The UK may have to consider using open-cycle gas-fired power stations if it is to cope appropriately with the influx of electric vehicles on to the system.

That’s the advice from Carsten Poppinga, senior vice president of trading and origination at Statkraft, who believes such plants are the key to ensuring the grid can manage the challenge of people charging their vehicles during peak periods.
Bloomberg reports that the drawback for such a move would be that although the plants can start generating power almost instantly, they don’t recycle waste heat, making them emit more greenhouse gases per megawatt than the combined-cycle stations that comprise the largest share of the UK’s daily power output.

“Fundamentally there isn’t as much overcapacity on the British market as in Germany,” Poppinga told the news agency. “You could think about building open-cycle gas power plants to increase the flexibility in the system.”

OCGTs convert about 33 per cent of their fuel into power, while CCGTs manage as much as 60 per cent, according to the fossil-fuel industry environment group IPIECA in London.

Despite that emissions issue, the flexibility of the plants will help more intermittent renewables enter the system, bolstering the shift toward cleaner energy, according to Drax Group. The utility plans four open-cycle plants in the UK that it calls “rapid-response gas.”

RWE AG’s UK unit “has taken initial planning steps” to build a 300 MW open-cycle gas plant at Tilbury, east of London.

The challenge for the UK is to have enough power plant capacity to cover demand peaks until electric-car users adjust their charging habits to when consumption and prices are low.

Britain will need to add 52 terawatt-hours of power capacity between now and 2040, or 16 per cent of what’s available now, to meet extra demand thanks to electric vehicles, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Some of the need for flexible power supply will be met by cables linking the UK to France, Norway and Belgium.

“Massive investment in flexible power generation, electricity storage and the grid itself will be necessary to keep the lights on,” Johannes Wetzel, a research analyst for cross-commodity analytics at Wood Mackenzie, told Bloomberg.