The Energy (R)Evolution

2017 was historic for many reasons politically, culturally and most of all, environmentally.  Building on a stellar year in 2016, where almost 90% of new power in Europe came from renewables, 2017 broke record after record – some of which we noted in our review of the summer of 2017.

In April, Britain had it’s first coal-free day since the 1880s and throughout the remainder of the year, usage continued to drop.  This resulted in a mere 7% of the UK’s electricity being generated by coal.  In 2012, this figure was over 40%.  Equally, in 2012, wind’s share was 5% and last year reached an all-time high of 15%.  This was due to a windier year than 2016 and more wind farms coming online.

In June, renewables provided over half of the UK’s electricity for the first time.  National Grid reported that power from wind, solar, hydro and wood pellet burning supplied 50.7% of UK energy.  If you were to add in nuclear, low carbon sources were producing 72.1% of electricity in Great Britain.  Could 2018 be the year we reach 75% or more?

Drax Electric Insights from 01/01/17 – 31/12/17

Government Support

According to the Renewable Energy Association, the renewable industry employs nearly 126,000 people directly in the UK, and the strong representation of developers in the energy storage market promises continued growth.

The announcement of the Faraday Challenge in July 2017 was excellent news for the energy storage industry.  The challenge outlined £250m for research and development into new battery technology.  However, with many jobs within the sector beyond that of chemical technologies, a wider scope should be considered.  After all, different storage technologies have different characteristics for different applications.  Multiple storage technologies can be combined and used as part of one cost-effective solution.

A paper written by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Energy storage published in December 2017 believes there is potential for a 12GW storage market by 2021.  However, hitting the 12GW target assumes all the policies contained in the UK Government’s July 2017 smart systems and flexibility plan are rolled out on schedule.  8GW of this target is expected to come from co-locating storage with renewables.  In this scenario, 40% of solar and 25% of wind could have storage attached to it by 2021.  The paper continues to say that a total deployment of 8GW is more plausible by 2021.


Electric Vehicles – With great power, comes a great electricity bill?

Over the last several years, energy demand in the UK has been decreasing.  However, looming in the not-so-distant future are electric vehicles.  And one of the big questions is, what impact will they have on our energy demand?  Will they cause further constraint on the network during peak-times or will they be a tool for balancing supply and demand?  I believe the answer to lie somewhere in between.

The transition to electric vehicles will take time.  Substantial infrastructure is required across the country before the technology can become convenient for all.  Could this be the year people make the switch?  More and more car manufacturers are investing in the technology and 2018 will certainly see some new and cutting-edge vehicles hit the spotlight.


Hold your horses…

Despite a great year for renewables, we can do better.  The Energyst reported that 3% of Britain’s wind power was wasted in 2017.  This equates to 1.49 terawatt hours of generation, and around £67 million worth of lost power – based on an average wholesale price of £45/MWh.  This is enough energy to power nearly half a million homes.  Considering the volatility of wind generation compared to coal and gas, 3% can be viewed as a great achievement.

Earlier this year, BEIS announced that coal is to be phased out by 2025.  Whilst this is fantastic news environmentally, the announcement must be greeted with an impetus to ensure that efficient, cost effective and reliable alternatives are put in place.  One solution is to pair storage technologies with renewable generation.  Not only is there potential to limit ‘wasted’ energy, there is also huge potential to phase-out coal power generation with clean and cost-effective alternatives.

Let’s hope 2018 can build on the success of 2017 and continue to break records in the energy sector.


We’d love to hear your views on the future of the electricity system.  Feel free to get in touch or leave us a comment.

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