Yesterday lunchtime (Wednesday 7th June), I was sat eating my sandwiches in our sunroom. The sun was shining brightly and a strong wind was blowing leaves and twigs from the large walnut tree in the garden. With all this ‘intermittent’ renewable energy not so intermittent, I began to wonder if the UK would have another full day of electricity generation without burning any coal (see my MNM contribution of 1st May).
As it happened, coal was still in the UK generation ‘mix’, but another record was being set as I ate my lunch that day – more than half of the UK’s electricity was being generated from renewable sources for the first time!
At 13:12 on Wednesday 7th June, Drax@Draxnews tweeted that between 12:30 and 13:00 a new renewables peak power record for the UK of 19.3GW had been set, a fact confirmed by National Grid’s control room (@NGControlRoom), which tweeted at 14:17 “For the first time ever, this lunchtime wind, nuclear and solar were all generating more than both gas and coal combined.”
The 19.3GW of renewable power on the grid comprised 9.5GW of wind power, 7.6GW of solar PV, 2GW of biomass (woodchip) combustion plant and 0.2GW of hydroelectric power, together meeting 50.7% of the net electricity demand. Indeed, if you add in the 8.2GW of nuclear power on the grid at the time, then ‘low-carbon’ energy sources were providing 27.5GW – 72.1% of the UK’s power.
And it wasn’t just the UK renewable electricity generation that was exceeding previous levels – the sunny and blustery conditions were causing new records for wind power across Europe.
However, the sheer amount of electricity being generated from wind turbines in the UK caused the price of electricity to fall to around 10% of the normal price, and, during the early hours of this morning, electricity prices went negative, with National Grid paying certain major energy users (selected by auction to be part of the ‘demand turn-up’ scheme and thus avoid National Grid having to make payments to utilities to ‘spill’ power) to use more power and avoid the grid being overwhelmed by electricity supply.
This situation reinforces the point that as the UK (and other countries, of course) move inexorably towards a low-carbon electricity system, energy storage will become more and more important as an enabling technology – particularly with such a high proportion of intermittent renewable energy sources contributing to the power supply. At the time that the record was being set at lunchtime on Wednesday, only 1% of power demand was being stored (by pumped-hydro storage facilities).
24 hours later, and I’m sat eating my sandwiches again – too cold today to sit in our sunroom, with drizzly rain being driven by a light breeze… normal UK summer weather resumed, and fossil fuels pulling their weight again in the UK power mix! [Note ‘Gridwatch’ (a great visual dashboard of the UK power grid based on data from Elexon, National Grid and the University of Sheffield – see www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk) showed renewable sources providing 31.9% of power demand and, including nuclear power (i.e. low-carbon energy), 55.4% of power supply, at lunchtime on Thursday 8th June.]