Staunch greenwash sleaze? Track carbon through grid in real time, say Elexon and ES Catapult


Restoring integrity to tarnished “clean power” certificates can be best guaranteed with new rules and new tech, tracking carbon from seed to flower through Britain’s grid, Balancing System market-maker Elexon argues.

In a paper co-authored with tech promoters Energy Systems Catapult, Elexon maintains that the right technology already exists to measure, track and verify clean coulombs and avalanches of amps, plus their precise carbon content, at every stage from turbine to consumer.

The report, ‘Accurately Tracking Carbon in Electricity Markets’, takes a fresh look at the widely discredited, frequently misleading REGO (renewable energy guarantees of origin) regime, Britain’s notorious source of often connived-at confusion for consumers picking between tariffs too often laden with concealed carbon.

With around 40% of UK electricity still coming from fossil fuels, its carbon content is only accounted for once a year, via the 20 year old REGO system, the authors explain.

“Without being able to track carbon, it’s impossible to advise consumers of the environmental benefit of their energy choices”, writes Sarah Keay-Bright, senior policy and regulation advisor at Energy Systems Catapult.

Abuses thus possible under REGOS, the paper points out, include retailers offering supposed ‘green’ electricity on a windless winter’s day, simply because they hold a certificate for wind energy produced the previous summer.

Harnessing digitalisation means the UK energy market is well able to track carbon across the system at a granular level in time and by location, the analysts argue.

Smart meters, due in every British home by 2025, open up the grid’s ability to monitor carbon intensity consumed at any point and on a half-hourly basis, the report notes.

Voluntary and sporadic initiatives aside, though, Great Britain remains now without any ‘whole-system’ effort to account for all carbon, from generation to consumption.  

Price signals too are distorted by today’s non-granular, ‘lumpy’ data, say the analysts. The result is higher use of high-carbon energy at times of system stress, via the Balancing Mechanism and/or Ancillary Services. Recent weeks have seen a trebling of expenses lumped onto the former.

Tweaking the system to achieve improvements need not be hard. For Elexon its director of future markets Angela Love said: ”We believe established rules, processes, and systems …may be easily extended to support carbon tracking. This is likely to be more cost-effective than building entirely new processes and systems”.

Elexon is already working with Ofgem and the industry to deliver market-wide Half Hourly Settlement and is investing in upgrading its systems, she said.

Love points to Elexon Kinnect, intended as a flexible and scalable platform, offering players in the market more flexible ways to manage accounts and access data.  “It will enable us to reduce the time and cost to industry of changing BSC processes and systems”, she writes.

Read ‘Accurately Tracking Carbon in Electricity Markets’ here.



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