Energy Minister to launch Orkney hydrogen project

Orkney’s hydrogen energy project, Surf ‘n’ Turf, is due to be launched tomorrow by Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MP.

Scottish Business, Innovation and Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MP, is due to arrive in Orkney tomorrow (Wednesday) to mark the official launch of the Surf and Turf hydrogen project.

Mr Wheelhouse is expected to be one of 70 guests, travelling from as far as Malta and Spain, who are being given a chance to view the installations at the Kirkwall Pier and in Eday.

Based in Eday, the system draws renewable electricity either from tidal turbines at the tidal test site of the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), or from the onshore wind turbine run by the Eday community.

An electrolyser uses the electricity to split water into its component parts hydrogen and oxygen.

As it is produced from renewable electricity, hydrogen is a clean fuel that causes no carbon emissions.

The project received £1.3m of Scottish Government funding through the Local Energy Challenge Fund, and has now installed the facilities to make, move and use the gas. The first hydrogen ever to be produced from tidal energy was generated this August.

Surf and Turf is led by the Kirkwall based team of Scotland-wide energy charity, Community Energy Scotland. They work closely with EMEC, Orkney Islands Council, Eday Renewable Energy, and ITM Power.

Prior to the launch, Mr Wheelhouse said that the Scottish Government was pleased to support this innovative project, which enables Orkney to store and make use of excess renewable energy.

“The project also adds to our growing understanding of the potential role of hydrogen in Scotland’s future energy system,” he added.

September 26, 2017 at 5:35 pm

Only ~10% Of UK’s Recoverable Offshore Oil & Gas Reserves Remain, Study Finds

Fossil Fuels

Published on September 25th, 2017 | by James Ayre

September 25th, 2017 by

Only around 10% of the UK’s original offshore recoverable oil and gas reserves now remain, according to a new study from the University of Edinburgh. This means that at current rates of extraction, the UK’s reserves will only last another decade or so.

Once the UK’s oil and gas reserves run out, it will become necessary for the countries comprising the UK to import essentially all of the fossil fuels that they use.

While hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has been touted in recent times as a possible solution to the UK’s looming energy crisis, the new analysis argues that fracking will be “barely economically feasible” there owing to a dearth of suitable geology. This reality is especially true of Scotland, according to the new study.

Since someone may otherwise complain about perceived inaccuracies, I should be clearer here and note that the new study estimates remaining oil reserves at around 11% and remaining gas reserves at around 9% — together making for an average of 10%.

The press release provides more: “Scientists from the University of Edinburgh examined the UK’s likely potential for fracking and carried out a fresh analysis of the country’s oil and gas production. Their findings take into account the long-term downward trends of oil and gas field size and lifespan, alongside the break-even costs for fracking.

“They found that the UK has only minimal potential for fracking. Many possible sites are in densely populated areas, have low quality source rocks and complex geological histories. Fracking is likely to be too restricted to become an effective industry, which would require thousands of wells, scientists say.

“Analysis of hydrocarbon reserves shows that discoveries have consistently lagged behind output since the point of peak oil recovery in the late 1990s. The research predicts that both oil and gas reserves will run out within a decade.”

Lead researcher Roy Thompson, a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, commented: “The UK urgently needs a bold energy transition plan, instead of trusting to dwindling fossil fuel reserves and possible fracking. We must act now and drive the necessary shift to a clean economy with integration between energy systems. There needs to be greater emphasis on renewables, energy storage, and improved insulation and energy efficiencies.”

With the somewhat unstable political situation in the UK looking likely to persist for at least a fair bit longer, it doesn’t seem too likely that these findings will be discussed much politically. And yet, the reality of fossil fuel poverty is fast approaching for the UK — will anything effective be done on the national level before hard impacts begin?

The new study is detailed in a apparently published in The Edinburgh Geologist.

Image by Isaac Newton (some rights reserved)

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

Renewables poised to cause a major disruption to UK utilities by 2030

British utility firms face a major disruption in the next decade as residential renewable power generation and storage is set to become profitable for London households by 2030, according to new research.

