ENA kicks off £70 million hunt for electricity network innovations

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

The NIC, run by industry regulator Ofgem, will see applicant companies collaborate with distribution network operators (DNOs) to develop joint bids for £70 million pot of funding for electricity network projects.

A further £20 million pot has been made available for gas network projects, however cross-vector bids – taking aim at the whole system – could potentially access both pots of funding, the ENA said.

The NIC is an annual competition borne from the networks’ intent to bring forward new technologies which hold the potential to reduce operating costs and translate them into business as usual activities.

Projects must deliver a clear cost benefit to the public, reduce the overall cost of running energy networks, provide environmental benefits and demonstrate genuine innovation. Priority areas will also need to be met, as outlined in the Gas and Electricity Network Innovation Strategies.

These priorities include planning and forecasting, pricing and settlement, network resilience, communications and data management, decarbonisation of heat, energy flexibility, community energy and vulnerable customers.

Previous winners of the NIC includes the OpenLV project, which has enabled greater access to local network electricity demand data.

The ENA has today (16 September 2019) opened the Call for Ideas, which closes on 8 November 2019.

David Smith, chief executive at the ENA, said the energy sector needs to be “relentless” in its focus on innovation to deliver progress towards the country’s now binding net zero target.

“Private enterprise is key to delivering network innovation which is vital to help keep energy bills down for the public, while delivering a smarter, cleaner and more flexible energy system that serves the country. This is an exciting chance for innovators to deliver projects that will make a real difference to the way networks operate in communities up and down the country. We want to hear from the widest range of energy innovators as possible to help deliver that,” he said.

More details on the Call for Ideas and how to enter can be found on the ENA’s NIC portal.

Power sector seeking expedited blackout system security and embedded generation reviews

Image: Ofgem.

Image: Ofgem.

The UK’s power sector is seeking an expedited process to any review of system security standards and pleaded with Ofgem to take seriously concerns over how embedded generation is disconnected during frequency events.

Yesterday National Grid ESO published its final technical report into the 9 August blackout, providing more detail into the root causes of the incident and recommended a number of reviews into both a possible increase in the level of reserve capacity required in the UK and potential amendments to embedded generation disconnection protocols.

Anesco chairman Steve Shine said that while his company welcomed National Grid ESO’s recommendation of reviews of infrastructure, resilience and embedded generation, it stressed that such reviews were “urgently needed” and should be expedited.

“The fact remains that our national grid is vulnerable to power cuts and is getting more vulnerable by the year. Any review must take place quickly and have the full involvement of the wider industry and not be taken as an opportunity to kick the issue into the long grass.

"It is still clear that National Grid was aware that frequency would fall outside of limits, and with more fast response battery storage on the network, this power cut could have been prevented. For that reason National Grid should urgently take action to encourage the building of more energy storage to support the UK’s energy security,” he said.

Thom Whiffen, product manager at smart energy tech firm geo, said that homes with connected batteries could have saved the system if they were coupled to a smart demand-side response network built upon real-time data and connected systems. Failure to implement such systems could lead such incidents to become a more regular event in the future, he warned.

Richard Black, director at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said that there was still a lack of clarity surrounding three consecutive trips at RWE’s Little Barford CCGT – clarity which may be forthcoming in subsequent reports into the incident – but also noted the report’s findings on how embedded generation tripped out automatically.

This, the technical report concludes, was as a result of oversensitive sensors which Black said the industry has been aware of for “at least 10 years”.

National Grid ESO’s final report includes in its appendices responses to a number of preliminary questions from the Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C), one of which centred on whether or not relevant lessons from previous incidents – chiefly the 2008 power cut – had been properly limited.

One of those recommendations was that inadequate frequency range settings on embedded generation plant should be modified to improve their resilience to frequency events. Simply put, it was suggested that embedded generators should be allowed to operate as normal during frequency events wherever reasonably practicable.

The ESO’s response to the E3C stresses that changes to Issue 2 of G59 codes included amendments to the settings of frequency protection to distributed generation, and that it was required for these changes to be applied retrospectively for distributed generation in the range of 5 – 50MW, which amounted to around 4GW at the time.

