April 2017 marked the first time the UK went its first full day without the use of energy from coal since the Industrial Revolution. The UK was the first country to use coal for electricity. This was a watershed moment for the low carbon revolution.
There has been a notable increase in investment into renewable energy and phasing out of coal-based power stations in the UK - a direct result of rapidly declining costs of solar and wind power, and in response to meeting emissions reductions targets,
The National Grid reported that at lunchtime on the 7th June 2017, in excess of 50% of the UK’s electricity needs were met by power from wind, solar, hydro and wood pellets. At 2 pm, this reached 72.1% with the addition of nuclear.
The price of renewables continues to fall. This is due to improved technology and uptake. Solar and wind is now either the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries. However, the rapid adoption of these new technologies is causing concerns in some quarters.
One major argument used against renewables
Solution to this
Battery system costs are dropping quick. The power generated from the sun and wind can be stored for future use. This in turn dramatically reduces the need for base-load generation.
Improved battery technology and lower costs have been mainly driven by the rapidly growing electric vehicle (EV) market and seen the costs of Lithium Ion battery packs dropping by 90% in 10 years,
The benefits of a battery-based storage system
Another exciting development that storage enables is microgrids. Local, distributed power generation and storage can allow portions of the grid and critical facilities to operate independently of the larger national grid. This helps in reducing e the overall potential for unforeseen blackouts. These microgrids ensure resiliency and stability of supply and a reduction of CO2 emissions.
The EV car as energy provider
The UK government announced in June 2017 that it is poised to invest £246m in battery technology. What is now expected and needed is Now, more transparency is needed in the removal of barriers to allow small systems to participate in the ancillary services markets. In return, this will foster the growth of the local ecosystems that will help to achieve the transformation of the energy markets and modernise the grid. People with EV cars will eventually also let them provide power back to the grid and in doing so offset the cost of the cars.
The ongoing argument that renewables are unreliable is fading. With so many improvements within the renewable energy sector coming to head, the ‘sun not shining at night’ and “wind does not always blow” concerns are rapidly becoming outdated.
There is a huge opportunity for complete structural changes within the energy sector. The future is certainly bright for UK’s energy supply moving forward.