The Centre for Climate Finance and Investment at Imperial College London has developed a new framework called "firm power parity" which forecasts the milestones at which on-site renewables will deliver the same service and cost as conventional energy supplies.

Until now, existing energy pricing models have understated the potential of renewable technologies.

The researchers said consumers were unlikely to leave the power grid completely until after 2030, but their gradual withdrawal from traditional utilities will have significant implications for electrical utilities and investors.

Renewable energy prices have fallen much more quickly than expected, but it is the rise of cheaper battery storage that will present a potential "game-changer" for one of the world’s largest industries over the next decade, the report said.

"The UK government has a big problem on its hands: solar and storage technologies are advancing rapidly and will bleed revenues from the utilities sector, yet we need a financially healthy industry to enable large-scale investments in smarter, more flexible electric power networks," said Charles Donovan, director of the Centre for Climate Finance.

"The transition ahead is going to be messy. For example, the expensive baseload power to be generated by Hinkley Point C may not even be needed if consumers make the profitable switch to onsite solar and storage indicated by our model," Donovan added.

Donovan said the new concept of firm power parity is more suited to the competitive landscape of renewable technologies as it calculates what is available when the sun is not shining.

“The results of our research are exciting as they show we will soon be entering a period where reliable and profitable solar power production by residential energy consumers becomes a reality in relatively cloudy places like London."

Read more: Shares in this renewable fuels firm are flying on news of a tie-up with BA

UK proposes to increase biofuel obligations, cap crop-based fuels

The U.K. Department for Transport has published proposals that aim to increase the amount of renewable fuel in the transportation energy mix and make several other changes to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. The U.K. Renewable Energy Association has cautiously welcomed the proposed changes, but said the proposals will not allow the U.K.’s biofuels industry to reach its full potential.

The Department for Transport opened a consultation on the proposals in November 2016 that ran through Jan. 22. On Sept. 14, the department issued its response to the consultation and outlined the next steps that will be taken by the U.K. government.

According to the Department for Transport, the U.K. government will increase the RTFO to 9.75 percent in 2020, increasing to 12.4 percent in 2032. An additional sub-target is being added for development fuels, defined as advanced renewable fuels made from waste that are eligible for double reward, including hydrogen, substitute natural gas, aviation fuels and other fuels that be blended at rates of at least 25 percent while meeting gas and diesel standards. That sub-target calls for 0.1 percent development fuels in 2019, increasing to 2.8 percent in 2032. The Department for Transport noted the proposal marks the first time renewable aviation fuels and renewable fuels of non-biological origin will qualify under the RTFO scheme. The proposal also caps crop-based fuels at 4 percent in 2018, reducing in equal increments annually starting in 2021, and reaching 3 percent in 2026 and 2 percent in 2032.

The U.K. REA said that while the increase in the RTFO is welcomed by industry, capping the use of crop-based fuels threatens domestic jobs and manufacturing capabilities. The organization called the decision to cap crop-based biofuels “disappointing,” and said it could risk U.K. jobs and investment. The U.K. REA also criticized the proposal for excluding biogas-based fuels from qualifying under the development fuels sub-target.

“The REA is pleased that the amount of renewable fuel will now be increased, which gives biofuels producers, especially those using waste as feedstock a bigger market to go for,” said Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the U.K. REA. “However, the decision to decrease the use of sustainable crops in renewable fuel production to 2 per cent raises the question whether fuel suppliers will supply an increasing amount of renewable bioethanol.”

“The government’s own Transport Energy Task Force recommended that increasing the amount of renewable bioethanol into petrol to 10 percent would be the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions from petrol,” she said. “If this fuel is not introduced this would destroy an immediate route to low carbon fuels and improved air quality.”

“Our AD biogas producers will also be disappointed that their biomethane, largely derived from food and organic farm waste, will not qualify as a Development Fuel,” Skorupska continued. “Renewable gas can play a major role in decarbonizing the heavy transport, a major contributor of carbon emissions.”

Drew Ratter: Powerful argument to meet Shetland’s electricity needs

In August, the UK government launched a review aimed at reducing the high cost of electricity paid by consumers and businesses.

