owned by people rather than companies: “In the future, customers won't need utilities to own wind farms and solar parks on their behalf - with Ripple's help they will be able to do it themselves. Investors can help make that vision a reality. They will have the opportunity to join a highly scalable and potentially transformative company right at the start.”

While many energy firms offer 100% renewable electricity tariffs, not all of these companies directly invest in new wind, solar or other clean power installations, instead indirectly sourcing green electricity, sometimes through green power certificates.

But Ripple Energy estimates customers could save around £85-175 on their annual electricity bill over a 25 year period by becoming co-owners of onshore wind farms, adding that savings could also increase as the market power price rises.

The company favours wind over solar power, arguing that onshore wind is cheaper for households than rooftop solar, estimating that co-owning a wind farm through Ripple could cost £1,300, while buying enough solar panels to meet an average home's electricity demand can cost up to £5,500. Full story.

UK power grid ready for 2025 renewables target

National Grid is readying itself to be able to use 100% renewable energy sources for short periods of time from 2025, with the goal of becoming “zero-carbon capable”.

Currently natural gas provides over half of the UK’s homes with electricity, but with the increase in wind and solar power it could be possible to cut its use to zero on windy days. One of the key issues for the transition is to find a way to replace gas stations in the immediate future.

National Grid official Julian Leslie said: “Zero carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025 means a fundamental change to how our system was designed to operate – integrating newer technologies right across the system – from large-scale off-shore wind to domestic scale solar panels to increased demand side participation, using new smart digital systems to manage and control the system in real-time. In 2025, it may just be for half an hour, it may just be for an hour. Then gradually, in the years that follow, that time period will grow and grow.”

The UK has already achieved significant emissions reductions in emissions six years in a row, largely as the result of decreased coal use and its replacement by renewables. Emissions have fallen 38% since 1990. Full story.

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