Regular progress reports to the Distribution Code Review Panel showed that this action was implemented, but the remaining volume of distributed generation was deemed “immaterial” given the effort required to make those changes. As a result, the issue does not stand to be corrected until 2022.

Black notes that it would have been Ofgem’s final responsibility, as the industry regulator, for this fault to be allowed to persist.

“It’ll be interesting to see whether MPs or any other body decide to look into the regulator’s apparent lack of interest in the issue,” he said.

National Grid was, however, praised for how it had identified the root cause of the events, and how it had already mooted several possible steps to respond to future needs.

Marc Borrett, CEO at Reactive Technologies, which recently landed a contract with the ESO to start measuring inertia on the electricity system, described the move as a “clear example” of National Grid’s use of new innovations to improve system reliability.

“By working with Reactive to directly measure inertia in order to enhance operational decision-making, National Grid ESO is at the forefront of addressing the kinds of challenges all system operators around the world will face as the necessary transition to renewables continues to transform our grids,” he added.

OVO seals £500 million swoop for SSE supply division

Image: Ovo.

Image: Ovo.

OVO Energy is to acquire SSE’s energy supply division in a £500 million deal.

The transaction, which comprises £400 million in cash and an additional £100 million in loan notes, is to complete either later this year or early next pending regulatory approvals.

If the deal completes as expected, OVO would become the second-largest energy supply company in the UK with in excess of 6.7 million customers, second only to Centrica's British Gas unit.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, chief executive and founder at OVO, said the deal marked a “significant moment for the energy industry”.

“Advances in technology, the falling cost of renewable energy and battery storage, the explosion of data and the urgent need to decarbonise are completely transforming the global energy system.

“For the past three years OVO has been investing heavily in scalable operating platforms, smart data capabilities and connected home services, ensuring we’re well positioned to grow and take advantage of new opportunities in a changing market.

“SSE and OVO are a great fit. They share our values on sustainability and serving customers. They’ve built an excellent team that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

It marks SSE’s withdrawal from a UK supply market it has been attempting to retract from for some time. The company was originally intending to spin-off the division and merge it with innogy’s npower, only to see that deal fall through when Ofgem’s price cap moved the financial goalposts too far for either firm to commit.

SSE was then vocal about its ambition to move the division on, either via a straight sale or spin-off and de-listing. Last month SSE confirmed industry rumours that it was in discussions with OVO, but stressed no deal had yet been agreed.

Confirming the agreement to the market this morning, SSE said it would do all it can to ensure a smooth transition for both customers and employees in the event of a successful completion.

“We have long believed that a dedicated, focused and independent retailer will ultimately best serve customers, employees and other stakeholders – and this is an excellent opportunity to make that happen.

“OVO shares our relentless focus on customer service and has a bold vision for how technology can reshape the future of the industry. I’m confident that this is the best outcome for the SSE Energy Services business,” Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive at SSE, said.

Analysis: Liam Stoker, editor in chief, Current±

This kind of transaction has been a long time coming for OVO Group, a company firmly on many in the industry’s radar for a while now. Stephen Fitzpatrick’s ambition has been matched by OVO’s meteoric growth and, now, the company is no longer punching up at the Big Six but sits alongside them.

How OVO handles that transition from challenger to mammoth will be of utmost importance. It’s difficult to undersell the task at hand, given that OVO’s customer base will effectively increase six-fold in such a short space of time. That transitional services agreement in the contract could prove a smart move, but many companies before OVO have mishandled similar transitions and paid the price.

And let’s not forget, in acquiring SSE OVO is still bringing in a company that isn’t exactly in the rudest of health. This is a company that in February issued a profit warning amidst Capacity Market woes and just three months later was eyeing up 400 redundancies. While it's not as bad as the npower’s of this sector, when you also consider just how difficult other large incumbents have found the energy retail market in the last few months, OVO will have plenty of thinking to do.

OVO has indeed been on the industry’s radar for some time. That won’t change with this acquisition, but it may be for different reasons.

SSE further said it would use the cash proceeds from the deal to reduce the company’s net debt, however, £59 million is to be deducted from the total cash consideration owed to SEE to reflect SSE Energy Services’ debt items, including accruals in respect of payments owed under the still-suspended Capacity Market mechanism.