Ironically, the electricity regulator Ofgem, which boasts of “making a positive difference for energy consumers”, was already busy consulting on a proposal that, if implemented, will cost consumers almost half a billion pounds more than it should.

Yes, half a billion pounds. You couldn’t make it up.

Let me explain. Shetland is the only major island group in the UK that is not connected to the national electricity grid. It relies on a diesel power station which has reached the end of its lifespan to keep the lights on (topped up by a gas turbine power station at the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal and as much wind generation as a closed grid can withstand).

Instead of a replacement for Lerwick Power Station, Ofgem is recommending the installation of a 60MW import-only cable from Caithness to Shetland to supply electricity to the islands, with back-up from 64 standby generators housed in containers near Lerwick.

The proposal is from SSE Networks (SSEN), owner and operator of the electricity grid in the north of Scotland, and would be built by National Grid’s commercial arm NGSLL (cable) and Aggreko (stand-by generators), most likely by late 2020 or early 2021.

Ofgem’s own documentation states that the cost of this cable plus standby generation will be £582 million over 20 years, £450m of which will have to be met by UK electricity customers.

Ofgem appears determined to press ahead with the cable. It is very clear that to do so would amount to a dereliction of its role as custodian of electricity consumers’ money.

But the solution is at hand – if the regulator stops ignoring the elephant in its own room next door.

At the same time as it is preparing to sign off on a 60MW cable, Ofgem has developed a blind spot about a parallel process for a much larger 600MW transmission cable to allow the export of electricity from our consented Viking Energy Wind Farm project, a 50:50 joint venture between the Shetland community (principally through the Shetland Charitable Trust) and SSE Renewables.

At no extra cost, this cable would (i) perform the function of the smaller cable, (ii) provide much greater value for money to electricity consumers and (iii) allow Shetland to become a nationally significant producer of renewable energy while also helping to diversify a marginal economy, creating up to 800 jobs and generating income of up to £233m (including potentially £82 million in community benefit).

The Conservative election manifesto committed the government to a policy of supporting “the development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they will directly benefit local communities”. In discussions, civil servants and ministers have suggested a possible timetable that could allow projects such as ours to bid for an electricity contract under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) system in late 2018 or early 2019, which could lead to the large interconnector cable being commissioned in 2023.

The cost to electricity consumers of the 600MW cable is estimated to be £885m over 15 years, which means that together the two cables would cost £1.467 billion.

The cost of the large cable (£855m) and the back-up generators (£132m) amounts to only £1.017bn.

With such a huge potential saving available, and the prospect of being able to deliver nationally significant electricity production from Shetland’s world-class wind resource at times when the wind is not blowing elsewhere in the UK, the government should be breaking down barriers, not creating them.

Ministers should call in the small cable proposal as a matter of urgency to review the excessive burden on electricity consumers.

Drew Ratter is the chairman of the Investment Committee of Shetland Charitable Trust

North Sea oil and gas to run out in ten years, experts warn

Oil and gas reserves in Scotland and the UK may last only a decade, according to new analysis by Scottish academics.

A study of output from offshore fields estimates that only around 10 per cent of the UK’s original recoverable oil and gas remains – about 11 per cent of oil and nine per cent of gas resources.

The research, by scientists at the University of Edinburgh, has also found that fracking will be barely economically viable in the UK, especially Scotland, because of complicated geology at potential sites.

The findings mean the UK will soon have to import all the oil and gas it needs, the researchers have warned.

Now they are calling for the UK government to take swift action, before the last remnants run out.

They say greater use of renewable energy sources, particularly offshore wind and state-of-the-art solar energy technologies, is needed to replace hydrocarbons.

Study leader Professor Roy Thompson, of the university School of GeoSciences, said: “The UK urgently needs a bold energy transition plan, instead of trusting to dwindling fossil fuel reserves and possible fracking.

“We must act now and drive the necessary shift to a clean economy, with integration between energy systems.

“There needs to be greater emphasis on renewables, energy storage and improved insulation and energy efficiencies.”

