Posts by: Dave Elliott

German energy balancing

By Dave Elliott

Germany is in the lead globally with its ambitious renewable energy programme, already supplying over 32% of its electricity and aiming for 80% by 2050.  At present, Germany’s 1.5 million photovoltaic solar installations have a generation capacity of over 40GW, four times the remaining 10.8 GW base-load nuclear fleet that is being decommissioned in stages between the end of 2017 and 2022. PV can be well matched to day-time peak demand in Germany, which is why it has challenged gas peaking plant in this market.  However, due to its low load factor (10-15%, compared to 70-80% or more for nuclear), solar PV generation only delivers around 940 equivalent full-load hours of electricity per year, so in 2015 its high capacity only met around 7.5% of German electricity demand, compared to 14% for nuclear generation. That’s why some think it is not the best option to expand for the future – it’s expensive for relatively low levels of actual output. (more…)

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EU Renewables round up

By Dave Elliott

Renewables are roaring ahead in Europe, with wind at over 140GW and PV surpassing 100GW. There have been some spectacular successes, with renewables briefly supplying 87% of German electricity at one point, and Portugal achieving similarly high contributions-something that’s a regular occurrence in Denmark. But progress may soon be slowed as  economic pressures mount and political reaction sets in with support schemes being withdrawn or constrained. For example, in Germany it’s all change as the government revises the Energiewende energy law with a slow down for wind and solar expansion, via annual capacity caps and reduced support levels. Portugal has also started to phase out its support for renewables, although not quite so aggressively as happened in Spain, or, for that matter, the UK. (more…)

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EU e-Highway 2050

By Dave Elliott

A recent report says that long distance transmission grids offer many advantages including enhanced cross-EU trade and grid balancing opportunities, enabling high levels of renewables to be used while reducing curtailment of occasional surpluses. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity group had already addressed the development of the pan-EU electricity transmission network up to 2030 in a Ten-Year Network Development Plan. Starting with that, the e-Highway 2050 research and innovation project has now looked to 2050: it deals with the transition paths for the whole power system, with a focus on the transmission network, to support the European Union in reaching a low carbon economy by 2050.

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Supergrids can help Europe – and also Asia

by Dave Elliott

A ‘Supergrid’ network across the EU and also connecting Northern Africa with Europe could help both regions reach a near-100% renewable energy share, with grid and market integration reducing overall energy costs. That’s according to a report published by Fraunhofer ISE in Germany, which involved five separate Fraunhofer institutes and saw some development work on system control hardware carried out alongside the desk studies. Similar ideas are also emerging in Asia, with a pan-Asian grid being proposed.

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What sort of green grid system?

By Dave Elliott

It’s clear that we will need energy transmission grids and networks to help balance variable renewables and link up locations where there is excess to areas where there are temporary lulls, but what sort of energy is best for transmission? And for storage? Both are important and can interact: in some cases storage may be better as a local option than long distance transmission, while in other cases, long distance transmission may allow access to areas where storage (e.g. pumped hydro reservoirs) is easier.  However, electricity isn’t necessarily always the best option for either: for example, gas can be transmitted long distances with low losses and, once installed, gas pipelines are less invasive than power grid tower links. Gas can also be stored in bulk in underground caverns and the gas grid itself is a store. So as we move to a new energy system, we need to think about all the possible energy vectors – and that also includes heat.

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100% renewables – yet more studies

By Dave Elliott

It’s hard to keep up with the spate of studies suggesting that it would be technically possible to get to near 100% of electricity, or even of all energy, met from renewables by around 2050 at reasonable costs. With the broad options and potentials now quite well mapped out by academic and NGO studies covering many countries and regions, and also the world as a whole, the latest batch of studies focuses on the issues that would be raised on the way to that.

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Non-nuclear UK energy futures

By Dave Elliott

Several non-nuclear energy scenarios for the UK have been produced recently, as I have reported in an earlier post, some of them in response to the perceived need for a ‘Plan B’, as an alternative to the Hinkley EPR project. Some new ones include a submission to the government by TASC, the Together Against Sizewell C campaign group, and a study by developer Green Hedge. They may have lost the first battle, with Hinkley going ahead, but their analysis remains relevant for whatever happens next e.g. in relation to the next projects, which include another EDF EPR at Sizewell. (more…)

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Labour’s 65% renewables by 2030 plan

By Dave Elliott

Labour’s new Environment and Energy policy aims to get 65% of UK electricity from renewables by 2030 and pioneer a ‘democratic, community-led system of energy supply’. That is well ahead of what might happen under current plans, and includes 47GW of offshore wind, 21GW of onshore wind (up from around 5GW and 10GW at present, respectively) and 25GW of PV solar (up from 12GW now), but is presented as being possible since it would involve new forms of decentralised project development, alongside more conventional ‘top down’ corporate projects, suitably accelerated.

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New RSPB 2050 energy scenarios

By Dave Elliott

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has produced a study of ecologically sound energy resources for the UK, looking at the spatial aspects and local impacts. In total, the spatial analysis indicates that between 5,558 and 6,277 TWh/year could be generated with low ecological risk by renewable energy technologies in the UK. The UK’s annual energy consumption in 2014 was 1661 TWh, so that, if appropriately sited, approximately four times this level could be generated from renewables with low impact risk.

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Environmental impact of renewables

By Dave Elliott

Renewable energy technologies are usually considered to have low environmental impacts compared with conventional energy systems. That seems obvious in terms of direct emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – for most renewables (biomass apart) there are none. Similarly for emissions of radioactive materials – none. However, the use of renewable sources does lead to some impacts, most of them being small and local. How can they be assessed and compared?

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