All of SSE’s ~8,000 employees will now transfer to OVO, and both firms have agreed upon a transitional services agreement which will see SSE provide certain services to OVO throughout a post-transaction period.

The two firms have also agreed a brand licensing agreement, which will see the SSE brand remain active in the energy supply market while it is being migrated to OVO ownership

£35 billion investment needed for “radical” waste sector transition

Making the most of waste and secondary resources over the next 20-30 years will require investment of up to thirty-five billion pounds, according to a report published today by SUEZ, which explores the current and future economic outlook for the resources and waste sector.

The report, entitled “The Economics of Change in the Resources and Waste Sector”, provides an analysis of the current economic drivers in the sector and goes on to explore how future environmental policy target metrics related to CO2, natural capital and biodiversity will necessitate substantial additional investment.

Among the new cost drivers in the next twenty years will be the need to invest in new technologies and facilities capable of converting residual waste not just into electrical energy, but fuel and chemical molecules too; to overhaul logistics and container infrastructure; collect new or niche material streams, such as flexible packaging; develop new data collection and analytics systems; and invest in education and behavioural change communications campaigns.

The report provides a breakdown of the cost and value drivers in the current resources and waste management landscape – such as the proportion of costs for various waste management activities within council budgets and comparators in costs between England and the devolved administrations.

The coming transition over the next twenty years will be even more radical, and will require accelerated investment more than three times greater than that made over the past decade or so

The report will be formally launched by SUEZ at the RWM with CIWM Exhibition in Birmingham on Thursday 12 September at 13.15 in the Circular Economy Connect Theatre.

CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, David Palmer-Jones said: “The resources and waste sector has seen massive change over the past decade, and actors in our sector have invested more than ten billion in the transition away from landfill, moving waste materials further up the waste hierarchy.

“However, SUEZ believes, as is set out in this short report, that the coming transition over the next twenty years will be even more radical, and will require accelerated investment more than three times greater than that made over the past decade or so.

“The money flows and economics of future resource management systems will be fundamentally different to today, in support of new objectives and through new participants in the sector, drawn in by new legislation and regulation.

“The weight-based metrics we have used to date have taken us so far, and resulted in more sustainable practices as material has shifted away from landfill, but new more sophisticated metrics, seeking to directly address the major environmental challenges of our time – climate change and the loss of biodiversity and natural capital – will change the game significantly. Full net Cost Recovery producer responsibility and new methods of harvesting materials, like deposit return schemes, will change revenue and material flows and will require new consumer behaviours – which we know from the last decade of recycling, are not easily or quickly changed.

We welcome the challenge though and, with the support of Government, through transparent, consistent, and ambitious policy, there is no reason why the sector cannot deliver the investment, skills and technologies required for a more sustainable future.”

Scottish government unveils £3 billion investment portfolio in slew of green finance policy

Image: The Scottish National Party

Image: The Scottish National Party

Climate change topped the bill of the Scottish government’s ‘Programme for Government’, announced by Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

A ‘Green New Deal’ was chief among the policy pledges, which includes a £3 billion Green Investment Portfolio.

Projects involving renewables, waste, the circular economy and property are set to benefit from the investment package.

The Scottish government will make a public call for projects in November, working alongside Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Futures Trust, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Scottish National Investment Bank.

Also under the ‘Green New Deal’ is the establishment of the new Scottish National Investment Bank, which will have an initial pot of £130 million for its first year.

The funding is to provide finance with the intention of driving additional investment in Scotland across both the public and private sectors.

The bank's primary goal is to ensure the transition to net zero and it is set to invest at least £2 billion over ten years.

Under a new Green Growth Accelerator – also announced in the 'Programme for Government' and expanded from the current Growth Accelerator – local authorities can borrow to invest in projects which reduce emissions and boost growth.

Speaking as the document was unveiled, Sturgeon pledged to ensure that Scotland “benefits economically” from moving towards net zero.

“We are without doubt one of the best countries in the world to invest in low carbon or net zero projects – by promoting the Green Investment Portfolio, we will ensure that fact is known to investors around the world," she continued.

Finance wasn’t the only focus of the ‘Programme for Government’, however. Measures for encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) were detailed, although two of these – a £7.5 million EV infrastructure pilot and £20 million in funding for public charging infrastructure – have been previously announced.

