The UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021, otherwise referred to as COP26 is currently taking place in Glasgow. This event, in particular, is crucial and is being referred to by many as our ‘last chance’ to get the climate crisis under control. This sentiment was echoed by Her Majesty the Queen recently; we need more action and less words, both during and following COP26.
The UK has achieved a lot in tackling energy system emissions, including a 56% decrease in coal use for generation between 2018 and 2019 (source-gov.uk). The UK’s energy industry has gone from being fully reliant on coal generation to coal accounting for only 1.8% of the UK’s energy mix in 2020, in tandem with the growth in renewables.
Currently the energy system still accounts for 21% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions (2019)… second only to the transport sector (source-gov.uk).
To put our ‘transitional’ progress into perspective, our move to invest in, deploy and utilise renewable energy has reduced the energy sector’s emissions by 66% from 1990-2019, and we are seeing times where renewables lead in the generation mix.
Overall, renewables output is still lower than fossil fuels; it is matched or greater at times, but we still rely on gas when the grid’s demand outweighs capacity. Limejump’s view is that battery storage is key in ensuring we can balance the intermittent nature of renewable generation, and of course, we need to keep investing in and growing the UK’s renewable portfolio. As you can see in this graph, capacity added to the grid has declined in recent years.
COP26 is a key opportunity to encourage future investment and delivery of both renewable generation and battery optimisation. Limejump agrees (obviously) that we urgently need to decarbonise all aspects of our lives and we are in pole position to actively help decarbonise the grid and influence how consumers use energy – we take this responsibility very seriously. So far this autumn, in the UK, gas has played a crucial role in keeping the lights on, especially at times when renewables output was low or non-existent. To fully transition to a cleaner and flexible grid we must invest in and build renewable generation and storage. Currently there is only 1.4GW of active energy storage connected to the grid. According to National Grid ESO’s 2021 Future Energy Scenarios report, the UK must reach 13 GW of storage by 2030 to balance the UK’s solar and wind growth aspirations. By 2030, the UK needs to integrate circa 100GW of wind (40GW offshore) and solar generation, but its intermittency requires battery/energy storage investment and capacity to maintain a resilient and balanced system. The plan is sound; delivering it, however, is complex. Limejump is pushing for a number of key developments to support the UK transition and to encourage real growth and confidence in both renewables and flexible assets:
Transparent and stable network charges so that investors in low carbon technologies have a clear view of the associated costs when financing their projects, rather than needing to add risk premiums.
Clarity on the products and services needed by the UK’s system operator (National Grid) to manage and deliver their ambition of operating a fully low carbon system by 2025.
There is a need for National Grid to have more agile systems and processes and the ability to adapt as the industry evolves and brings new technologies to market. Without this there is a risk of severe delays and stifling innovation.
The market needs to encourage collaboration and deliver innovation such as new platforms and peer-to-peer engagement.
It is fair to say that most of the conversations over these couple of weeks will not be fully focussed on the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy system, there are a number of key issues that need to be discussed and acted upon. We look forward to Thursday 4th November’s agenda – COP 26’s Energy Day – and the conversations that will follow to give a clear and agreed way forward for the UK and all nations to decarbonise their economies and people’s lives.