The latest study represents a fresh investigation into the country’s oil and gas production and an examination of the UK’s likely potential for exploiting unconventional fuels.

Analysis takes into account the long-term downward trends of oil and gas field size and lifespan, alongside the break-even costs for fracking.

Analysis of hydrocarbon reserves shows that discoveries have consistently lagged behind output since the point of peak oil recovery in the late 1990s.

The findings suggest reserves of traditional oil and gas will run out in the next ten years.

But offshore industry leaders have rubbished the claims.

Estimates from the Oil & Gas Authority suggest there are up to 20 billion barrels of offshore oil and gas still to be recovered on the UK continental shelf.

“Production has increased over the last two years and we expect that to continue to rise,” said Deirdre Michie, chief executive of the trade association Oil & Gas UK.

“Nine new fields began production in 2016 and a further seven started producing in the first half of this year – most of which will still be producing in 2030. A further 12 are due on-stream by the end of next year. Some notably large developments will still be producing towards 2050.

“Advances in technologies are also presenting fresh opportunities and helping make discoveries commercially viable.”

The Scottish Government has also disputed the findings, saying offshore oil and gas has a “bright future”.

A spokeswoman said: “The basin has up to 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent remaining – and this year has seen one of the biggest new discoveries of untapped oil in recent times.”

Scottish Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the report is “worrying”.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting a mix of water and chemicals at high pressure into underground rock formations to extract oil and gas trapped within. It has sparked a shale gas boom in the US and a rush to replicate the move as North Sea reserves run out.

The latest research backs up recent warnings by Professor John Underhill, chief scientist at Heriot-Watt University, who highlighted how the UK’s “deformed” geology is likely to prove a major barrier to harvesting unconventional oil and gas.

He says folds and faults in rock formations deep underground, caused by movements of the earth’s tectonic plates millions of years ago, mean places identified as harbouring substantial shale oil and gas reserves may be unsuitable for commercial drilling.

“The inherent complexity of the sedimentary basins has not been fully appreciated or articulated and, as a result, the opportunity has been overhyped,” he said.

A moratorium on fracking has been in place in Scotland since 2015 in response to environmental concerns, with a final decision from the Scottish Government due before the end of this year.

Alex Salmond named keynote speaker at renewables event

Former First Minister Alex Salmond has been confirmed as the keynote speaker at a major conference in Scotland looking at the impact on the renewable energy industry following Brexit.

The “Renewables After Brexit” event, being staged on 1 December, will see experts from the renewables, legal, financial and political sectors discuss the consequences for the industry when the UK leaves the European Union.

• READ MORE: Energy news

The event is being run by the University of Dundee’s Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law & Policy. Professor Peter Cameron, director of the centre, said: “Renewable energy was a key focus of Alex Salmond’s government and delegates will hear his views on how the industry may fare post-Brexit.”

• READ MORE: Who should pay for renewable energy subsidies in Scotland?

Speakers at the event will also include Dave Pearson, a director at Glasgow-based Star Renewable Energy, which last week won a major global sustainability and innovation award for its system which harvests heat from rivers using heat pumps.

The company is currently behind a £3.5 million scheme to supply heat to buildings in the Gorbals by using its pioneering heat pump technology on the Clyde.

• READ MORE: Project generating heat from sewers given funding boost

The project will be the largest such system in the UK. It was one of a number of green initiatives to share £43m of funding from the Scottish Government under the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme.

The Scottish Government has given the green light to German utility giant E.ON’s application to build an 18-turbine wind farm at Benbrack.

E.ON, one of Britain’s biggest energy suppliers, said the site will be capable of producing up to 59.4 megawatts of electricity.

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Government launches taskforce to make the UK a global hub for green finance

The government has set out a plan to establish a taskforce aimed at accelerating the growth of green finance in the UK.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of Climate Week in New York, climate change minister Claire Perry said the UK aims to be a global hub for green finance, and proposals announced today include developing the world's first green financial management standards with the British Standards Institute.