The Scottish government intends to decarbonise its public sector fleet by 2025 and an additional £17 million was also announced for the purchase of ultra-low emission vehicles as part of its Low Carbon Transport Loan scheme.

It is also intending to “lead by example” by accelerating efforts to use 100% renewable electricity on the Scottish public estate.

However, the Scottish Government’s plans for renewables were – on the whole – missing, with details set to be outlined in the next Energy Statement.

But what was detailed was the Scottish government's support “in principle” for plans from the Oil and Gas Technology Centre to establish a Net Zero Solution Centre, which would see the deployment of carbon capture usage and storage and hydrogen and renewables technologies that are able to integrate with existing oil and gas infrastructure.

Once a business case analysis is completed, the Scottish government will confirm its funding contribution and call on the UK government to co-invest.

An Offshore Wind Policy Statement will also be developed, making clear the Scottish government’s ambitions for offshore wind.

“The year ahead will consolidate Scotland’s position as a leader in the battle against climate change,” Sturgeon continued.

“In short, while the Westminster government shuts down, the Scottish Government is stepping up.”

5 charts that show renewable energy's latest milestone.

5 charts that show renewable energy's latest milestone

Traditional Incandescent light bulbs are seen at an apartment in Munich August 31, 2009. "Incandescent bulbs will be phased out between September 2009 and September 2012," said a spokesman for the EU Presidency said in December 2008. European households could initially save up to 50 euros ($65) a year by switching to more efficient halogen, LED and fluorescent CFL lamps, with greater savings as costs for the more expensive but longer-lasting bulbs fall. REUTERS/Michael Dalder (GERMANY BUSINESS ENERGY ENVIRONMENT) - GM1E58V111101
Electricity derived from renewable sources has outstripped the amount of energy generated by coal.
Image: REUTERS/Michael Dalder

The 36 countries that make up the OECD bloc of developed nations have reached a milestone in the production of green energy. For the first time, electricity derived from renewable sources has outstripped that generated by burning coal.

Image: International Energy Agency

Figures from the International Energy Agency for 2018 show renewables as an energy source just edging out coal. When taken as a total across the bloc, renewables were used to produce 2,896 terawatt hours of electricity, while burning coal produced 2,863 terawatt hours.

It’s a tight margin but the chart above shows a clear trend. Coal is in rapid decline across the OECD, while renewable sources of energy are surging. Gas is now the most common source of fuel for energy production across the OECD. It’s cleaner than coal but still a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming.

Various sources of renewable energy have given OECD nations the ability to rapidly scale production. Hydro power is by far the leading source, with more than half the bloc’s total supply coming from water-powered production.

Image: International Energy Agency

Wind farms are the second largest source of green energy, producing 23% of the OECD’s supply. Solar power is another major contributor. The falling cost and increased efficiency of solar panels has pushed up their share of renewable electricity production in the OECD to 8.4%.

A global shift

The dash for renewables is not confined to developed nations. Around the world new generating capacity is being installed at a phenomenal rate, driven mainly by wind and solar. In the middle of 2018 the world reached a landmark, with more than 1,000 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity online, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Image: BNEF

The problem with coal

Despite the increase in renewables, more coal than ever is being burned to generate electricity.

Image: International Energy Agency

Coal power generation increased 3% in 2018, and for the first time topped the 10,000 TWh mark, according to the International Energy Agency. Coal is still the largest fuel source for generating electricity, accounting for 38% of total global production.

The growth in coal-fired production was mainly in Asia, particularly in China and India. Investment in coal-fired power plants declined by nearly 3%, however, to the lowest level since 2004. India and China are also cancelling and delaying plans for new coal-fired power stations.

To hit targets for a sustainable global energy supply, coal-fired production needs to fall dramatically, and quickly, with an associated exponential rise in renewable production, as the chart below from the IEA illustrates.

Image: International Energy Agency

At the current rate of change, the world is set to miss sustainable development targets, but an accelerated rate of investment in renewable capacity could yet tip the balance in favour of greener energy.

