Renewable generation has been in the spotlight over the past few months as the UK has adjusted to deal with coronavirus and demand for energy from business and industry has fallen sharply. The National Grid is predicting that 2020 will most likely be the lowest carbon electricity generation year in history as lower demand for electricity means it can run a higher proportion of solar, wind and nuclear generation. The drastic drop in pollution levels and clear skies has meant that solar generation has received a natural boost. The Solar Trade Association reported an all-time peak generation record of 9.68GW on 20 April this year, with solar alone at that point meeting almost 30% of UK electricity demand.
There is a downside, however, because the combination of high levels of power generation and low demand increases the risk of overloading the electricity grid. This has meant new tools and processes for the National Grid control room to help it balance the supply on the transmission and distribution networks. These include contracting with some power stations to reduce output plus amended measures to pay small scale generators to turn down or turn off generation and so reduce the amount of electricity supplied at the local, distribution network level.
We’ve also seen the price of exported electricity fall into negative figures on the day-ahead hourly market. Recently, prices dropped below minus £66 as strong wind and solar generation came on stream. Analysts predict that such negative pricing events will become more common in the short to medium term and highlight the need for increased levels of flexibility and affordable storage.
What does the future hold?
A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that global energy demand will fall 6% in 2020, 11% in the European Union. It assumes that the restrictions implemented around the world are progressively eased in most countries in the coming months, accompanied by a gradual economic recovery. This forecasted decline is unprecedented, with renewables set to be the only energy source to grow this year.
What does this mean for farmers and growers?
Jon Swain, Technical Director at NFU Energy, commented: “The current situation presents opportunities and challenges. Whilst reduced demand causes renewable generation to be a greater proportion of the electricity generation mix, and drives reduced carbon emissions, we should consider this a vision of the future. Despite low energy prices, in restarting UK business, we need to be considerate of improving our energy efficiency and urge government to do their bit too by supporting low carbon technologies and systems to help us to meet our net zero aspirations.”
For more information, call the team on 024 7669 6512.