An estimated $13.5 trillion of investment is needed between 2015 and 2030 in the energy sector alone for countries to meet their Paris Agreement targets. Much of this investment will come from the private sector, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) wants to use the UK's green finance capabilities to provide a national economic boost.

Read more: India's renewable energy sector is set to boom by 2030

“Britain has already shown the world that a strong economy and efforts to tackle climate change can, and should, go hand in hand. Now is the time to build on our strengths and cement our position as a global hub for investment in clean growth," Perry said.

“The transition to a low carbon economy is a multi-billion pound investment opportunity and a key part of this government’s industrial strategy. Developing standards to promote responsible investment in sustainable projects and establishing the green finance taskforce will help ensure businesses across the UK take full advantage of it.”

The taskforce will include leading figures from Aviva, Barclays, HSBC, Green Investment Group, Legal & General and the Bank of England, as well as academics and sustainability experts.

Chaired by Sir Roger Gifford, former Lord Mayor of London, the group will be given six months to deliver proposals to accelerate investment in the transition to a low carbon economy, creating high-value jobs and opportunities for UK businesses.

It will examine a range of interventions, from making infrastructure investment more sustainable to scaling-up green mortgages, Beis said.

“Financial services are a British success story and the sector has the power to drive green and sustainable development," said economic secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay.

Read more: SSE issues the largest ever green bond from a UK company

How the UK aims to avoid the EV grid crash

The UK government announced in July that it would ban sales of new petrol and diesel-engined cars and light commercial vehicles by 2040.

The country's poor air quality was the driving force behind this new policy, following government research that estimated its environmental risk to public health was costing the economy £2.7 billion (€3 billion) a year in lost productivity.

Although broadly welcomed by environmental groups, the policy announcement raised questions the government has not been able to answer.

How will this affect electricity demand in the coming years, and how will that electricity be generated? As Dong Energy UK managing director Matthew Wright pointed out, it would be "somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory" if NOx emissions from vehicle engines were reduced, only for CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel power stations to rise.

There is something of a credibility gap, too. In the same month when one UK government minister was announcing a ban on petrol and diesel cars, another was scrapping long-standing and long overdue plans to electrify large parts of the country's rail network. Policy announcements do not always translate into policy.

The UK is on course to meet a target of generating 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. But its dependence on oil and gas for transport and heating means another target — 15% of all energy generation to come from non-carbon sources — is proving much harder to achieve..

Managing demand

The main fear is that the grid will not be able to cope with 25-30 million cars running on electricity, although it is worth noting that even if the entire UK light vehicle fleet switched to electricity, it would not exceed 15% of annual electricity system demand.

But without careful management of charging, the power requirements or charging may increase total system peak demand by as much as 50%. Many articles in the British press have fixated on this point.

An extra 10,000 wind turbines, or 9.5 Hinckley C nuclear power stations, will be needed to meet the demand, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Several newspaper sources have quoted from transmission system operator National Grid's modelling, but have taken some of the data out of context to make headlines.

In the National Grid's Future Energy Scenarios report, published in July, the "two-degrees" modelling is the one based around the government's commitments to decarbonising energy, heating and transport by 2050.

Of the four scenarios, this best fits the government's statement on banning petrol and diesel cars and vans, according to the grid operator, with additional peak demand from EVs expected to be 5GW, rather than 30GW.

The two-degrees modelling is the only one that achieves the UK's 2050 carbon reduction target, in terms of electricity supply.

Acknowledging that electrification of transport and heat will lead to higher electricity demand and output, offshore wind, onshore wind, solar photovoltaics (PV) and other renewables will account for more than half of total generation output by 2040, according to the projection.

About 15GW of nuclear capacity will be required for baseload, while some natural gas will be built under the two-degrees scenario, for flexibility. However, as more renewables are built, interconnectors, together with increased deployment of storage, will provide the flexibility needed.

Growing numbers

The UK is in good company when it comes to turning its back on diesel and petrol cars, with the Netherlands, Norway and France having announced their intentions to phase out conventional petrol and diesel cars.