This company grows crops inside, stacked on top of one another

This company grows crops inside, stacked on top of one another

These crops grow all year and have less environmental impact than traditional farming.
Image: Our Planet, Netflix

Is it an agriculture or a tech venture?

AeroFarms is blurring the lines between the two with its vertical farm.

Crops are grown inside, under lights, one on top of the other.

Image: Our Planet, Netflix

The advantages are numerous: higher productivity in a much smaller area; shorter growing times; lower water use; fresh produce grown much closer to where it’s eaten; and, AeroFarm executives say, improved food taste.

Here at AeroFarms, our aeroponic technology is a closed loop system, recycling water and nutrients with virtually 0 waste, resulting in 95% less water use than field farming. That also means no soil contamination and no toxic runoff into our waterways - https://aerofarms.com/environmental-impact/ 

View image on Twitter
“On one hand we’re a farming company,” explains Chief Executive David Rosenberg. “On the other hand, we’re a technology company.”

Technology is central to making a vertical farm work.

AeroFarms uses an aeroponic system to provide the right amount of water and nutrients, with temperature and humidity constantly fine-tuned, so that each crop has the perfect growing conditions.

Image: Our Planet, Netflix

As a result, they can grow a variety of produce all year round, defying the seasons.

All of this adds up to farms that use 95% less water than traditional ones, while yielding up to 390-times more crops per-square-foot.

Circular and nutritious

And all these wins start with recycled bottles.

That’s how AeroFarms make the cloth on which the crops grow, which is also completely reusable.

There are benefits both for the environment – including lower carbon emissions as a result of growing crops right in the centre of a city rather than having them transported – and for our health.

“One of the most exciting opportunities about changing the environment is improving nutrition,” says Dr. April Agee Carroll, Vice President of Research and Development at AeroFarms.

“We know if we can really improve that with different environmental conditions, then we can have a product that’s more nutritious, that can bring a better value to people in their diets as well as really improving human health.”

Food for thought.


The Economist: “Growing higher: New ways to make vertical farming stack up”

From the outside it looks like a tall, metal-clad barn. But step in, through a large airlock designed to keep out the bugs, and a kaleidoscopic scene emerges. A central aisle is flanked by two pairs of towers. Each tower is stacked with a dozen or so trays on which are growing strawberries, kale, red lettuce and coriander. And each tray is bathed in vibrant light of different colours, mostly hues of blue and magenta. Douglas Elder, who is in charge of this artificial Eden, taps some instructions into an app on his mobile phone and, with a short whirr of machinery, a tray of lush, green basil slides out for his inspection.

Mr Elder is product manager for Intelligent Growth Solutions ( IGS ), a “vertical farming” company based at Invergowrie, near Dundee, in Scotland. Each of the nine-metre-high towers in the demonstration unit that he runs occupies barely 40 square metres. But by stacking the trays one on top of another an individual tower provides up to 350 square metres of growing area. Using his phone again, Mr Elder changes the colours and brightness of the 1,000 light-emitting diodes ( LED s) strung out above each tray. The app can also control the temperature, humidity and ventilation, and the hydroponic system that supplies the plants, growing on various non-soil substrates, with water and nutrients. Armed with his trusty phone, Mr Elder says he can run the farm almost single-handedly.

Plant power 

Vertical farming of this sort is not, of itself, a new idea. The term goes back to 1915, though it took a century for the first commercial vertical farms to be built. But the business is now taking off. SoftBank, a Japanese firm, Google’s former boss Eric Schmidt and Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos have between them ploughed more than $200m into Plenty, a vertical-farming company based in San Francisco. And in June Ocado, a British online grocery, splashed out £17m ($21.3m) on vertical­farming businesses to grow fresh produce within its automated distribution depots.

The interest of investors is growing just as technology promises to turn vertical-farming operations into efficient “plant factories”. The high-tech LED s in IGS ‘s demonstration unit are optimised so that nary a photon is wasted. The hydroponics, and the recycling that supports them, mean the only water lost from the system is that which ends up as part of one of the plants themselves. And towers mean the system is modular, and so can be scaled up. Most of the systems which IGS hopes to start delivering to customers early next year will consist of ten or more towers.

