A report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) suggests that renewable energy will account for more than 50% of the UK’s electricity generation by 2025. This increase will be driven in part by the falling cost of generating energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association has commented on BNEF’s findings, “The study shows that wind and solar power are now the cheapest form of new build generation in many cases, and costs will continue to fall dramatically. Massive increases in future renewable power generation mean that industry and government must start planning now to ensure low-carbon, cost-effective ways of balancing demand and supply.”
With wind and solar set to become more central to the country’s energy market, the National Grid may face challenges whilst balancing supply and demand. The nature of these two sources of renewable energy are much more unpredictable than traditional power stations as they depend on external factors such as weather.
An important factor in balancing energy supply and demand will be the approach of ‘demand response’. Industrial firms will need to quickly respond to surpluses on the grid by consuming additional renewable energy for variable industrial loads. Another strategy is smart metering, that can help address changing conditions on the grid by dynamically adjusting the price of energy supply during periods of variable energy generation. For example, prices would increase in the case of an energy deficit or decrease in the case of an energy surplus.
Energy storage solutions will also be of great importance as the Grid ensures that there are alternative options available wind and solar fail to generate the energy needed when, for example, there is dense cloud cover or low wind speeds.
Moreover, there will be a requirement for additional energy sources that can serve to plug the power supply gap during times of peak demand. Traditional baseload power plants that run on fossil fuels or nuclear power are specifically designed to run at a constant, stable output rather than serving as a gap-fill and are evidently less suitable.
Albert Cheung, Head of Global Analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance has explained, “This study highlights a seismic shift in how power systems will operate in the future. As wind and solar become the cheapest options for power generation, the race is on to develop and deploy the flexible resources that will complement them.”
A likely candidate is fuelled renewable energy sources, such as biomass and energy from waste, which can serve as a gap-fill because they have much more flexibility than baseload power plants, yet they are not weather dependent like wind and solar.
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