UK needs over 49 GW of flexibility to reach 100% renewables at lowest cost


Wärtsilä has highlighted the need to scale up flexibility in the UK, in the form of energy storage and flexible gas technology, to enable a 100% renewable energy future.

The modelling finds that balancing the intermittency of the renewable production with a combination of flexible gas and energy storage would be 38% cheaper for the G20, in comparison to relying on energy storage alone. Wärtsilä estimates that 49.5GW of flexible assets are needed for the UK’s energy systems to run on 100% renewable energy at the lowest cost.

The capacity needed to balance the UK’s switch to grids powered by intermittent renewables must come from two key technologies: over 7.3GW of energy storage and over 42.2GW of flexible gas power capacity, capable of running on future fuels. Future fuels can be produced during periods when renewables produce more electricity than is needed.

Pekka Tolonen, energy business director, Wärtsilä Energy, said, “Last month’s UN climate report gives a clear message for the UK: to decarbonise at the lowest cost, high levels of renewable energy must be scaled up by 2030. What we have learned from modelling over 145 countries and regions in our Atlas of 100% Renewable Energy is that power systems with high levels of renewables need a significant amount of flexibility, through energy storage and gas balancing technology, to achieve the transition to 100% renewable energy future.

“To solve this final piece of the net-zero puzzle, the answer once again is to urgently build more renewables, supported by future-proof flexibility solutions.”

Wärtsilä found that the UK has the 13th greatest need for agile flexible solutions in the G20. This reflects the country’s exceptionally high potential to meet its demand with wind energy generating over 67% in UK’s, and the requirement to store that power when wind is no longer generating.

Balancing technology – capable of ramping up to 10MW in two minutes

To meet the UK’s clear need for grid flexibility, Wärtsilä has today launched grid balancing technology – capable of ramping up to 10+ MW in two minutes – to bridge utilities to a 100% renewable energy future at the lowest cost.

Wärtsilä’s grid balancing technology is part of a portfolio of products that consists of power plants, energy storage and energy management systems. The first power plant solution in the portfolio is powered by the upgraded Wärtsilä 34SG Balancer engine, optimised for renewable baseload markets; a fast-starting gas engine capable of ramping up to 10.8MW in two minutes to seamlessly integrate with renewables. Alongside the power plant solution, Wärtsilä offers its GridSolv energy storage technology and its GEMS Digital Energy Platform. GEMS dynamically optimises energy systems through a broad range of applications, such as frequency regulation, to create revenue streams and enhance grid/system resilience.

Wärtsilä’s power plant gas engines can currently run on natural gas, biogas, synthetic methane or hydrogen blends. The company is actively developing the combustion process to allow the burning of 100% hydrogen and other future fuels.

A significant degree of overcapacity is needed to account for the variability of wind and solar generation. Excess electricity is then utilised to produce future fuels with Power-to-X technology. This is a process that creates carbon neutral and renewable synthetic fuels by capturing CO2 from the air.


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