Some people, however, remain sceptical about how much vertical farms have to offer that good-old-fashioned greenhouses do not. Vertical farms are certainly more compact—a bonus in places like cities where land is

expensive. Since sales of fresh produce to the urban masses are often touted as one of vertical farming’s biggest opportunities, that is important. But a greenhouse gets its light, and much of its heat, free, courtesy of the sun. And modern greenhouses can also use solar-powered supplementary LED lighting to extend their growing seasons and hydroponic systems to save water, says Viraji Puri, co-founder of Gotham Greens, an urban-farming company that operates greenhouses on the roofs of buildings in New York and Chicago. As for food miles, they could not get any shorter for Gotham Greens’s rooftop greenhouse in Brooklyn, which supplies the Whole Foods Market located downstairs.

The biggest drawback of vertical farming is the high cost of the electricity required to run the large number of LEDS . This has meant that production has been commercially viable for high-value, perishable produce only, such as salad leaves and herbs. That, nevertheless, is a market not to be sniffed at. But for a broader range of produce, it can prove too expensive. In 2014 Louis Albright, an emeritus professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University in America, calculated that a loaf of bread made from wheat grown in a vertical farm would be priced at about $23.

Blue is the colour

One way of saving electricity is to use LED s that generate only the colours that plants require, instead of the full spectrum of plain white light. Plants are green because their leaves contain chlorophyll, a pigment that reflects the green light in the middle of the spectrum while absorbing and using for photosynthesis the blue and red wavelengths at either end of it.

The vertical farm at Invergowrie takes this idea further. It uses LED s that are highly tuneable. Although the lights produce mostly blue and red wavelengths, researchers now know that other colours play an important role at various stages of a plant’s development, says David Farquhar, IGS ‘s chief executive. A dose of green at an appropriate moment produces a higher yield. A timely spot of infrared can improve the quality of foliage. The lights can also produce various blue/red mixes.

To operate these LED s efficiently, the company has developed a low-voltage power-distribution system. This, says Mr Farquhar, can cut energy costs to about half of those incurred by existing vertical farms. As a result, all four towers can produce 15-25 tonnes a year of herbs, salad leaves, fruit and vegetables. This, the company claims, is between two and three times more than a conventional greenhouse with an equivalent but horizontal growing area, and equipped with supplementary lighting and heating, could manage. And the system can grow all this produce at a similar cost-per-kilogram.

One of the jobs of the Invergowrie unit is to develop lighting regimes tailored to individual crops. Another is to develop algorithms to control, in an equally bespoke way, the climatic conditions preferred by different crops. The idea is to design crop-specific weather “recipes” in order to boost the yield and quality of whatever varieties are grown in the vertical farm. All the processes involved are engineered to be efficient. Irrigation, for instance, relies on captured rainwater. This is cleaned and recycled, but only 5% gets used up by each harvest—and most of that as the water-content in the plants themselves. Ventilation is also a closed loop, harvesting surplus heat from the LED s while managing humidity and oxygen levels.

By reducing running costs, the system should make it profitable to grow a wider variety of produce vertically. The firm has already succeeded with some root vegetables, such as radishes and baby turnips. Bulk field crops, such as wheat and rice, may never make sense for a vertical farm, and larger, heavier vegetables would be tricky to raise. This means full-grown potatoes are probably off the menu, at least with existing technology.

Seed potatoes, though, are a good candidate, says Colin Campbell, head of the James Hutton Institute, a plant- science research centre backed by the Scottish government. It is based next door to IGS and works with the company. Many fields around the world, Dr Campbell observes, are suffering a growing burden of pests and disease, such as potato-cyst nematode. In the controlled environment of a vertical farm, from which both pests and diseases can be excluded, seed potatoes could be propagated more efficiently than in the big, bad outdoor world. This would give them a head start when they were planted out in fields.

The institute’s researchers are also looking at plant varieties that might do particularly well indoors, including old varieties passed over in the search for crops which can withstand the rigours of intensive farming systems. By dipping into the institute’s gene banks, Dr Campbell thinks it may find some long-forgotten fruits and vegetables that would thrive in the security of a vertical farm.

