UK’s traditional power generators face challenge as renewables continue to rise

Increasing energy generation from renewables is forcing traditional power companies and the UK’s National Grid to quickly adapt to new challenges.

That’s the view of energy data specialist EnAppSys, which says that with the recent growth of renewables, and solar PV in particular far exceeding previous expectations, the contribution of fossil fuel generators to the overall power mix has dropped.
Fossils and renewables generators
Paul Verrill, Director of EnAppSys, told Power Engineering International: “The recent increased levels of solar PV generation is a new scenario that is demanding a new approach from the traditional power generators and the National Grid.

EnAppSys data shows that overall renewable generation in May, including estimates for unmetered wind, solar, biomass and hydro, was 23 per cent of the total power supply – up from a previous high of 21 per cent in mid-winter when wind’s contribution was particularly high.

That trend, together with imports of power from the continent amounts to a slippage in conventional power share. From around 80 per cent in January 2009, the contribution of conventional coal and gas-fired power stations to the country’s power generation fell to less than 50% during May 2015.

In terms of daily contributions, figures show that solar PV generation appeared to provide 6 per cent of total power output on the 23rd and 30th May, with peak output levels reaching 15 per cent of half hourly generation and almost 5GW of power on the 23rd.

As a guide to the unexpected nature of this increase, in its 2014 future Energy Scenarios report, the National Grid expected to see the 6.5 GW generation threshold breached by 2018/19 at the earliest and by 2025/26 at the latest ” putting current solar output levels nearly 10 years ahead of schedule.
Fossils and renewables generators - comparison
à‚ “The National Grid now needs to quickly adapt to reduced generation from other power sources during the middle of the day” Verrill says, “and the existing generators will have to adjust to a midday depression of energy prices, with the these prices now reducing close to the low prices experienced overnight.

“If solar capacity continues to grow, this will see a large depression in levels of demand for electricity generation from conventional power sources in the middle of the day and a challenge for National Grid to manage the system without the inherent ‘inertia’ provided by large thermal power stations.”

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