Environment secretary Michael Gove has acknowledged the ban is in line with a growing number of carmakers investing in electricity-powered models that now include Renault, BMW, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has revised its EV forecasts, anticipating that 54% of new car sales will be EVs by 2040, instead of 35%.

The fall in lithium-ion battery costs is pushing up demand, although EVs are not expected to be cost-competitive with conventional vehicles until around 2025.

In 2012 there were 2,000 electric cars on UK roads, rising to 50,000 in 2015 and 100,000 in 2017. By 2022, Britons will be zipping about on the country's roads in more than a million EVs.

By then, the infrastructure for public charging will be more established, as local authorities and commercial entities recognise the benefit of installing chargers.

James McKemey, head of customer operations at charging-equipment supplier Pod Point, says: "The government announcement should not be seen as redundant.

If you are an OEM, this type of long-term signal is enough to suggest that you should be investing R&D in electric drivetrains, not conventional engines, as cars are developed in five-year cycles."

Charging points

Pod Point is supplying a monthly average of 500 EV chargers, mainly for residential customers, and the figure is rising. However, the Automobile Association (AA) has questioned the National Grid's ability to "cope with a mass switch-on after the evening rush hour".

Early pilots to explore EV charging habits have found that most EV charging is done between 6pm and midnight, when owners park up at home for the night. If charging only takes place during this window, then the electricity distribution network will come under strain as EV adoption continues to grow.

Most cars spend most of their time parked. On average, a car in Britain drives fewer than 20 miles (32km) a day. Even with a mature EV infrastructure in place, it is likely that most charging will be performed at home, followed by charging at work.

Destinations where cars are likely to be parked for more than an hour, such as train stations, airports, gyms, supermarkets and shopping centres, will accommodate further charging points.

Fast charging infrastructure is also being built on motorways and in cities. The availability of different types of charging will make the wholesale replacement of traditional service stations unnecessary.

Energy suppliers and utilities that manage the distribution network have been investigating the impact larger numbers of EVs will have on local networks. UK Power Networks, which manages the cables, wires and substations in and around London, and Western Power have undertaken such projects.

Utility SSE has been trialling smart charging. If an EV is parked for several hours, the smart charger will recharge the battery when demand is lowest.

Smart chargers, in combination with approaches such as dynamic pricing, to incentivise drivers to charge when prices are cheapest, will be critical if the impact that EV demand for electricity is to be managed and minimised.

According to UK Power Networks, flexibility in terms of the timing of delivery of electricity to recharge EVs, opens up opportunities for demand-side management approaches to optimise electricity generation and enhance the efficient use of network capacity.

BNEF's modelling shows that if EVs can be intelligently charged, they will essentially act as a large flexible load that can take advantage of variable resources such as wind and solar.

"As cars spend the vast majority of their time parked, with the right digital technologies and dynamic tariffs in place, EVs will be able to boost their charging demand at times when wind (or solar) generation is high," says Albert Cheung, head of global analysis at BNEF.

"This would have the effect of supporting power prices at times of high renewable generation, as well as potentially reducing curtailment. Intelligently charged EVs will be very good news for renewable generators."

Renewable opportunities

Electricity demand for transportation, the growth in distributed generation and the proliferation of new players in the energy market, such as aggregators and smaller energy suppliers, are all impacting the energy supply business, dominated by the UK's "big six" electricity suppliers — British Gas, EDF, Npower, E.on, ScotishPower and SSE.

Operating EV charging infrastructure is an opportunity some energy firms are taking seriously.

Chargemaster supplies EV chargers for residential, commercial and public-sector installations and runs the UK's largest EV charging network, Polar, which includes more than 5,000 public charging points across the UK.

David Martell, the firm's CEO, says: "It is likely we will need to encourage drivers to charge overnight, but cheaper electricity makes it is easy to incentivise them to do so, and the technology exists in all of the latest electric vehicles to only charge during certain times."

Since August, the electricity consumption of the Polar network is certified and matched to energy generated from 100% renewable sources by UK energy supplier Ovo Energy.

Ovo's renewable electricity comes from wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydro, biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment gas and biogas, some of which the supplier buys directly from UK-based smaller operators, although most is bought on the wholesale market to get the best price for customers.