All this could go down well with foodies, and unlock new and forgotten flavours. Shoppers might even find some exotic varieties growing in supermarket aisles. In Berlin a company called In farm provides remotely controlled shelved growing cabinets for shops, warehouses and restaurants. Herbs and salad leaves, including exotics such as Genovese basil and Peruvian mint, are resupplied with seedlings from the company’s nursery as the mature plants are picked.

Vertical farming then will not feed the world, but it will help provide more fresh produce to more people. It may even be that, as vertical-farming systems improve further, miniature versions will be designed for people to put in their kitchens—thus proving that there is nothing new under either the sun or the LED . Such things used once to be called window boxes.

UK ranks mid-table on EU recycling performance

29 AUGUST 2019by Joshua Doherty at LetsRecycle

Official figures released by the European Union’s statistical arm, Eurostat, have suggested that the UK continues to lag behind some of the top performing member states on recycling.

However, the data covering the 2017 calendar year, shows that the UK is now sending proportionally less waste to landfill than many of its European counterparts.

UK vs EU average – how do the figures compare?

The figures are compiled annually based upon municipal waste data submitted to the EU by member states, as well as some non-member nations.

As outlined in the table to the right, data on the amount of waste recycled and composted in the 2017 calendar year shows that the UK’s recycling and the composting rate remained static at 44%, 3% lower than the average rate recorded by EU member states.

The Eurostat data also shows that Germany – which generated the most waste across the continent at 52 million tonnes – achieved a recycling and composting rate of 67.6% in 2017. Other top performers included Austria and Slovenia (both on 57%), the Netherlands (54%) and Belgium (53%). Overall, the UK ranked 11th in terms of its recycling rate.

Countries including Norway (39%), Spain (33%) and France (43%) all recorded lower recycling rates than the UK.

Waste generated

On waste generated, the UK produced the third most waste by tonnage, at 31 million, but ranked 15th in terms of waste produced per citizen, at 468kg per capita. Denmark topped the municipal waste generated per capita table, at 781 kg, while Romania was bottom at 272kg.


Municipal waste generate per person for 2017 (click to enlarge)

Energy from waste

When looking at energy from waste, the Netherlands sent around 44% of its waste to energy recovery facilities, while Norway and Denmark sent 53%. The UK’s energy recovery rate stood at 37%, above the EU-wide average of 28%.

Spain was among the worst-performing EU member states when looking at landfill rates, sending 53% of its waste to landfill. France and Italy also both landfill more municipal waste than the UK proportionally.

How the EU’s top five waste producers (based on the overall tonnage of municipal waste) performed. Top row figures are displayed in ‘000 tonnes

Eurostat noted that the long term trend has been towards a reduction of waste to landfill – which has been driven by the EU’s Landfill Directive which sets targets for reducing the amount of waste that is disposed of in landfill. This has prompted an increase in the amount of waste recycled, composted and sent to energy from waste facilities.

“The total municipal waste landfilled in the EU-28 fell by 88 million tonnes, or 60% – from 145 million tonnes (302 kg per capita) in 1995 to 58 million tonnes (113 kg per capita) in 2017. This corresponds to an average annual decline of 4.1%. For the shorter period 2005-2017 landfilling has fallen by as much as 5.6% per year on average,” the statistical body said.

As a result, the landfilling rate compared with municipal waste generation in the EU-28 dropped from 64 % in 1995 to 23 % in 2017, the data suggests.

Related Links
Eurostat Municipal Waste Statistics

Creating a cleaner, more efficient energy system

National Grid ESO outlines its plans to deliver a cleaner energy system in this sponsored post.

National Grid ESO’s ambitions

With climate change high on the Government’s agenda and National Grid ESO’s ambition to be able to operate a zero-carbon system by 2025, it’s important we manage our network in a cleaner and more flexible way. This means breaking down barriers to entry for new market entrants, creating liquidity to realise consumer value, and ensuring security of supply whilst embracing new types of generation and ever-changing needs.

Our analysis shows that by 2050, a decarbonised energy system could add 19 million jobs and £44 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) to the global economy, as well as generating a 15% increase in global welfare and a 60% reduction in health effects caused by local air pollution.

