Failure to store renewable electricity during Britain’s escalating energy crisis wastes clean electricity that otherwise could be used by half a million homes a day, worsening the nation’s dependence on gas, according to one developer of storage technologies.
Britain’s lack of capacity holding grid-scale power for two hour or more has wasted a staggering 1.3 TWh of wind generation alone in under twelve months, numbers from Anglo-American specialist providers Highview Power claim.
With renewables’ endemic mismatch in time between generation and consumption, grid operators and consumers have faced £390 million since September in costs of curtailing – turning off – wind-generated power, and paying instead for gas-powered electricity.
The numbers emerge from research commissioned by the long-duration storage developers from consultants Stonehaven.
The researchers based their estimates for wasted wind generation on bid volumes in balancing markets auctions, published by Elexon, managers of Britain’s Balancing and Settlement Code.
They applied historic gas prices from Ofgem to estimate the cost of importing the gas required to replace wind. At least £150 million in constraint payments and £240 million in additional electricity demand, were the result.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK imported nearly £20 billion-worth of gas in 2021, nearly four times 2020’s £4.8billion. The figures are distorted by prices rises of five times and more over the period, thanks to world demand recovering after the global pandemic.
Amid those rocketing prices, Highview’s researchers puts numbers on rising public concern over gas imports. From work commissioned from pollsters YouGov, the developers say 43% of over 1,800 Britons surveyed, believe the country imports too much gas. Among recent Conservative voters, the figure is 54%.
Britons believe direct handouts from government are necessary to install more long-duration storage on the grid. Eighty-one percent back government intervention, says Highview’s poll.
More long duration energy storage (LDES) could, the providers claim, reduce costs to the National Grid by £2 billion, yielding energy savings of up to £50 per household a year, and powering up to 4 million homes with renewable energy when it is needed.
Looking long term to 2035, the developers claim the UK’s reliance on gas could be cut by 10 megatonnes, the equivalent of removing it from 4 million homes,.
Highview Power’s Rupert Pearce said: “Our analysis shows that LDES is a critical component of the UK’s energy security and self-sufficiency. Simply put, there is no transition to net zero without LDES.”
Worldwide advocacy body the Long Duration Energy Storage Council reported last year that the world’s grids must step up LDES investment 400-fold by 2040, deploying as much as 2.5 GWh in new capacity, if the globe stands any chance of meeting by 2100 the 1.5 degree rise foreshadowed in the Paris climate accords.
A wastage of 1.3TWh a year sounds huge, but it equates to an average power of only 148MW. Our average electricity consumption is 40GW, so this wastage, represents less than 0.4% of our electricity consumption. Such a tiny amount is hardly worth the lurid headlines saying what a huge waste it is.
Time to think about more important matters methinks.