Electricity on the wholesale market is generated in many different ways. In the case of renewables, the industry can use a "renewable energy guarantee of origin" certificate to show how much renewable electricity it has bought versus how much it has sold to customers. For every unit customers use, Ovo buys the equivalent amount of renewable electricity.

Tom Pakenham, head of electric vehicles at Ovo Energy, says: "In terms of how smart charging will work, it's very much based on mutual benefits.

Electric car owners enjoy monetary rewards for charging their cars at certain times to help manage the load, along with the feel-good factor that they're helping to 'balance the grid' and support more renewables."

Storage function

Ovo is also investing in technology to facilitate greater interaction between EVs and the grid. Its VCharge software platform takes lots of individual loads, which have a storage component, including solar-plus-storage systems and hot-water heaters, and aggregates them together to act as a virtual power plant to provide grid services.

For EVs to participate in virtual power plants requires vehicle to grid (V2G) charging technology. This allows EV batteries to both absorb and inject electrons into the grid, so they perform as energy storage systems.

However, V2G is unproven at scale and there are concerns from car manufacturers about the toll on battery performance. Also, there is no regulatory framework at present. But it could mean EV owners will be paid to participate in grid balancing in future. Nissan has been trialling its own V2G platform.

As part of plans to roll out smart-charging infrastructure across the UK and support deployment of more renewables to meet demand for electricity from EV uptake, Ovo acquired two EV technology players.

The range of EVs is improving and the cost of EVs are going down, ensuring more demand.

"But, the infrastructure is the remaining challenge. Some see 2040 as a challenge, but the switch to EVs won't be down to one company, or even one industry. It will be the combined efforts of lots of small as well as large players working together," says McKemey.


Protest… Fracking has little public support (pic: Greennsefa/flickr)

The UK's last coal-fired power station will close by 2025, but the fuel's importance in the country's electricity-generation mix has been in steep decline in recent years.

Only 9% of the UK's electricity was generated by coal in 2016, according to the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), compared with 22% in 2015.

But the shortfall has been entirely replaced by gas, which rose from 29% in 2015 to 42% last year. Nuclear provided 21% in both years, while the share from renewables also remained static at 24.5%.

The split between renewables technologies in 2016, according to BEIS, was 33.3% solar PV, 30.6% onshore wind, 14.8% offshore wind, 16.1% bioenergy and 5.1% hydro. Together, onshore and offshore wind provided 11.1% of the UK's electricity last year.

The UK's energy policy direction of travel has aimed at building a new fleet of nuclear plants while reducing carbon emissions by switching from coal to gas — preferably, domestically fracked shale gas — in the shorter term. But the nuclear programme is progressing much slower than anticipated and is proving extremely costly. The strike price agreed for the 3.2GW Hinkley Point C nuclear station — £92.5/MWh (€101/MWh) at 2012 prices, inflation-linked and over 35 years - has been widely criticised.

The shale-gas option is also looking shaky. It remains unknown what reserves are available and whether they will be sufficiently accessible to be extracted economically. The geologists are undecided on this.

Shale-gas extraction in the UK will also have to overcome significant public hostility. According to a BEIS survey in May, only 16% of respondents were in favour of fracking.

By contrast, onshore wind was supported by 73%. The government's decision to effectively halt onshore wind development, citing opposition to turbines in rural areas, looks increasingly hard to justify.

Shaun Campbell

Contract blow casts doubt on future of MeyGen project

One of the support bases being lowered into position at the MeyGen site.

One of the support bases being lowered into position at the MeyGen site.

COMMUNITY and business representatives in Caithness yesterday voiced serious fears about the future of the MeyGen venture in the Pentland Firth.

Their concern comes in the wake of the failure of Atlantis Resources Ltd, which is spearheading the pioneering wave power project, to win a renewable energy contract with the UK Government.

The first array of four sub-sea turbines is in place and a second cluster of four are set to be installed but the failure to win the contract places a large question mark over the plans to install a total of 269 turbines by the early 2020s.

Read more in today's John O'Groat Journal