Having published our Towards 2030[1] ambition in April 2019, National Grid ESO sees success by 2025 as:

  • An electricity system that can operate carbon free
  • A strategy for clean heat, and progress against that plan
  • Competition everywhere
  • The System Operator is a trusted partner

Progress against this plan is already taking place having operated the grid coal-free for two consecutive weeks in May 2019, for the first time, and we estimate that delivering our Business Plans[2] net zero ambition, could achieve benefits of around £2.3 billion over the RIIO-2 period.

In the near-term, our recently published Forward Plan[3] lays out our intentions from April 2019 to March 2021 and beyond. The top five priorities are continuing to improve safety and reliability, improving quality of service by listening to stakeholders and acting on feedback, lowering bills for the end consumer, reducing environmental damage, and creating greater benefits for society as a whole.

Achieving the ESO’s ambitions

One of the most significant barriers we face in order to achieve our goal of carbon-free operation is to enable all technologies to participate in our ancillary service markets. Traditionally, renewable sources of generation have struggled to participate due to their intermittent nature and variable output. To allow these technologies to operate on an even playing field we are currently looking to understand how short-term markets can reduce barriers to entry for such technology types who cannot guarantee output months in advance.

There is a question over whether the existing pay-as-bid tenders are the appropriate approach for procuring balancing services. Pay-as-bid tenders are useful when there is a market with a small number of participants and where there are highly standardised products, however, a pay-as-clear auction approach may incentivise bidding at marginal price and increase transparency of pricing signals in a market with standard products.

As a result, we are looking to openly engage, redesign and implement new ancillary service opportunities. Some of the measures being taken to reform the Firm Frequency Response (FFR) market are: moving from monthly pay as bid tenders to trialling weekly pay-as-clear auctions; holding periodic long-term tenders; developing day ahead auction designs; and implementing a single platform for all ancillary service participation.

FFR Weekly Auction Trial

As part of our move towards closer to real time procurement, on 13th June 2019 we held the first Phase 1 weekly frequency response auction to procure a low frequency static service. Four parties entered the first auction, to secure a contract for the coming week, with service delivery to commence the following day at 23:00.

Since then, more participants have joined the Phase 1 auction. We have also carried out additional work on the detail of Phase 2 and will seek to procure dynamic response through a platform being implemented in partnership with EpexSpot.

For more information on the FFR Weekly Auction Trial please visit: www.nationalgrideso.com/balancing-services/frequency-response-services/firm-frequency-response-ffr

Reform of Reserve Services

In time, we will also be looking at reforms to Reserve Services, including STOR and Fast Reserve, potentially moving to monthly ‘EFA block’ pay-as-clear auctions, whilst implementing measures to increase market transparency and facilitate competition.

New Areas of Focus

Demand Side Flexibility has a vital role to play in the evolution of electricity markets which will shape how we all behave as consumers and providers. The UK’s focus is firmly on the facilitation of new up and coming technologies such as EVs and smart devices in our homes. For example, in our recent Future Energy Scenarios report we estimated that, by 2050, there will be over 35 million electric vehicles on the road. These and other demand side changes increase the need for the grid as a whole to be more dynamic and flexible.

Power Responsive is looking to expand its focus to include domestic consumers and community-based energy projects, and we are actively involved in multiple innovation projects looking at vehicle to grid (V2G) technologies, domestic DSR, a system-wide DER asset register, and whole-system approaches to the flexibility procurement.

We are going through a period of unprecedented change, which will improve the way the energy industry adapts and operates, ultimately delivering greater value for consumers. However, we cannot do this alone. We need to work together across the energy industry to ensure that we are ready to facilitate the energy system of tomorrow.

Contacts us

If you would like to learn more about Power Responsive or find out about the opportunities that exist by using energy or generation assets more flexibly, as well as hear stories from businesses that are taking part and enjoying the rewards of the balancing markets right now, go to: www.powerresponsive.com or sign up to our mailing list on the homepage.

Contact us at powerresponsive@nationalgrideso.com

[1] Towards 2030 – https://www.nationalgrideso.com/news/towards-2030-system-operator-gbs-energy-future

[2] ESO RIIO-2 draft business plan – https://www.nationalgrideso.com/about-us/business-plans

[3] Forward Plan April 2019 to March 2021 – https://www.nationalgrideso.com/about-us/business-plans/forward-plans-2021